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

Monday, June 4, 2012

Day 8 - My Green Thumb Hurts

Just a short post today. Everything hurts, right down to my green thumbs and fingertips! But I want to share a few pictures of my garden progress. It's slow going, but hopefully, it will be worth it when I can maybe eat some vegetables in a few months. Gosh, that doesn't sound very promising!

I'd like to quickly add that I hate grass and also Home Depot, who have made renting gas powered yard tools cost prohibitive. I'm not wasting my extra $150 this month on renting a damn rototiller.

Here we go:

This is just a small sample of weeds like those we spent all day Sunday pulling. We had to pull tons of weeds like this to make room for the new garden. Note: My husband pulled all the weeds at the back of the property last fall AND put down weed killer. And this is what we get in the Spring. Ridiculous! They are almost as tall as the fence. If our neighbors behind us didn't have just as much of a weed problem, I'm sure they'd hate us.

On the left, you can see the weeds are still there. There's easily another 100 feet of weeds remaining, mocking my gardening efforts. They have every intention of eating any compost I put down for my vegetables. Once my garden is complete, I have every intention of pulling them all out by their necks.

 Pictured here, you can see part of the space I have carved out (literally) for my garden. See all those chunks of sod? That's what I did all day today. Me and Mr. Shovel. It occurs to me that the person who ultimately decided the rototiller rental was too expensive is NOT the person doing the digging. I always knew he was smart.

Last note: Along the back, I have some old pieces of wood recovered from the sloppy garden that the previous owners "maintained" 10 years ago on the other side of the backyard. I'm using it to create a border. Between the beams and the fence, I'll be planting flowers to dress up my veggie garden! They will benefit from water running down from the mound in the middle, my "raised garden", where I'll plant deep rooting veggies like carrots.

Panning to the right, you can see where I have continued the outline of my garden. Working on an angle like this will important for mowing purposes later. (Hubs and I hate to mow around sharp corners.) I found a little clever gardening tip online and used it today - I used my garden hose to layout the curving edge of my garden bed and then followed the line of it with my straight edger tool. Much easier than eyeballing it!

I picked this spot in the northeast corner of the property. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the best place for a garden. (I should stop visiting all the online gardening blogs. They just stress me out.)

What's important to note in this picture (besides the shadow of your faithful former couch potato in her baseball hat in the lower left) is how much I still have left to dig up. It may not seem like much - but on the other end of a long day of digging, this seems like a huge amount of work to do. Tomorrow, I'll finish digging this up. Hopefully, the other grass pieces will be dried out enough to shake and deposit in lawn bags for the yard pickup on Friday morning. Then I'll retest my soil PH...possibly add some lime....till in the compost (free from our city)...and finally start mapping out my planting strategy!

Just for kicks, I took a picture today of the self-mulching tree I blogged about last week. I spent some time here today, taking breaks from my digging. The birds seemed a little put out, but ventured over to the other side of the property to eat all the worms I was uncovering over there. In the upper right corner, you can see the delights that await me - my flower bed has run amuck. It's been a couple years since I pruned anything back. But one thing at a time. My tendency is to jump right out there and expect a big project to be done in a day. My garden will take a while before it's producing, and while my veggies are cooking in the soil, I'll have plenty of time to tackle everything else. Really wishing I'd spent a little less time watching TV and a little more keeping up with the yardwork. Homeownership is expensive and time consuming, isn't it?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Days 6 & 7: The Theory of Creative Capacity

A doctor of psychology recently told me that there's a concept that people have a finite capacity for their creativity. Like a bucket they can fill with ideas. Artists, musicians, writers - let's say they get a big gallon bucket for their creativity. They can't do whatever they want to with the bucket. It's reserved just for their talent. To use it to its fullest potential, they must be in the right frame of mind, and they cannot use their bucket for anything else.

This theory came up in discussion because Doc is intrigued by my No TV idea. Given that I'm a writer and work in a creative field (editing/publishing), she's curious how it will affect my bucket and creative productivity. Was I previously attempting to use my bucket's capacity wrongly for other things, like writing while half-watching TV? If so, now that I'm not sharing my bucket with anything else, can I accomplish more? She says if I could get a book written while watching TV, maybe I could write two better books now without it on. The idea is simple - clear my bucket of chaos and use the hypothetical time it represents for what it's meant for and maybe I can get more out of every square inch of it.

I like this thought, that there might be more creativeness inside me, though it also adds a little pressure. Lately, I've been using my new found time to do practical things. I haven't exactly devoted it to creative time. In fact, other than for work, I haven't done any writing for pleasure. Now I feel like maybe I'm wasting an opportunity to achieve something here.

As I see it, though, the reason that I'm not writing more is that I don't really have 30 more hours a week than I had before, even if I was watching that much TV. It's an inflated figure.Yes, I was watching alot of TV, and I thought I would be able to do many more things with the extra 30 hours I estimated I was spending on that one activity. However, what I've learned in the last week is that I did a lot of other things while the TV was on in the background. Even during my precious, DVR'd programming, I would often work, eat, pay bills, read, fold laundry or whatever while the show was rolling. And I'm still doing all of these same activities now. The only extra time I have this week that I didn't have last week is that time that was devoted to watching TV exclusively. I'm now finding that very few shows actually earned my full attention.

What does all of this amount to? I still feel like there's not enough time in the day to do everything I need or want to do. And I still don't feel like I have any more time to be creative (i.e., work on my next book) now than I did a week ago. My only hope is that the doc is right. That my little bucket that was polluted with TV floaties on the top of the water is now clean. I should be able to peer down into it and see straight to the bottom. It hasn't grown. It has the same capacity it always had. But if I can focus on filling it just right, maybe I can keep the water inside clean and get everything done.

Aside from all this philosophical thought for which I seem to have more time to contemplate, here's a quick summary of non-TV related things that I enjoyed over the last few days.
  • Thursday afternoon, I found a new way to zone out that doesn't require brain power. I've been desperate for a little down time! Better than the idea of a rocking chair on a porch is burning receipts in the fireplace. We had a whole box of them saved up, and we fed the fire. Staring into a fire is a great way to recharge your brain! I felt totally refreshed and smoky afterward.
  • Friday, lunch with mom and dad. Happy to hear that they are reading my blog! :) Not sure if my no-TV challenge is inspiring anyone else in my family to join me, but it gives us something new to talk about! Later that day, I continued to work on a new book for publication and completed Lesson 2 for French with Rosetta Stone. (It's getting harder.) 
  • Saturday, the monumental moment - We took our 4 DVRs from AT&T to the UPS Store to send them back home. They are on their way for use as spare parts or for television watching in some other lucky family's home. I was okay with waving goodbye to them. Interestingly, Hubby (who didn't watch a ton of TV to begin with) made a little sad face when we were packing them up.
  • Saturday evening - Spent time with friends playing board games at their place. This is nothing new, we love our gaming. But we had some new games to share and it had been a few months since our last board game marathon, so it was an extra good time. There was an added level of fun when someone found a package of "Fun Pills" from 1994 in a spare drawer. Funny how four adults could get so excited about seeing a few little pills turn into animal-shaped foam in a glass of warm water. Alcohol may have been a factor.
  • Sunday - Weed weed and more weeds. Not the good kind. The kind that is 3 times taller in our yard than normal this time of year due to the mild winter and early warm up. Aside from pulling weeds, we took a trip to Home Depot. I have a feeling I know how the extra $150 a month is going to be spent during the summer! Becoming a "regular" there soon. Still working on carving out a space for my vegetable and flower garden and needed more supplies. Trying hard not to become overwhelmed by all the possibilities, though pretty sure I'm going to start a lasagna garden in the fall. No, a lasagna garden isn't for growing things to make a lasagna! If you don't know what that is, check out this link.
I made it through Week One!
I feel exhausted and nothing at all like an interesting character in a book.
But proud I made it through the first full week with little fuss.