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.