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! 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 42 - Sweet William & Other Updates

We're doing our best to stay cool here in Michigan. I hope everyone else is doing the same.

My dad called today to say that he and my mom are giving up TV for the weekend to support my efforts. A little humor there - they actually lost power and have been told it won't be back on until Monday. Hoping they find lots of interesting things to do to keep themselves occupied. I know how hard that is when it's 100 degrees outside. Not much to do but try find things to do inside. (A TV free Winter will be much easier for me, when I can sit by the fire and crochet, than a TV free summer where it's becoming hard to get outside and enjoy!)

A few updates from the week:

1) I worked the Farmer's Market on July 4th, and it was a scorcher. I sweated my buns off, just sitting at the booth doing nothing. The biting flies due to the rain the night before were a nice touch.

2) I sprayed another dose of organic repellent on my garden. A few more things seem to have been nibbled on, but I wasn't sure. I didn't dilute it down as much this time, and I could really smell that garlic as I misted it around my plants. My marigolds are loving this heat. I might not grow many veggies this year, but at least my garden is pretty.

3) I have two itty bitty teeny weeny green tomatoes started. I've been so busy trying to water and keep my plants alive, I keep forgetting that I may get to actually eat something, too. In the meantime, I'm spending too much money at the Farmer's market, indulging in fresh greens.

4) I remembered why I hate the French language. Too many things sound alike. I gave it a few weeks and then gave up. I've now switched to Italian. Less practical, but I majored in Classical Archaeology in college and took five semesters of Latin. I would love to go to Rome someday (my concentration was in the Romans, versus the Greeks, though I did take quite a few Greek courses too), and my husband is Sicilian, so it would be great to take a trip someday and use our Italian skills.

5) We've watched a few DVDs. It's damn hot. When you get inside, all you want to do is collapse. My brain doesn't want to work when it's hot. We've now watched 4 DVDs I think since the TV free effort began. Less than one per week on average. I still don't feel like it's cheating. We're within the rules. I just wish the heat wave would cool down so that we could spend more time outdoors.

6) I'm continuing with the couch potato to 5k. I've graduated to walking 5 minutes, then run/walking for 20 minutes, and then cooling down to walk another 5 minutes. During the run/walking, I'm now running 2 minutes and resting only one minute in-between sprints. My pace is about 4 miles per hour. Basically, I can run walk a 15 minute mile. Terrible I'm sure to real runners, but it's more than I was doing before, and less than what I'll be able to do later! When it's too hot out - like it has been for many days in a row now - I'm thankful that my parents have a treadmill in an air-conditioned house that I can borrow for free. (Sadly, I won't be using it until at least Monday now!)

7) I've started writing again. I finished the macro and line edit on the 2nd book that I'm publishing (for an Atlanta area author) and decided it was high time I write my next book. This one is a novel (i.e., for grownups), and it feels great to be back to writing for myself - not a paid blog, not web content for my website, not editing someone else's work - ALL ME. Maybe my Doc was right all those weeks ago. I'm filling my bucket with the right kinds of things now!

8) The Words With Friends continues. I'm starting to think I'm spending too much time on it. About 30 minutes in the morning with breakfast, sometimes during the day during lunch, and then more in the evening. I may be filling time with a fruitless endeavor. Therefore, I've started rejecting offers of new games. I'll get down to where I'm only playing a few games and keep it at that. Entertainment is good. Too much, and I'm simply replacing the TV for something else that prevents me from doing other more important things.

9) Last (and best) note -My hubby is very thoughtful. He found some 60 year generational Sweet William seeds on Craig's List - for free. He picked them up for me as a surprise on Friday, and even got the seeds out of the dead blooms (a little false advertising there) today. Looking forward to some beautiful Sweet William blooms - in two years. They are biennial. If you're not familiar with Sweet William flowers, they are annual in cooler temps and perennial in warmer temps. Below is a pic. They are just lovely, and I'm trying to decide whether to save the seeds for next year, or attempt to cultivate a few indoors and transfer to my yard in the late summer...

Stay cool!!!

I found this pic online. Aren't Sweet William flowers pretty? They come in white, pink, red, and purple blooms. I don't know what these seeds will produce. A variety would be great. They are good for borders and flower boxes and like full sun, but can tolerate some shade. Their hallmark is the frilly edges. I've read that they smell nice too, and longer varieties are great for putting in vases. I think what we have will be the shorter variety, based on the dried blooms hubs brought home, though it's possible they were simply trimmed to fit in the bag. Either height, I think they will be a beautiful reminder of this summer spent making things around our home better. All by turning off the TV.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 34: And the War Begins

Who needs TNT channel for DRAMA? I've got rabbits in my new garden. That's all the drama I need to keep myself occupied these days!

I've calmed down a little since my last post. Okay, I wasn't really that upset. I was just feeling a little disappointed and perhaps even a little helpless. I'd put a lot of work into my garden. I hated to see it being devoured before it had a chance to flourish, and I had no idea what to do to stop it.

Now I have a plan of action, and that's making me feel a little better about all of this. Armed with some research, I've put together a strategy for fending off the bunnies who are treating my budding garden like their personal 24-hour salad bar.

First - I bought and planted Marigolds today. There seems to be some differing opinion on whether or not this will actually deter the bunnies, but they're pretty, so I figured why the hell not. I bought up all the Marigolds Home Depot had left - 12 plants - and strategically planted them across the border of my garden, a few inches inside the edge so that we can still mow the curve of grass. I may also hit Lowe's later and buy more for planting along the back.

Second - I took some old plastic decorative border that I hadn't been using and placed it along the back of the garden, along the fence. There are spots in the fence where I've seen bunnies come through, and I'm hoping this extra fencing will at least slow them down so they have time to smell the marigolds. Otherwise, they might just come leaping in, eat their fill, and leap out without taking a breath - or a sniff.

Third - Tonight I'm making an organic spray that's supposed to be good against pests, including bunnies:

Garlic/ Red Pepper Spray

1 onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, sliced
1 heaping Tbl. red pepper
3 pints water

Heat this mix in a saucepan on low heat for 20 minutes. Strain, and keep in a glass jar in refrigerator for over a month. To use, add 1 Tbl. solution to a pint of water plus a few drops of Ivory soap. Put mixture in spray bottle, and use as needed.

I know the soap is supposed to be in there to help make the spray stick. At least, that's what I've heard. However, it doesn't sound very organic to me. A friend recommended I buy a vegetable based soap, like Target's Seventh Generation soap. So I'll pick some of that up. I'll spray the perimeter and the pathways first. If I see any bunnies around, I'll try it on one section of plants and see if it hurts them before trying it all over.

Fourth - I replanted the green beans. Since my entire crop of green beans were de-leaved in one day, and I had leftover seeds, I decided to pop them in the ground. It might be too late in the season, but I'm going to water the bejeezus out of them and hope that I get a second wave. I really had my heart set on fresh green beans.

Having a plan makes me feel a little better. If these things don't work, I'll go with chicken wire, though I loathe the idea. It's hard to mow around, and I've read that it needs to be buried at least 24 inches in the ground so that the bunnies don't tunnel under it. That seems like an awful lot of work - if I can avoid it by using other methods, I will.

Today is Day 34 (I actually counted on the calendar to get myself back to accuracy on this blog), and as you can see, I've got more things on my mind than who is doing what on shows that I don't miss! I'll leave you with a few pictures of my newly flowered garden. (Also, my roses are doing good since I took the time to prune them - although they're slightly wilty since it was 102 degrees yesterday and 97 today. So I'm including a pic of them too.) Enjoy!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 31? - Damn Those Bunnies

I'm too distraught for a long post. Today, my husband discovered that every single green bean plant in my lovely garden has been eaten by bunnies. Silly me for thinking that I could simply shoo them away with my hands and a loud voice whenever I saw them.

Tonight, I'll be buying every damn Marigold flat I can find to surround my garden. Maybe I can save what's left by offending their little bunny noses.

Too bad I don't watch TV anymore. I could get ideas from the rednecks on the Discovery Channel for how to catch rabbits. I'd threaten to have rabbit stew, since I won't be having fresh green beans from my garden, but that seems a bit too morbid a thought, even for me at this moment.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

4 Weeks Down! Accomplishments & Annoyances

Four Sundays ago, I began the challenge to get my buns off the couch and become a more interesting person. If you've read previous entries, you know I intend to continue for another 11 months!

Let's celebrate and recap the top 10 (in no particular order) of what I've accomplished to date without TV:

  1. Planted a garden
  2. Started a lasagna garden
  3. Cleared the backyard of weeds (more hubby than me, but I helped.)
  4. Began taking Rosetta Stone French Courses
  5. Started my training for Couch Potato to 5k (I'll be running my first 5k ever in September!)
  6. Published a book & Edited half a book
  7. Read 13 books & Reviewed most of them on Goodreads
  8. Volunteered at the Arts Festival
  9. Volunteered weekly at the Farmer's Market
  10. Re-potted all my houseplants

This in addition to things I was doing before, like writing blogs for pay, doing yoga, visiting with friends/family, our annual garage sale, etc.

Overall, I feel like I'm respecting and keeping to the goal. I don't know that I'm a more interesting person, but I'm opening myself up to more interesting experiences! Case in point:

I practice yoga with my friend Kate. We both have packages at a local studio, and we enjoy doing evening yoga once a week on Wednesdays together. Some weeks, we slack - especially lately because I've been devoting a lot of time to yard work and she's been doing a lot of running/training. When we do our yoga like good girls, we sometimes follow it with a drink or two at the nearby bar, catching up in loud voices over the sounds of bad karaoke. It's known to us as detox/retox. We don't always "retox", and admittedly, I don't usually like to stay out too late when we do. My routine used to be to come home and watch my DVR'd shows before bed because Wednesdays was "good TV night" - i.e., Survivor, Idol and Harry's Law nights.

This past Wednesday was a little different. After yoga, as we packed up our things and slipped on our shoes, Kate asked if we were retoxing. I was tired and tempted to go home and veg. Then I remembered - there is no vegging anymore. Without a TV to run home to, there was really no hurry. And I could really stay out as late as I wanted and not think once, even for a second, about what I might be missing. As a side note, I've been trying to think of my TV Free challenge as a sort of "Yes Man" challenge. If you've seen the movie "Yes Man" with Jim Carrey, the theme of the movie is that the main character has to say yes to every opportunity, which is problematic sometimes, but in general, leads to a series of hijinks that take him to a much more interesting, varied life. So, when I thought about retoxing that night, I thought about my goal to embrace life more. To stop being a couch potato and be more social. It would be against everything I'm trying to do to go home and read a book when I could enjoy the company of my best friend. In this situation, that would have been just as bad as going home and clicking on the TV. It went against the spirit of this adventure.

As our yoga instructors were on their way out, I spontaneously asked if they wanted to join us for a drink. They told us they were in fact planning to get a drink at a different place than where we were intending to go, but were happy to enjoy together. We shrugged and said SURE, wherever they were going, we were game!

We ended up at a brewery around the corner that we'd been to before but never knew had outdoor seating off the back alley. There was an outside grotto hidden from the general sports bar atmosphere, lit with white strings of lights and filled with little tables for couples and foursomes. Lucky for us, our instructors knew about the hidden seating and led us back there right away. It was 97 degrees that day, but now it was cooling off with the sun down, and it was a lovely evening for a drink outdoors. As an added bonus, when we got to the patio, there was a fun, blues/jazz band playing. Next thing we knew, we were grooving to great music at the front table, toasting with the band members, listening to the sax players, trumpeters and cello dudes shouting and encouraging each other in their solos, tipping back some beers with people we never hang out with...I even got a little serenade from the band's singer, and we enjoyed the music so much, we bought CDs. We didn't care that we were messy from yoga and the four of us were still in our yoga attire. Or that it was late on a weeknight. This was the place to be.

It's possible I would have had the same experience, even if I hadn't given up TV. But somehow, it didn't feel like it at the time, nor does it now. It feels like I was where I was supposed to be at that moment, and it was a result of the decision to change my life. I pledge to myself and to whomever might be reading to continue to try new things. This experiment isn't just about not watching the television, it's about doing new things that I haven't tried because my spare time was going to that one activity.

Included in the above benefits, the retox being one example, I notice that there are things I'm NOT missing at all about TV:
  • Any commercials
  • Political Ads
  • Things that make me worry about my self-image (sexy ads, sexy people, etc)
  • Things that make me worry I'm not active enough (like Nike commercials)
  • Things that make me eat more (food commercials, TV shows about making food)

There are a few things I DO miss:
  • The news. I feel out of the loop a bit, even with reading Internet and print news.
  • Crafty shows (on occasion, these shows actually inspired me to get up and do something)
  • Knowing what people are talking about in pop culture. Already, I'm starting to feel left out of a few conversations. Nightly shows like TMZ or Jimmy Fallon kept me up on the latest entertainment news!
  • Humor (listening to music/radio or reading a book doesn't tend to make me laugh out loud like a funny sitcom could do!)
  • The zone out factor - you can't zone out with many things like you can with TV.

A few final notes regarding reactions of friends and family. Though no one comments much on this blog here on blogspot, I usually post my entries on Facebook, and friends do tend to respond there. I have to say that I'm sometimes disappointed/annoyed at how some people sort of passively burst my bubble. I'll post an achievement, and they'll post something about how long it's been since they've watched TV or how rarely they watch TV. I know in reality that these people are my friends and they are trying to be supportive, like, "hey, I know what you're going through. I did it too." What it comes off as sometimes is what I'm doing isn't that big of a deal. The comment is usually accompanied by something like "I didn't miss it a bit." Perhaps it wasn't a big deal TO THEM. But I feel like they don't understand how critical it is to me. I'm fairly certain some of them haven't even read this blog, just seen my posts that I've stopped watching TV. Do they know where I started?

If you met an alcoholic who said she was 30 days sober, would your first reply be "Oh I never drink" or "Oh, I haven't had a drink in YEARS" or "Oh, you were an alcoholic for 20 years and gave it up cold turkey? Nice! I gave it up for Lent once. So I know exactly how you feel!"

One person in particular told me that they gave up TV for a period of time when they were a kid and didn't have a TV and didn't miss it at all after a month. I think they said when they were 7 years old. My first thought was seriously? At seven years old, how much of TV was a life-long, ingrained routine for you?? I'm sure it's much harder for an adult who's come to use it as an emotional crutch for stress-relief! My second thought was Hmm, how much time did I spend watching TV when I was 7? The answer that came was that I didn't watch a fraction of the TV I watched as an adult - I would have been outside playing until the streetlights came on at seven years old. Maybe a little TV after dinner and after my bath and cartoons on Saturday mornings, but I didn't grow up in a home with the TV on 24/7. My third thought was I could give up TV real easy too if my parents took it away. Much harder to exercise your own self control! So basically, when I really thought about the comment, I was annoyed. I probably shouldn't have been. Folks are just posting a quick comment. Little do they know I'm sitting there analyzing it and taking it personally.

The other thing I notice is that people haven't read my RULES for this challenge, so without any information, they want to call me out on stuff. I posted that today my hubby and I celebrated 4 weeks TV-free with a trip to the movies. I received 5 inbox messages from friends calling me a cheater in one form or another. Isn't that TV, they ask? I know I can't expect everyone to be up to date on this challenge, but I'm very proud of the fact that I'm not cheating. I'm not bending the rules. I've made a huge change in my life (and my husband has by extension as well). I'm NOT eliminating every bit of entertainment in my life. I'm simply not watching the television set. I can only wonder why anyone feels compelled to try to "catch me" cheating. Give me a little credit to know the difference between a date night at the movies and watching 8 hours straight of Law & Order.

I suppose the only way to avoid these little annoyances is to simply do the challenge and stop talking about it. But that seems unfair to me - as I should be able to celebrate the fun I'm having - and to anyone who is actually following this blog and is somehow inspired by it. So I will endeavor to see the positive and try to remember that if anyone is taking the time to respond at all, it is because he or she is making an effort to show interest. I should be happy anyone reads my damn posts at all!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 22: My Lady Bits Are Tingly

Don't get too excited. This isn't an x-rated blog, even if my title and your brain want it to be.

Today, hubs and I started the little "Couch Potato to 5k" challenge. It's intended to be the healthy part of this no-TV adventure we're on. Here's the basic idea - you walk/run three times a week until you're a health nut. Or until your shins break. Whichever comes first. At the moment, I feel like I've achieved the shin-breaking part. The health nut part, I'm not so sure about. Though we did see a few of those odd abberations on our run/walk and I sort of envied/hated them.

If you haven't clicked right on over to the Couch Potato to 5k website already, eager to see what this exciting idea is all about, I'll give you a little more detail. In Week One (which is where we are), you walk 5 minutes to warm up, and then you jog for 1 minute, then you walk for 1 1/2 minutes, then you jog for a minute...then walk, and so forth, until you've run/walked for 20 minutes. The goal is to do this 3 times this week. Week two, the running times will get longer. Eventually, the goal is to run the whole time, 3 times a week. They should have you ready for a 5k in 9 weeks. Sounds good on paper- to ease the lungs and the body parts into the idea of prepare your joints...etc...

But speaking of body parts, mine are still tingling. And when I say my lady bits, I mean all of them. I can feel my pulse everywhere - still - and we finished our exercise about a half hour ago. Not sure if this is normal or not, though my lungs feel fine and I haven't noticed any real pain. My breasts already hurt - it's the curse of the D-cup. D boobs aren't meant for running. They aren't really meant for any kind of exercise. Perhaps this is rooted in our primitive history - men with strong legs ran and hunted; women with weak legs and big boobs were waited on hand and foot. Sounds plausible. You don't have to hit me over the head with a club to know that sounds like a sweet deal.

Anyway, boobs got a workout. Shins got a work out. My spine feels like it got crushed down a little. Other than that, I feel great! Is this what a runner's high is??

Other than giving all my bits a jiggle, and feeling a little embarrassed as they did so, the past few days have been pretty busy. On Saturday, I volunteered at a local art/music/food festival. I sold tickets for beer, and waited impatiently for my shift to end so that I could drink some of it. Hubs joined me when my shift ended and we ate the food I'd been smelling and then drank the beer I'd been drooling over.

Vegans & Vegetarians, close your eyes and put your earmuffs on. This was my view from the beer tent...I watched these guys rub down the ribs and pork with spices, spray 2 liters of Pepsi on them, and then slather them in BBQ sauce. We ate them like nobody's business!
After eating, we walked around a little and then bought the caramel roasted almonds I'd been admiring the past 2 weeks (that are normally sold at the Farmer's market by the same vendor) for additional Father's Day gifts.

For Father's Day, hubs and I went our separate ways to visit our dads. My folks had a cookout, and because it was rainy and hot, we spent time indoors playing pool and poker. The TV was on, but I didn't really feel compelled to watch it. Golf was on - and I'm not much of a golf watcher. (I like the game, but watching it is a different experience!) Aside from that, interestingly, every time I looked over, commercials were on. Talk about a turn off.

Another thing I'd like to report in my continuing TV-free challenge is that I've lost 4 pounds! Yay! That's really exciting until I admit that I'm simply re-losing weight I'd already lost last summer. I was down 40, and then gained back about 15. So, my 4 pounds isn't much of an achievement in the overall scheme of things. But I can say that I'm attributing that to mostly being more active, to not sitting on the couch, as my food habits haven't changed much since I started my downward spiral. (Or, upward spiral, if we're talking about gaining pounds, which we are.)

I'll end this post with a happy update on my garden. I've got sprouts! My cucumbers and green beans are popping up like mad, and today I noticed sprouts in my cantaloupe and watermelon, too. (The only thing that hasn't done a thing are the carrots.) My tomato plants are taller and my green pepper plant and cherry tomato plants have flowers. Somehow, I still doubted, after all my hard work, that a little seed could turn into a plant. I know this is how it happens, but I still kept expecting disappointment. So many years of killing houseplants has obviously damaged me.

Excuse the blurriness, but it was starting to get dark outside when I took my garden pics. Here are my three little rows of green beans.

And here is 1 mound (of 3) of cucumbers. The sprouts seem to have gotten a little closer together than I remember spacing the seeds. I wonder if watering did that?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Days 14 to 17: Am I Cheater & Other Stories

We've been TV free for a little over two weeks now, and friends keep asking "Have you cheated?"

The truth depends on who you ask. If you ask me, and you consider the rules I posted when I first started this experiment, the answer is no. I haven't broken any of my rules. However, if you ask an outsider, who simply sees me declaring myself TV-free, he might think so.

How would an outsider think I've cheated? We've watched two DVDs in the last 17 days, and I also watched a 5 minute video online of America's Got Talent. Gasp!

In my defense, hubs and I have been doing a lot of yard work. A LOT. We have weeds that could eat your children. And we discovered wild raspberries, while great in theory and we'll now plan to eat, are thorny as heck and poked the bejeezus out of our limbs. In fact, we've been working so hard de-weeding and de-raspberrying, everything hurts as we stumble into the house near dark. Not all evenings, but we've been pretty consistent in our home improvement efforts. At that point, when your body and brain really want to relax after some pretty physical work, it's no time to play a board game, read a book, or work on the computer. We simply can't concentrate on anything. So twice now, we've tapped into our DVD collection. Seven and The Matrix were our selections. Movies we had already seen were perfect for a good zone out. As an added bonus, it had been so long since we tapped into our DVD collection, we couldn't even remember what movies we had, so it was like a rediscovery mission too.

With respect to the AGT video, I have a perfectly good excuse for this one. A friend of mine was on the show! They didn't only show a glimpse. He and his girlfriend got a whole 5-minute segment. I had to watch it. And I had to share it on Facebook (which is where I first learned of it), like any good friend.

The only real cheat I see is that I have replaced TV with one activity that is probably not doing much for bettering me as a human being. I've discovered Words With Friends. It's terribly addictive, but perfect for playing when I'm eating my breakfast out on the deck - or before bed when I'm trying to unwind. I'm limiting myself to only a few games at a time. But I do feel a little guilty, because I didn't stop watching TV to do something like sit on my computer and move letters around. It's not out of hand yet, but it could get there easily. Although, at least I'm using my brain, right? I'm playing big words like "pig" and "boob". (Hey, pig was on a TW and DL. -That's geek speak for fellow WWF players.)

Besides a yard work marathon, I've gotten quite a bit of work done lately, professionally speaking. I feel like a machine. It's amazing how much focus I have right now. Maybe TV was really rotting my brain. Or maybe I was depressed and didn't know it. Either way, I feel like I've woken up. Without the distractions of the TV, I get my work done faster, and in my opinion, it's better in all respects. It's almost scary how much I feel like I've accomplished in the last few weeks, because it reveals to me how much less I was getting done before.

Aside from work, I enjoyed volunteering at the Farmer's Market today. This week, I was paired up with the mayor of our little city. We're now on a first name basis, and I feel like I could write a book about him. Such is the case when two people are stuck at a booth together for 2 hours with not much else to do but chat. Perhaps this week's experience was also better because I brought cash with me this time.

I purchased a new sweet red pepper plant for my garden, a flat of garlic spinguni bread, which when decorated with chicken, green pepper and portabella mushrooms at home became our dinner tonight, pieces of lemon cake and sweet potato pie, which obviously became dessert, and a couple organic hygiene products. I arrived with $20 and left with $2. Not a bad way to spend $18 and a few hours of my time, supporting fellow Michigan business owners with purchases and enjoying the smell of roasting cinnamon pecans in the breeze while doing it. (I would have bought those darn pecans but they were at the last vendor and I only had $2 left! Instead, I took a big whiff of them when I walked by and hoped that it would sustain me until next week.)

Here's that yummy dinner I described. The bread was $5.50 and I already had the leftover chicken and veggies in the fridge.

I have a bid out on eBay right now for a bicycle basket. If I win, next week, I'll ride up to the market on my bike and fill that basket like nobody's business. I think I need herbs for my garden. The ones I was growing inside don't look too hot. They look slightly moldy on top. Who knew you could overwater plants? I sure didn't! I'm pretty sure that's a first time for me. Also, I think I'm growing weeds, not herbs. Any input on that is most welcome. See below.

Spore City?
Tomorrow, I look forward to seeing my oldest best friend for lunch. It's been way too long. At least 6 months since our last lunch. We joke that we'll have to hold signs up with our names so we recognize each other. Also, the art festival this weekend (I'm attending and volunteering) and Father's Day BBQ. Lots of fun stuff to look forward to that has absolutely nothing to do with television.

I'll leave you with a quote I found the other day:

No one’s addicted to music and television and radio. We just need more of it, more channels, a larger screen, more volume. We can’t bear to be without it, but no, nobody’s addicted. We could turn it off anytime we wanted.
- Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Days 9 - 13: The Chef's Garden & A Little Lasagna

It's been a few days since I've posted, but have no fear, I'm still TV free! Tomorrow will be 2 weeks. I'm happy to say, I really don't miss it as much as I had feared. The key is staying busy and having some goals. When the Winter comes, it will be much more difficult. There are only so many books one can read. (Did Miss Publisher actually just write that??)

So what have I been up to? Well, my garden is done! Whoopie!

Before I talk about my garden in detail, one notable item this week - I volunteered at the local farmer's market on Wednesday. One of the things I pledged to do more of with my free-time is do some work in our community. The goals being 1) to help support local events that keep our city interesting and 2) to meet some people our age with whom we can socialize. (We've been here 9 years and really only know our immediate neighbors.)

As far as the Farmer's Market goes, I think I'll only meet one goal, which is to support a local community event. And I admit, I won't mind doing this so long as I have cash on hand. There were many Michigan grown goodies at the market and if I'd had any cash with me, I would have bought everything in sight! As it was, I certainly sampled everything in sight. Flavored almonds, kettle corn, flavored and medicinal honey, jerky and hot sausages, and plenty of flowers and veggies. I definitely won't mind spending a few hours a week surrounded by all of that!

Unfortunately, the goal I won't accomplish is meeting people our age. I'm working the volunteer booth with two lovely ladies, who happened to have both turned 80 years old this year. They like to talk about when their husbands died 20 years ago and their various ailments. Very sweet ladies, but I doubt they'll be coming over to play Euchre and drink homebrews with me and the hubs.

So let's get to the gardening!

The Chef's Garden (& Start of the Lasagna Garden)

I don't know why I'm calling it the chef's garden, other than to make it clear that the focus is vegetables rather than flowers and to differentiate it from the lasagna garden, which I address in the second set of bullet points below.

As a quick recap, here were the steps I took to get started (and blogged about previously):
  1. I identified the northeast corner of the yard as the best place for the garden as it has a good 6-8 hours of bright sunlight per day. Hubs and I spent several hours de-weeding this area in preparation.
  2. Using the garden hose as a guide, I created a curving edge for the garden that parallels the flower bed on the other side of the property.
  3. Sadly, I discovered my hand cultivator tool wasn't strong enough to battle the grass that needed to be removed from the area I had mapped out. I used a good old-fashioned shovel to dig up the area. (A rototiller would have been better but about $50 for 3 hours use. I'd rather spend the money on tools I can keep and more seeds.)
  4. I left the grass chunks out in the sun for a day so that the dirt would dry out and crumble from the grass roots more easily.
I believe that's where I left off in my last blog, with a small area left to be shoveled and most of the grass chunks drying.

Since then, I've done a lot more work. (And I can say right now, if TV had been an option, I would have never started or finished this garden. The only thing that kept me going (in 80-90 degree heat the last few days) is knowing that I can't sit on the couch all day and stare at the TV. Whenever I was tired and felt like going in, I would think What else am I going to do? Might as well work until dark.)

Here's what I've accomplished:

  1. Started the Lasagna Garden: Shook the dirt off the grass clumps and piled them on top of the weeds along the back of the property. Once I add a "brown layer" (i.e., newspaper or corrugated cardboard) on top of the grass chunks, I'll have a nice start to my lasagna garden. The goal of the lasagna garden is to layer the browns with greens (such as yard waste and vegetable scraps) throughout the year. Ideally, the brown layers being twice as deep as the green layers. By next spring, it should all be horizontally composted, and I can either transport some of that rich compost to my garden, or I can plant right in it. It will make a nice, fluffy soil.
  2. Once the grass was removed, I had 2 yards of soil delivered. I selected a soil compost mix, because my soil needed some nourishment, and I found out from the ladies at the Farmer's Market that the city supply of compost is depleted. (Next year, I'll start early and take advantage of the free compost!) 2 yards turned out to be just enough - it's just enough to have a 3-4 inch layer over the entire area.
  3. Before spreading the soil, I used my cultivator hand tool to churn the existing dirt. I also tested the pH of my existing dirt - it was a good 7.5 pH. The reason I tested before adding the new dirt was that the new dirt was a compost mix. The results of the pH test can be skewed by debris like twigs. I wanted a clear reading.
  4. I spread the soil out evenly last night. (With some help from my hubs, who's a shoveling machine.)
  5. Next I made a garden map. It wasn't perfectly to scale, but it was important to figure out what would go where. The tallest crops need to be placed so they don't cast a shadow on the shorter crops and there needs to be the correct amount of space between everything. (Map pictured below)
  6. Hubs rescued some bricks from a collapsing hole at the back of our property. Not our fault - the bunnies dug a burrow and created a sink hole. It sucked in my little brick wall and humpty dumpty garden decor. Bastard bunnies. Anyway, hubs transported those to my garden area so I could use those today for my paths.
    My Garden Map - I know it's hard to see, but I did it in pencil. The point is, if you're new to gardening like me, to have a good idea of how many seeds you have and how much room you'll need. I'm so glad I made this map. I would have been out there in the heat much longer today if I had not made a plan.
  8. Today, I planted flowers and veggies, inserted bricks for sectioning and walking, and tapped in stakes to identify everything!
  9. For flowers, I planted within borders along the edges of the garden, mostly in the shaded areas and the corner of the garden. I planted purple and white alyssum, white morning glory, deep purple forget-me-nots, Canterbury Bells, Sweet Pea and a Sweet Pea border mix. Both the morning glory and the sweet pea should climb and fill out on the fence. The Canterbury Bells (beautiful purples, pinks and white) should grow to several feet and fill out the corner nicely.

Starting at the right side of the garden, at the tail, I planted tomatoes (both regular and cherry) and red and green bell pepper. As  you can see, I didn't do much volume. Two tomato plants and one pepper plant. This might be a mistake. Perhaps I'm supposed to plant in threes, like flowers or shrubs. But I wanted to get several things in the space, and I'm still testing it all out. Who knows, this might be a terrible spot for growing things. To the left of the tomatoes, I planted three mounds of cucumbers, the sweet, crunchy variety with small seeds.

Looking to the left, you can see the layout of my chef's garden. After the cucumbers is a big section for green beans. I have great memories of picking green beans (and eating the entire bowl of raw green beans meant for the whole family) at my aunt's house when I was a little girl. Nothing better than fresh-off-the-vine green beans that are sweet and snap up great for dinner - or pre-dinner! ;)

It's hard to tell from this picture, but the entire garden is sloped. The highest point is the pole of the birdhouse (where the yellow square is). Near the pole, I made a trench and two long hills for my carrots. They need lots of deep soil to grow straight. I planted a kaleidoscope mix of carrots - Atomic Red, Bambino, Solar yellow, and Lunar White. In the foreground are the cantaloupes. If you can't tell by the pictures, these are buried 4-6 seeds 3 inches apart in small mounds. The mounds should be 4-5 feet apart, but I was limited on space. They are 3-4 feet. I hope this won't make a difference.

All the way to the left are my watermelons. Again, I buried the seeds in small mounds. These mounds should have been 6 feet apart. I simply didn't have the space. So I did fewer mounds (didn't use all the seeds) and placed them about 4 feet apart in a circle. This area is the first to get shady - as you can see, it was almost fully shaded by about 4pm. But I'm hoping that there's enough sunshine before 4pm to do the job.

That's about it. Now it's just about watering and waiting. As mentioned previously, I have fantasies of walking in my garden, wearing a big brimmed hat, plucking veggies and putting them in a basket....Today, I did none of those things. But I did make rainbows. Lots of rainbows over my garden with the hose. And I watched the butterflies flitting around, checking everything out.

What's left to do? Soon, when my seedlings appear, I'll spread organic mulch along the pathways (so I can weed and harvest without getting muddy). I'll also need to figure out the best way to enclose the garden. We have bunnies and deer in the area. And I'll continue to layer on the lasagna garden. Next year, if I've had some measure of success with my garden, I'll grow onions, lettuce, kale, spinach and probably lots more tomatoes and peppers. My curving garden will probably grow twice as big, turning into a big rectangle, and I'll plant other yummy things where my lasagna used to be....possibly move my herbs from inside the house to that space. So, there are still lots of things to do - but for now - just wait and enjoy the knowledge that I did something productive with my TV-free time.

Garden Project
Cost Estimate: $200
Time Estimate: 25-30 hours