Monday, March 11, 2013

10 Month Update - The End is Near or The End is Here?

So...I hate to disappoint anyone who was very interested in the TV-Free Experiment, but I think after 10 months of TV-freeness, we're officially done.

I was feeling sick and worried after our car was broken into and our house key was stolen in Detroit on Friday, so we turned on the TV to just zone out, feel "normal" (and keep an eye on the front door) on Saturday. On Sunday, I watched some of the news and Celebrity Apprentice. Today I watched the Kwame Kilpatrick news coverage.

The good news - I don't think we'll ever go back to cable TV. We've discovered there's so much else to do to entertain ourselves in more lasting and fulfilling ways. But over the air TV, we'll still watch, especially the news which we've really missed.

This challenge has taught us alot, and though I'm somewhat disappointed that I didn't reach the goal of a year, it was really just a nice even number that I picked randomly. There was no reason to pick a year. 10 months is just as good, and frankly, I've learned there are GOOD things about being informed, and like being less stressed, that I want again. I now understand why us humans like our TV. It is definitely a way to decompress. As long as I keep it under control and don't go back to my old ways, I think it can be a good, informative thing.

Looking forward to catching up on the local news, and watching some cooking shows. Otherwise, I still have plenty of non-TV activities to keep up with, including taking care of my garden when spring finally hits - a project that I started with the TV -free experiment and the one thing I believe will stay with me for many years to come.

Thanks to all who supported the idea. If any of you watched as much TV as I did, I encourage you to try giving it up for a while. Even if only for a few weeks. It does reset your priorities. I realize now that missing a TV show isn't the end of the world. I realize now that not knowing who got voted off whatever reality show isn't a big deal. I realize now how much more I can get done during a day without the "mandatory" TV time.

I also realize that there were people who were vehemently against giving up TV. People who couldn't understand why I would do this. People who thought that I was somehow dissing them because I was choosing not to watch TV. Interesting feedback from about 90% of my friends and family, which I believe says more about them than it does about me or this experiment. 

A HUGE thank you to my husband for tolerating this experiment for 10 months. I suppose we could have stuck it out for another two months...but I also feel like I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. Truthfully, I probably realized there were so many other things to do about a month in. I'd learned my lesson halfway through. The last few months were really just to see if I could go a year. But lately, it seems like a contest that no one cares about but me and my husband. No one asked anymore. No one offered to have us over to watch the big game. Our social life didn't change much. Instead, we simply learned more about how little TV is necessary but how nice it is to have every once and a while. 

Perhaps this is the little addict still talking inside of me, but just knowing now that I can turn the TV on if I want to makes me feel less stressed. Given that it doesn't cause me illness, doesn't hurt me physically or anyone else, and isn't a crime - I think a little bit of TV addiction in my life is okay. 

I'll check in after a few months and try to critically look at my life before and after. We'll see if we stick with 10 channels or if we completely revert back to old behavior. I don't think we will...but it will be interesting to go back and read my early blog posts and see how we're doing. 

Thanks for reading and happy viewing..

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 198: My Winter To-Do List (Update)

Happy Winter, Everyone!

I'm very excited to say that I've almost hit a milestone. It's been 198 days since I started this challenge. 200 is almost upon us! It's been 200 days of gardening, home projects, learning to enjoy the sounds of my house, and trying new things. (Just last week, we went to a wine-tasting at a hotel with old and new friends...our first wine-tasting outside of a winery. A nice way to spend a Sunday, though I prefer wine-drinking to wine-tasting.)

I've been looking forward to the challenge it presents and dreading it at the same time: Winter.

Sure, it's easy to be TV-free during Summer when there's so much to do, but what to do in Winter? Well, we're finally there...what I see as the toughest part of this challenge. It's not even snowy yet here in Southeastern Michigan (although there's a freezing rain advisory right now), and it already feels like it's too cold to do anything outside for any length of time. I'm starting to dream of Spring and all the ambitious plans I have for my expanded garden.

My Winter list of things to entertain myself is growing, but I've also accomplished a few things since my last post. Let's take a look at how my existing list is shaping up:

  • Paint Dining Room & Kitchen
    • Um, no. Haven't even looked at paint samples.
  • Finish afghan (I've already been working on it)
    • Okay, I won a beautiful afghan in an auction in November. Since then, my half-done little afghan seems to pale in comparison to this masterpiece. I haven't done any work on it in a month, and I'm sure its self-esteem is plummeting even further!
  • Make a snowman. (I haven't done this in YEARS)
    • I absolutely will do this as soon as we have some snow. I hope to do something fun and unique that includes making three of them. And you know I'll document it with pictures. COME ON snow!
  • Put a tree up/decoate (I haven't done much of this in the last few years. Just got plain lazy!) 
    • Yes! One I can cross of my list! We have a lovely real tree, fully decorated with lots of ornaments we received as gifts over the last few years that have been hung for the first time. We also have wreaths on both doors, and decoration in the kitchen nook and dining room. It might be the most festive we've ever been. If the TV-freeness expands to next year at this time, I might even try putting lights outside!
  • Host Thanksgiving (I've taken the last few years off. Time to get back on the turkey train.)
    • Yes, hubs and I hosted Thanksgiving this year. It could be that I work from home part-time now, or it could be that I wasn't wasting time watching TV when I should have been working on things, but this was the least stressful of any Thanksgiving dinners we've hosted. I even had enough energy to do the dishes the same night. ;)
  • Host at least one Christmas get-together (even if it's just a game night with a fire in the fireplace)
    • Not sure if this counts, but I made a nice lasagna and we had my parents over. Tree was lit and Christmas music was playing. If it doesn't count, I'll have to get to work on a slightly larger gathering.
  • Resume Italian language lessons (You know I've been slacking, otherwise, I'd be bragging in Italian that I've learned a new language.)
    • Yeah, haven't gotten back to this. Been busy with other things...
  • Finish writing my novel. (About 60 pages in)
    • I've written some more, but I was focused on the last bullet point in the list lately.
  • Crochet 7" squares for the Lions Club - they give them to a local hospital (who collects them and puts them together to make blankets for patients and needful families) 
    • I haven't done any crotcheting  lately. SLACKER!
  • Publish children's book by December. (I finally have a new illustrator, so this project is well underway.)
    • DONE! In fact, it should be released for purchase this week. This accomplishment explains why I haven't been using mental energy on writing on the novel or doing language lessons. As soon as I update my website and get my shopping cart option flying, then I should have much more mental capacity for crafting something new.
Okay, as you can see, I haven't knocked much off my list.'s growing. Here are some new things I'd like to accomplish this Winter:

  • Send out Christmas cards. I try to do this every year, but some years, I just don't get around to it. Why? Maybe I was too busy watching every reality TV show ever made. One year, I homemade the cards (stamped and embossed). Not sure I'm going to do that this year because my illustrator on the book has crafted some sassy cards for me with the main character, so I think I'll be sending those out.
  • Kickboxing  - I scored a great Groupon for kickboxing lessons. Not an aerobics class, but actual sparring at a boxing gym. Looking forward to it, though I might save those for Spring to avoid driving in bad weather and do P90x at home instead. I've had the DVDs for quite some time and haven't used them. My 32 sessions of Zumba end next week. No, I haven't really lost any weight. Stunning, cause I'm pretty out of shape, and it's definitely a good workout.
  • Reorganize the kitchen. This is something that normal people probably don't have an issue with. But apparently, I was too busy watching commercials to keep my kitchen in order. My goals are twofold. One, to be able to retrieve a pot or pan without an avalanche of metal. Two, to create a space for the old coffee pot that is currently riding around in the trunk of my car. Long story short, I took our "backup" coffee pot somewhere and the space it occupied in the one of the cupboards was taken over. Now there's no where to put it! Don't EVEN get me started on the state of my spice cabinet. Lack of organization has resulted in overbuying spices I "think" I'm out of because I can't see them all...currently we have 3 oreganos and 5 cayennes.
  • Organize our board games. I've been saying I'm going to do this forever - we sit down for a game night with friends and for each game, we spend a good five minutes trying to remind ourselves of the basics. How many cards do we each get? Who goes first? How many points until it's over? I'd like to create a master list for our board games with the basics so that 1) we can easily locate a game for the number of players we have and 2) get started playing sooner. A project similar to one I completed years ago for our DVD collection. Yes, we have hundreds of movies on an alphabetized list that tells us exactly where in the cabinet to locate the movie. There is a corresponding list sorted by genre. I know. GEEK!
  • Help my mom organize her family photos. My mom has two huge boxes in her basement closet of family photos. We've talked about organizing them for ages. Well, I'm not busy! In fact, I have an extra 20 or so hours a week free. I'd much rather take a trip down memory lane than watch a Law & Order marathon, full of all the episodes I've already seen!
  • Tackle the basement. This is something I've already begun. Last week, I reorganized my bookshelves/books and also cleaned out the fireplace down there (removed the old gas fixtures that had already been cut off from the gas supply and raked out the old debris) so we could start having nice fires in our home office. However, the other side of the basement, the unfinished side/laundry room, could use some work. It's scary over's where the spiders hide and cardboard boxes go to die. But we need more than a pathway and bad lighting. I want shelving, boxes, and more economical utilization of the space in general. 
So, those are my plans for the Winter so far, in addition to the items I haven't finished from the earlier list. Plenty to do and no excuses not to do them. There is nothing on these lists that is hard to do. The TV is dark and the radio is playing Christmas music. The perfect conditions to cross of items on a list that I've made and checked twice.

Happy Winter Season & Holidays!

Monday, November 19, 2012


The TV free experiment continues! For the sake of full disclosure, however, I'm going to report on the few times I've watched TV in the last 6 months that break the rules, which I identified at the beginning of this challenge.

Yep, I'm coming clean!

  1. My husband and I watched the first presidential debate. We went to a local bar to watch it, but when we were finished eating, we decided to head home to be more comfortable. We picked up the rest of it on our own TV with antenna. My defense: I wanted to see it before I started hearing a bunch of stuff about who "won"...and the event wouldn't be available in its entirety until the next day online. Besides, knowing what's going on in the world isn't exactly mindless TV watching, right?
  2. We also watched the election coverage on election night. It's just not the same trying to keep track online of who is winning. We tuned in on our own TV and watched the results come in. My defense: This is something on TV only every 4 years and it's also not mindless TV. I.e., watching the election results is a far cry from watching a Hoarders marathon. (At one time, I was really good at Hoarding episodes of Hoarders on our DVR.)
  3. This is a big one... We watched some of this year's postseason baseball. My defense: Our Tigers don't make the world series that often, and we couldn't stand the thought that this might be THE YEAR, and of all years, we were doing the TV free thing. Also, if you've ever watched baseball on, you know it kind of stinks. Sometimes the cameraman takes a nap...and you don't get to see replays either. So, it wasn't an extremely satisfying cheat. We watched the Yankees series on, and then watched the world series on regular TV. We could have avoided breaking "The Rules" of this challenge by getting together with friends to make it a big social thing, or going to a bar and making a date out of it. However, it gets expensive sitting in a bar for the entire game ordering things so the waitress doesn't get annoyed...and as far as friends, for the record, I asked several times on Facebook if anyone wanted to get together to watch with us and I had NO takers. :(
  4. I was sick for a day. Reading was making me feel worse. Being on my laptop was making me feel worse. I really didn't feel like concentrating on anything. I decided to apply the "I'm sick" clause. The I'm Sick clause allows me to turn on the TV and fall asleep to it. I put on Law and Order SVU and zoned out. My defense: I don't really have one. This is a straight up cheat. All I can say is, when you haven't been regularly watching TV, a cheat feels extra special good! And it's not like I would have been using that time to better myself, which is what this experiment is about.
  5. Recently, there was a shooting at our local police station. The same station, in fact, where I've been attending my citizen academy classes. All I could find was one article about it online. So I watched the evening news from 5-6pm to get some details. I'm glad I did. My defense: Sometimes you can't get all your news from the Internet, particularly detailed local news. They don't always include videos on your local channel websites either. I wanted to see the interview with our police chief, who I had met the previous week. Notably, it was three days later that our local paper ran the story. It doesn't come daily.
  6. For the sake of my marriage, Lions games are now permitted. My husband has been awesome and very supportive of this whole TV free thing, considering he didn't really have a problem wasting his life watching TV. However, I can see him getting increasingly bored with not seeing any TV, especially when Sunday rolls around and we've been busily doing stuff all weekend. When the games are on, I either crotchet my afghan, just listen, or, gasp, actually watch the game. Sue me. This is my personal challenge, and I can rationalize what I want to! My defense: The Lions suck. This hasn't exactly been the biggest reward for denying myself the things I actually do want to watch. I'd much rather be watching ANY reality TV show. Also, almost as a punishment, I haven't watched any University of Michigan football. Not even when we beat Michigan State, which I had to hear about later. (I'm a Michigan alumna. This is brutal.) So see, I'm balancing things out. :)
That's all I can think of right now. You might be thinking - okay, clearly she's not quite TV free anymore. Obviously the above indicates that she's been watching TV. I object! If you think that, go back and take a look at the first article I wrote in this blog series. Remember how much TV I was watching before. I'm not sitting and zoning out in front of the TV all evening, every evening anymore. Most of the above were one time situations. The exception, some sports (and Lions games are only on once a week.) When the game is over, the TV goes off - CLICK - and we're back to finding things to do in our spare time.

A few positive notes that prove I'm no longer a card-carrying couch potato:
  • Last week, I graduated from my Citizen Police academy class. Yay! I'm one step closer to fully researching one of my characters for the book. I've written another 2 chapters since my last update. (If that sounds like a slow pace, it is...but it's still progress.)
  • I'm continuing to take the Zumba classes twice a week. No weight loss detected, but I'm sure it's doing more good than not, so I continue to torture myself with it.
  • Hubs bought me a Kindle Paperwhite for our anniversary, and I've read 8 books now. I've only had the thing 3 weeks! I'm a reading fool!
  • Now that Farmer's Market and the police academy classes are over, I intend to resume my weekly yoga. My body has been feeling creaky, so it's definitely time!
  • I was recently a featured zombie in a short film. Being on set and meeting so many fun and creative people was a blast...and even though I'm not an actress (this was my first time ever doing anything like that), I got to act like one for a day.
  • I'm starting a new, paid writing project in December. I wish I could talk about it, but I can't until the pilot is shot. Whoops, gave too much information already. What I can say is that I'm looking forward to reuniting with some of the creative folks who worked on the short film I wrote (that is still in post-production). 
  • This weekend, I threw my first annual slumber party. We ate, we drank, we conquered. We also watched Poltergeist and got ourselves freaked out, especially given the surround sound and the real fog outside that surrounded the house, making us feel like we were IN a movie! (Yes, movies are allowed in moderation...particularly when it's something social.)
  • No more garden. It's closed up for the year. We raked all our leaves this year before the snow fell on them - a personal record? - and also removed a 30 foot tree that had long since stopped bearing fruit but had increased bearing broken, dead branches. Lots of wood for fires this Winter season!
Tomorrow, I look forward to hosting a special lunch for my best friend's birthday. We'll be eating all the old school stuff we used to binge on as teenagers. Funyuns anyone? As an extension of that pigfest, later in the week hubs and I will also be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house for the family.

Who has time for TV when you're busy making turkey, stuffing, and all the fixins! For the first time in many years, I feel stress-free heading into the holidays. The house is clean. The food is bought. A TV free lifestyle has a way of leaving minds free of all the distractions that often make us feel busier than we are.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 114 - A Gardening Tip & A Few Winter Plans

First, a quick gardening tip. Or cooking tip, if you prefer. For those of you growing herbs in your garden this year...

At the end of the season, don't let your basil et al go to waste. Just measure it out in typical portions for recipes (i.e., tbs or tsp portions.) Put each portion in an ice cube tray in its own cell and cover with water. Freeze. Next time you need a tbls of parsley, just pop out the ice cube you need and enjoy fresh herbs. If you have enough herbs, you can have a tray of each kind so it's easy to figure out which one you need a cube from for your recipe. ;)

(Rosemary, thyme, lavender, and others with essential oils are better off dried and stored in jars.)

Why have I never done this??? Oh, probably because I never grew anything before. Look at all the time I have to learn and do things when I'm not wasting time watching TV!

By the way, we've been canoeing more than usual this summer - camping, enjoying nature, and generally trying to distract ourselves from the fact that the fall season of TV shows is starting. In case you're wondering about the garden, the melons are thriving and the cucumbers have finally run their course. After some genuinely monstrous cucumbers, we're now getting smaller yellow ones and the leaves are changing colors. On the bright side, I have two watermelons growing - and today I "picked" my first cantaloupe! "Picked" is in quotes because it's more like I found it off the vine today...and though I had intended to let this one go another week or two, nature (or rabbits) forced an early delivery.

My first cantaloupe! Next to some very ripe bananas for scale.

I'll leave you with my list of things I plan to do this winter. I'm open to more suggestions:
  • Paint Dining Room & Kitchen
  • Finish afghan (I've already been working on it)
  • Make a snowman. (I haven't done this in YEARS)
  • Put a tree up/decoate (I haven't done much of this in the last few years. Just got plain lazy!)
  • Host Thanksgiving (I've taken the last few years off. Time to get back on the turkey train.)
  • Host at least one Christmas get-together (even if it's just a game night with a fire in the fireplace)
  • Resume Italian language lessons (You know I've been slacking, otherwise, I'd be bragging in Italian that I've learned a new language.)
  • Finish writing my novel. (About 60 pages in)
  • Crochet 7" squares for the Lions Club - they give them to a local hospital (who collects them and puts them together to make blankets for patients and needful families)
  • Publish children's book by December. (I finally have a new illustrator, so this project is well underway.)
By the way, the drawback to spending more time outside:

This is OUTSIDE OUR HOUSE. Hanging off our breakfast nook. To understand how truly horrifying this is, please visit my blog entry Vehicular Arachnophobia.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 93 - Yes, I'm Still Alive! And Still TV Free (Sort of)

The more activities I find to keep myself busy, the less time I have to blog about them! It's been awhile since my last post, and I'm way out of touch updating anyone who might be following my TV free self-challenge. I don't have much time today for a long post, so I'm just going to give you some bullet points on the finer aspects of TV-freedom!

  • When you open yourself to the universe, the universe responds. Somehow, by eliminating TV and welcoming new opportunities, those opportunities seem to be finding us! We were invited to a neighborhood "happy hour" and met lots of people for the first time who we've lived near for years (and drank some awesome peach sangria); we attended a backyard BBQ of a former coworker and met some new friends; and we'll be playing euchre at a charity event (our first time accepting an invitation to this event that's been offered many times in the past). We want to stay busy and friends are helping us to do that!
  • As indicated in my early blog about THE RULES of this challenge, I planned to watch the summer Olympics. They only come every four years, and I love them. I don't think they rot my brain. I think they make me patriotic! As intended, I did watch some of the gymnastics at my mom's house - somehow they seemed extra special this year, maybe because all the commercials and everything were new to me, too! I may have slightly cheated a bit on my own rules, though. My husband hooked up the antenna to our own TV so we could watch more Olympic action. That wasn't really the cheating part - the cheating was that I watched events that I never watch,just cause I was enjoying the TV exposure so much. When you catch yourself watching badminton and water polo, you realize you're not watching for enjoyment - you're getting your TV fix.
  • My garden is doing great. Cucumbers are growing like crazy (and I'm researching new ways to prepare them!), lots of tomatoes, and my cantaloupes are starting to look like cantaloupes! All in all, I think my garden is a success. Also, for someone who could never keep ANYTHING alive, I'm quite proud to say that all the houseplants I planted in Week One are still thriving. 
  • We just got back from a week long camping (yes, in a tent) and canoeing trip. As always, it was a great experience to get away, fully away, and commune a little with nature and family. (The first few days, just me and hubs. Later, joined by in-laws and then all the extended relatives.) This experience was even more noteworthy because it didn't occur to me to think about any TV shows I was missing.
  • I straight up cheated last night. When we got home from the trip, we were exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to throw the laundry in the washer and then veg out while it was in. I had no mental capacity for doing anything. The antenna is still hooked up from during the Olympics, so I flipped it on. We only get something like 6 stations. While hubs took a well-deserved nap (he did all the driving), I tortured myself with an episode of Ugly Betty, a show I've never seen before. I had no idea what was going on. This was a good move - because it didn't get me re-interested in watching TV or in watching a show I've always enjoyed. When it was over, I was rested and re-dedicated to my TV-freeness. Though I have to admit, winter is going to be a real challenge. I might cheat. But going without TV for so long makes even a few minutes of cheating special, so I feel like I'm still winning!
  • Continuing to volunteer at the farmer's market - and the week before last, we went to the volunteer event and enjoyed free food and a free concert as a reward for the effort. Something we never would have done before, but extra time now allows for trying new things!
  • Next week, the citizens academy classes begin. Have I blogged about that before? If not, sorry! I'll be in an 11 week program for citizens with our local police. I'll get to play with the K9 dogs, learn to sniff out drugs, and do ride-alongs. I have no idea what I get at the end of this program, other than a greater knowledge of my community and understanding of the trials and tribulations of its police. Maybe I get a badge and can run around doing citizen's arrests? Not sure - but I'm doing this because it will be research for my next book, and I'm pretty sure there will be cute cops in uniforms there. I'll be sure to blog about the experience. The only drawback - the classes take place on the nights I do yoga with my bff. So no yoga outings for me. On the upside, I'm trying to talk my hubs into letting me take a zumba class with his sister. "Letting me" because basically the class is expensive and I barely make enough money to cover my bills right now, and by "barely" I mean pretty much "do not". Such is the drawback of new business ownership and my own lack of personal "rainy day" savings.
As usual, I'll throw out a couple of garden pictures to prove that it's still alive...

This picture is actually from two weeks ago. It's one of my cantaloupes, which is now even bigger and there are a half dozen more like this. I'm just crossing my fingers that they'll be big enough to harvest before the first frost. Grow melons grow!!

Just a full shot of the garden from the usual perspective (left to right) to show you how much it's grown. Those are the watermelon plants in the foreground, which are now flowering but no little melons as yet. Might be too late in the season now? See that stuff on the fence? Who knew cucumbers took over like that? I didn't, but I do now! And so does my neighbor!

Okay, first, I don't know why this picture won't rotate correctly. But whatever, you get the gist. That's one odd cucumber. I continue to be entertained by the strangely configured cucumbers I seem to have such a talent for producing.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 63: A Cucumber a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

It's day 63, and we're in the thick of summer. Most days, I've forgotten that I even used to watch TV. Given where I started from, I find this amazing. When people told me after a month I wouldn't miss TV at all, I thought they just didn't know me and how deeply rooted was my addiction. Now I understand the real meaning of out of sight, out of mind.

It helps that I've been so busy! My first book is being made into a short film (I wrote the screenplay, too), and I've been on set. It is unusual for the author/writer to be on set, however, this is a small picture, and I'm trying to wear a lot of hats to make myself useful, from doing PA duties when needed (like running errands and picking up lunch from the caterer) to helping with props. I even got a chance yesterday to be in the movie - controlling a few of the puppets, fulfilling a life long dream - remember, I love Fraggle Rock - and crossing off an item on my bucket list.

Me (background) and Stephen from the Art Department (foreground) controlling the magical dragon puppet in front of the green screen.

I'm also continuing to write my next novel. I'm about 30 pages in and the story is starting to write itself like I'm reading a book, always a good sign. I can't wait to see what happens next.

All week, I've been so immersed in the filming and the writing, I feel like I've been on another planet. I walked out into my backyard today to find the garden almost unrecognizable to me. It has been rainy off and on all week, so I haven't watered in a while.

My dream for some time has been to put on a flowery summer dress and floppy hat, float back to my garden with a wicker basket, and gently harvest all of my amazing vegetables. Instead, I threw on a t-shirt and jeans, a pair of hiking sandals, stomped back there with a mission, and plucked two cucumbers, raising them in my hands triumphantly like I'd just won a few Oscars. Funny, the last few days I've been feeling like I'm getting sick (scratchy throat, really tired, headache), but today when I snatched those veggies out of the dirt, I felt refreshed, like I hadn't had such a crazy whirlwind week. Maybe a romp in my garden a day will keep the doctor away. It did great things for my spirit to bite into a fresh cucumber that I grew on my own little piece of Earth. I think every child should have to grow something edible as a class assignment - it will certainly make me appreciate in the future all the work that goes into the food on my plate. Not just the value of a dollar, but the care and effort that goes into growing something that will nourish my body.

A few pics of my growing garden - and then I'm off to take a nap. Yes, I've finally mastered the art of the afternoon nap, now that I'm not sleep-watching the television set.

Cucumber City. I had no idea the leaves would get so big or that they would climb the fence! I may have to offer my apologies to my neighbor by delivering a few fresh veggies to her doorstep.

This is a tomato plant. You might mistake it for a vigorous weed or even a small tree. It's ginormous, and it's beginning to overshadow the smaller tomato plant and the marigolds below it.

Can you see us? We're going to be cherry tomatoes! Hopefully, we're high enough off the ground and buried deep enough within the plant to hide from the squirrels who ate our brothers off the small tomato plant.

The pepper plant continues to grow, as observed in relation to the cage around it. However, I didn't expect peppers to take so long. The plant is flowering, but has been doing so for a while...and still no signs of peppers growing.

A cucumber! There are lots like this one - I picked two today.

The cantaloupe plants are doing well and recently began to flower prettily. I'm hoping this is going to be my gardening success story - from what I hear, cantaloupes, with their tough outer skins, are pretty resistant to bunnies and other critters.

Just a shot from the left of the most successful part of the garden - notice the marigolds are growing bigger? They may not do squat for chasing the bunnies and deer away, but at least they look good while doing nothing else of value.

Two cucumbers...yes, they could have waited a little longer to harvest, but I have my reasons.

I know it was probably a little premature to pick these today. However, after my beautiful tomatoes were eaten right off the vine and my green beans have been chewed to almost nothing, I really wanted to make sure I got a chance to pick and eat something, even if it wasn't quite ready. Also, there are lots of cucumbers out there, and I'd like to pick them in various stages to get an idea of when they are perfectly ready. We ate one of these today and it wasn't quite ripe, but still pretty darn tasty - crisp and warm, straight out of the sun and into our kitchen!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 47: Look at my little garden grow & stuff with spiders

I keep forgetting that I don't watch TV anymore. Isn't it strange that something that used to be such a big part of my life has gone away, and I hardly even notice? I keep telling myself that it will get harder when Winter comes and I'm confined to the house. And then I mentally shake myself with a reminder: I'm trying to live a more interesting life, and stepping out of the box to accomplish it. So who says I have to stay inside in the winter? Yes, the days will be shorter. And yes, I won't be sitting for long hours on my patio. But maybe being TV free will help me to discover something I would never have tried that will also get me out of the house. Maybe I'll learn to ski! Or, more likely, maybe I'll learn to walk in snow shoes! (Much safer for a klutz like me.) I live in Michigan. Perhaps it's time I find some Winter activities I enjoy, so I can do more outdoor living year round!

Until that day comes, I'm continuing to stay true to my TV free challenge. I've made some great strides in work lately (the book is fully edited with author's approval; my company blog is now up and running with some solid content; I'm three chapters into my own new novel). I've also continued working on my outdoor projects, and though most of the stuff in my garden survives, I must admit to feeling challenged with the bunnies, insects, and weird weather. In fact, the easiest thing to grow so far is the lasagna garden - and I mean that as a joke, because the lasagna garden doesn't grow. And even more of a joke, because even that isn't exactly easy. (As a reminder, "lasagna garden" is just a fancy way of saying horizontal composting.) Even that takes time and dedication. I have to save my kitchen scraps, veggies only - and find a place to store them until I add them to the green layer. Sounds easy, but I catch myself digging through the trash after banana peels and other greens, which I'm just not accustomed to saving. Then I juggle bags of juicy and decaying veggie carcasses between my fridge and freezer for a week or two until I can't take it anymore and dump them all out in the lasagna patch.

As part of the lasagna garden, you also have to build the brown layer. The brown layer consists of corrugated cardboard, newspaper, and junk mail. Sounds easy. However, today I spent the better part of an afternoon breaking up the empty boxes in our storage room. (Don't judge when you see the picture. Yes, we had a lot of boxes - in our defense, we do a lot of online shopping and selling.) The worst part wasn't breaking down big boxes, even the very large one from the new toilet, or removing all the packing tape and labels from them, which I didn't want polluting my future compost. The biggest difficulty was the mental obstacle: I hate spiders, and there are spiders in our basement.

Now they'll probably be upstairs too, because I shook things up in spider utopia today when I came in with my vacuum and intent to break up boxes. I sucked two LARGE spiders into the vacuum, smooshed one with my shoe instinctively cause he was making a run for it and the vacuum was out of reach, and discovered several dead ones curled up inside boxes - just as scary to me as live ones. If you still fail to comprehend what an exhausting, paranoid-filled day I had, I suggest you read a previous blog I wrote a while back about an incident with a spider: Vehicular Arachnophobia. Reading it might help you to picture me today looking anxiously at the ceiling, the floor, every shadow, every cobweb, thoroughly vacuuming and inspecting each box before I would touch it to break it down. At one point, I was using all three of the vacuum wand attachments stacked one on top of the other to put the farthest distance between me and potential spiders, using it to wildly nudge boxes and shelves like a blind person in a fun house. My goal was to startle spiders out of their hiding places so that I didn't discover them later with my hands. Our vacuum sometimes spits out tiny pieces of things. A tiny grain of kitty litter spit out of the vacuum, pinged my leg, and sent me running out of the basement and up the stairs. I was a little edgy.

Anyway, long story short (too late), I spent the afternoon breaking up boxes for the lasagna garden, and it was a pain in the butt. I'll take a moment to share a couple pictures of my "chef's garden" and the lasagna garden:

My cucumber plants. They are starting to get large and sprawly. In my gardening naivety, I didn't know they would actually start growing out. I was wondering how they would grow up vertically and not collapse under the weight of heavy cucumbers. Well, duh!

The smaller of my tomato plants, but the one that actually has tomatoes on it. Two of them! I feel the need to document this because the leaves are getting brown and crunchy despite persistent watering, and I fear the plant might still die. Or, it will thrive, I'll grow bunches of tomatoes, and they'll get pilfered by squirrels before they are ripe enough to harvest. Regardless, best to get photographic proof that I can, in fact, grow something!

Look how big my other tomato plan is! HUGE! Can you see the little piece of tape on one of the limbs? That's where I broke the nicest stem trying to put it inside the tomato cage. I'm so handy. I used masking tape to bind the wound. I'm hoping there's no hard feelings and the plant will continue to grow despite my best efforts to cripple it.

Look at us! We're cantaloupe plants! We grew from a seed and will probably start growing fruit right around the time the first snow comes! Wee!

Here's the lasagna garden. Though it's at the very back of our yard, it is visible from the street. I hope someone doesn't think we've started a garbage dump in our yard and calls the city. We're trying to do something good for the planet, and that's just what I'll say when they issue me a ticket. ;)

So there we are at Day 47. I'm still loyal to my TV-free challenge, loyal to my garden and still fighting those bunnies, doing my best to condition my lungs and body for running (still run-walking), and generally appreciating the summer. Best of all, lately it seems like we've been much more social. More people asking us to do things who we haven't seen in a while, or who we've never hung out with. Perhaps they are trying to help us stick to the challenge by offering us something fun to do? Or, maybe, we've just opened ourselves cosmically to new experiences and the universe is answering. To all those who are being so sweet and supportive and giving myself and my hubs fun alternatives to TV, thanks for the invitations. Keep them coming! You make it so much easier to be TV free!