Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spring Garden (de-) Planning

Well, spring is finally here.  Or it seems like it should be.  Because, even though, yes, it was snowing on Monday, it didn't stick, and it's warmed up to like 50 (ok 46) and the sun is...sort of out, so I'm calling that a win.

Yesterday I actually went out and spread some more black plastic on the last bit of empty dirt at the back side of the vegetable garden, and I'm ready to drag out our grow lights and plant vegetable seeds indoors next week.  That is...just as soon as we drag out the ten thousand carefully puzzle-stacked boxes of Christmas decorations in the hall closet to get under the house where the grow lights are stored.  Which will mean, I'll get in the middle of THAT and find something wrong with the tub of all the winter gloves and hats, and I'll go off all organizing THOSE, and then the coats will need to be rotated (winter in the back, light jackets to the front), and then I'll probably find that my scarves are in need of updating, and then--


Garden vegetable seeds will be happening next week.

The only thing about this year that will be a major change for us is that, if you read my empty nest posts awhile back...there's just two of us here now.  And our garden is, after just a hair over a decade of waiting for the fence around it to be enclosure of 5,000 square feet.  50' X 100' of enclosed potting soil.  It's like my own summer play area.  When there were four of us to feed, that space was great, and I've had years where I filled the whole thing to capacity with everysinglevariety of vegetables you can grow here (and some you can't).  I've filled it with things we eat (corn, carrots, beans) and things we don't (radishes/kale/okra/brussels sprouts).  I've wasted space on 46 tomato plants that I know will never fruit until Thanksgiving week, under my redneck-greenhouse covering of clear painter's plastic held down with pavers, no matter how early I plant them inside.

spring--covered with plastic and straw

Umm, yeah, lots of room here...

Now, suddenly, there's all this space, and there's just two of us.  I don't know how to un-plan my garden.  De-plan? Downsize?  I don't know what to do with less than half of a 25' row of carrots, 46 tomato plants, and 250 square feet of corn.  Two 25' x 4' rows of green beans.  12 mounds of potatoes.  A 20 x 24' area of pumpkins.   aieeeee

Most people's vegetable garden space would fit in the front corner where I grow medicinal herbs.

Kale seeding overdose.  Because yeah, no one eats kale.  Just saying-


Well...I have thought about adding more berries.  But God forbid, NOT more currants...those things are one of those plants where ONE is probably too many.  I mean, seriously, what do you DO with currants?  Sure, I make jelly (not jam, because they are basically composed of solid seeds), so now we have two bushes that fruit like crazy, and I have to sit there for hours picking them and THEN bring the racemes in and pick off the individual berries until I wish I'd never heard of currants, so more currants.
Sam, helping with the currant situation.  

More blueberries would be nice.  Maybe I'll do that---add a bunch more blueberry bushes.  And lavender.  Or a cutting flower area, with just annual flowers for picking.  Hahahaaaa yeah right-- even with 85 or so roses here, I basically never cut flowers for inside.  Go figure...  So what would I do with a patch of cosmos and dahlias?  It'd be pretty though, even if I only see it from the window.

Or..since last year we added beekeeping to our list of Things We Do Now, But Not Entirely Together, I could add a bee-garden in part of it.  Not that they aren't already on flower-visiting overdrive with all the flowers and fruit we have blooming here all season.  But still, a bee corner would be cool.  Except no stinging.  I am anti-sting.  Like, Shane will go out and do the hive maintenance stuff, and I stay inside behind the windows and I still get little adrenaline rush chills thinking about 80 million bees (or however many in 5 hives) swarming all up in your stuff like "what's UP"...*shudder*

Actually our honeybees are pretty "mellow" (which is "bee speak" for  "they don't swarm out and kill you when you approach"), but still.  I just don't like stings.  Not even one from a cranky guard bee who forgets herself and is all "whoops sorry, had to do that".

So, I guess...stay tuned and see how we make use of our now-overly-large garden space, and I'll try not to can 115 pints of corn/beans/carrots/beets/tomatoes etc this fall, like I've done every year since like 1996.

I'd love to hear what you do with any excess garden space-- more fruit?  cutting gardens? Bee sanctuary?  And no...I'm not into selling at farmer's markets.  I'm too lazy to get up at 4 a.m. to pick, clean, and bundle, then drive to town, set up a booth, nicely display everything, then haggle with the uber-cool out-of-towners (I'm looking at you, Californians), who want to know if that's my "best price" for organic corn.  No thanks.  Actually, I don't get up at 4 a.m. for ANY reason...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Live and Learn--Finally Published That Cookbook

Like I mentioned in my last post, way back like...yesterday, I think it was...I finally finally FINALLY did finish the Cookbook Project that I started, back in another life, which was supposed to be a graduation gift.  For our oldest daughter.  Who graduated in 2014.

So, yeah...  Goals and stuff.

She actually got married last April, AND our youngest daughter graduated high school in June, so I did get off my gimlit butt and get it finished.  I feel very adult and accomplished about this, and I was able to get my first several copies delivered into my hands in time to give it to both of them as a wedding and graduation gift, respectively.  Barely.  Like, the day of the wedding.

Since it's been so long, I'll tell you a little about the process; the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

Upside:  It's gorgeous!  Hard cover, with a photo on the front, and beautiful heavyweight pages with beautiful photos, and there are all of our family's recipes, right there in one place, like I always dreamed of.  I absolutely love it!

Downside:  Program faults that make you want to create new curse words and write massive complaints to the program developers.

Let's call this Exhibit A.  I created and published my cookbook with a program called Blurb.  I believe it was a free download, through which you create your dream book, and simply pay for your book at the time it's published (we'll call that part...Exhibit B...)  *ahem* back to the program.  I love Blurb, except for one mind-blowing glitch, where you type too much text to fit in the first of two column text boxes on a page, and suddenly the overflow text disappears into a wrapped-text alternative universe.  Normally--normally--in a perfect world, the "wrapped text" feature (to me) implies that the text will automatically bump from the too-full text box into the next text box.  On the same page.  Because that would be WHERE IT BELONGS.

But, no.

Instead, the overflow text is sent literally pretty much into outer space, and it pops up in the NEXT AVAILABLE TEXT BOX ON ANY FOLLOWING PAGE THAT ISN'T ALREADY FULL.


Say I'm typing in Column 1 of page 10, and there are two empty columns ON that page.  I fill up Column 1 and expect the wrapping to automatically put the overflow text into Column 2, the empty column right next to Column 1 on the same page.  No.  Instead, I find that the overflow text, and a good portion of the prior sentence, have been slashed off the page entirely and have popped up on, say, PAGE 23, at the beginning of Column 1 on THAT page.  Which in turn causes all the existing text on page 23 to go wonky and out of order, and possibly cause some innocent bystander to be cooking an omelet and wondering why the first line of the recipe says "fold in dry ingredients, add cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder; beat until stiff peaks form, then drop one inch apart onto a greased cookie sheet" or some such nonsense.

What makes it even more fun, is that the carryover location is not easy to find, so you're left sorting out "Where did it go?" and "How much text is incorrectly pasted on the front end of the recipe on the recipient page?"  Seriously.  I think I actually created new phrases and/or some interpretive dance to adequately describe how this fun feature really made me feel.

Aside from that, I loved Blurb.

Oh, and there was that nagging little issue about copyright photos, which meant that I originally went through the book, pasting in gorgeous pictures of recipes and food that I found online here and there *cough*  Google images *cough*, that were perfect representations of my food--as long as they looked exactly like my dishes.  Then, of course, (silly me) I realized that the photos would have to BELONG to me, in order to go in the book written BY ME, so that sucked, and I spent some more time interpretive dancing around my office before deleting all the "not-mine" photos, and starting over, by actually cooking some (but not all) of the recipes in the book and remembering to take a photo for the book each time.

So, that was another hold-up...for like a year...

Aside from that, I loved Blurb.

Oh wait, Exhibit B.  Yes.  Pricing...

*clears throat and shuffles some papers around*

You know when you think about writing a book, and then it's like, "Hey, cool, I'll have a book published, and people can then hopefully BUY the book, and then everyone can use my recipes and I might actually make a little money and the world will be a better place in general."  Yeah...that's not how it really works, with Blurb anyway.

How it really works is, you decide how you want the book laid out and choose all the expensive paper and binding and layout before you start working on the design, and then you work on it for like ten thousand years, and then hit the "publish my book" button, and THEN you realize that it's charged by the page (212 pages), PER book.  So-- my book, finished, hardbound and delivered...cost like $96.00.  EACH. 


I paid almost $100 each for the first two copies of my own book.  Well, someone's making money.

Yes, there's an option for an e-book to be available and people could buy it for like $10, but I hate e-books a little bit so I haven't chosen that as an option for publication, yet.  And there's an option to sell it on Amazon and set my own markup percentage, but honestly even as a paperback, they charge $74.00 each, so where is there room for markup?  Really? A $74.00 paperback?

Friends:  "OMG I love your cooking.  I would totally buy your cookbook! How much is it?"

Me:  "Uhh, $86.95 plus shipping".

Friends:   *nothing*

Hear that?.... That's the sound of profitability crashing and burning.

So, yeah.  It's not for sale, although I did score a sale on a purchase the week after I ordered my first two copies, where it was on sale plus a BOGO or something and I got two copies for like $126.00.  But dang.

Anyway.  YES I did get the book done, and it's beautiful.  But NO, it's not for public consumption.  Even Martha Herself doesn't charge $85.00 for a book.  I mean, come on...

Monday, March 26, 2018

And a Hearty GOODBYE to 2017

You guys.  SO MUCH has gone on since on fingers) last June.  Let's review, shall we?  You can also almost just zoom through and see the pictures, for a quick update on my life, but if you like to read my scattered off-the-hip updates, well, yeah...there's that, too.

We've had:  *inhales* ...A bunch of yard renovation, a wedding followed by a beautiful reception, a graduation followed by a gift Jetta, an empty nest, a funeral, my first first-class seat on a plane (OMG THE FRONT OF THE PLANE, what is even happening?), a great Christmas party, a cookbook published(!), a hip replacement, an amazing vacation, and...a wrecked gift Jetta.  *insert super-annoyed-mom eye roll here*

Oh, and I managed to crochet our newly on-her-own graduated youngest daughter a super cool afghan in February, and knitted a new scarf for myself this weekend, in between cross-stitching everysingledayevenonvacation on my giant recreation of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry.  See?

I've literally taken this across the country in my carry-on, twice.

I also petted a MOOSE.  Yes, I know.  Dangerousssss.  I'm crazy.  Shouldn't have done that.  Etcetera.  But yeah, I totally did, and I was up on the porch safe behind a big pillar when I did it, and she couldn't get me, and she didn't seem like she cared, so I just went with it.  Since no one believes me that we had a totally tame-ish wild moose in our actual front yard (for like weeks, actually--the bushes barely survived it), I did manage to video the whole thing with my free hand while simultaneously watching her for signs of attack-moose mode so I could duck back inside and avoid being trampled or pummeled or beaten to death by her hooves, or whatever happens when mooses attack you.  Is "mooses" a word in that case?  No idea.  When "moose" attack you...that doesn't sound right either. Whatever.  Anyway, I totally petted her.  And I'm making "petted" a word, too.  I'd post the video but apparently it's not in the right format to upload, and I'm too lazy to figure that out, so here are some photos.  Maybe sometime I'll post the video in a separate moose-related post...

what are you doing?

Not sure that's a good idea...

Ok, whatev.  These bushes are too delicious.

We also had an orphaned baby hanging around a lot.  And, a whole other one (I hope!) who decided that our garden fence line would be a good place to...lie down and die.  (no photos of *that* but omg what do you do with a dead baby moose? No one wants to help you with that...)

Anyhoo...we're EMPTY NESTERS now, and it's hilarious how many people use that whispery-concerned voice when we tell them that, like we've just suffered a bereavement, and they ask "Soooo, how's *that* going? Are you guys, you know, doing ok?"  And we're like, "Ummm, yeah.  We're fine with it."  Why wouldn't we be?  We raised our girls to be independent, smart, capable women, and, voila---there they are; doing life, and rocking it.  Our oldest got married last April, and we hosted a beautiful evening reception in our back yard in June for them, followed by our youngest graduating from high school in June and moving to her own apartment in July.

Are they sweet or what?

Purple sky unedited and just...amazing! What a beautiful night!!
On a side note, I did totally finally manage to get that cookbook project published, which I promise I will write about in another post.

And, since Shane and I started out as best friends who also find each other incredibly hot (I know, awkward TMI), then took a detour into parenthood, we now find ourselves with all this empty house and free time together and, wait--what? --possibly some discretionary money that's just...for us?  What's THAT about?  When I find extra money in the bank account, I'm immediately glancing over my shoulder and wondering "Wait-what bill did I miss?" Still adjusting to that.  And guess what? IT'S FREAKING AWESOME.  It's like when we were in our 20s and we could just...get up and go out if we felt like it.  Out to dinner.  To the bookstore.  To Home Depot (yes, girls, we still do that on Sundays).  We may even take a road trip sometime.     

I know.  Crazy.

It helps that we still are best friends who find each other incredibly hot (even though we qualify as what my 80s-highschool self would call "totally super old"), and we still love to do everysinglething together and enjoy each other's company immensely.  I love that we have the place to ourselves.  I do love when our girls come and visit, and we have a houseful of young people hanging around, relaxing, eating and visiting (and yes, playing on their phones).  But then I love that they all leave and go home at the end of the weekend, too.  So, yeah.  Empty nesting is a revelation.

Ok, what else?  Oh, yeah-- I'll just state once for the record that 2017 MORE OR LESS SUCKED, in spite of some terrific bright spots.  In general, it was just like one punch in the junk after another.  Like, can we get a break here yet? And apparently the answer to *that* question was a resounding "no", for most of 2017.  Oh sure, it had its good moments, but seriously...2017 will be remembered as the Year From Hell, more or less.  Our youngest graduated and moved out, and we had about ONE WEEK of "whoopie, we're empty-nesters" before Shane was diagnosed with a destroyed hip joint that was rapidly deteriorating and would require a total hip replacement as soon as possible.  *cue Jaws music here*

For a guy who works outside, on his feet, in and out of equipment all day every day, this was bad news.  Bad, bad.  It also meant we skipped all the things last summer that meant walking anywhere.  No hunting.  No walking around the fair.  No wandering around Home Depot.  No walking ANYwhere that wasn't 100% necessary, because he was in so . much . pain.  And the narcotics and even the non-narcotics that they gave him for the pain made him depressed and be honest.  Even he noticed it.  The hydrocodones also gave him terrifying nightmares along with the depression, so he mainly just powered through with Tylenol and Ibuprofen.  Not fun-- at all.  For either of us.

He dragged his leg around from June through December, barely able to walk some days because of the pain, plus his hip would randomly give out and he'd fall.  He did manage to work until December 13th, when he went in for a total hip replacement.  To make a long (long, long, painful) story shorter...he came through it with absolute flying colors and was back at work 3 weeks later, on his feet, outside, in the snow, moving logs.  My brother actually moved out and stayed with us for most of the winter, and was a huge help at the log yard and as a backup watchdog for Shane, which made me feel a little more at ease watching him go out in the snow to work.  I'd send them off to work in the morning and be mouthing to Jesse behind Shane's back "do NOT let him fall down!!"  So yeah...that's behind us, thank God.  I'm not posting any surgical photos, though.  You're welcome.

THEN we took a amazing and much-needed Disney trip to DisneyWorld with a cruise to the Bahamas and back, which was almost literally just what the doctor ordered.  Somehow we also rolled the dice with letting them assign our room category, and we scored the BEST stateroom ever, with like 40' of private deck at the back corner of the ship.  It was absolute heaven.  We've always gotten an inside-mushrooms-in-the-dark stateroom, but this was so worth it, much yes.

our room was about 3 decks from the top, right side, upper corner.  HUGE wraparound deck...

And of course, I always get home from Florida and immediately start already planning the next time I can see palm trees because - duh - Idaho - palm trees.

As I write this, it is still cold enough to snow here (March 26th) and too early too cold to go outside and start on any garden stuff yet, though I do have my seeds and potting soil and trowel all at the ready, so I can get our vegetables started for this year.

We also bought a meat smoker, and I didn't think I would, but I've officially fallen in love with smoking our own meat!  So far we've smoked some salmon, our own bacon, and our own ham, and omg-- the taste...can't.even.  I die.  IT'S SO YUMMY.

My first smoked ham

Oh, and if you're still wondering about the wrecked-gift-Jetta from the opening, well, yeah...everyone's fine.  The Jetta's not.  So, that's probably about all we need to say about that...
Boyfriend: 1.  Jetta: 0.

Oh, and the Christmas party we sometimes host, where I make like 45 different appetizers that don't need a fork (no matter what Aunt Alice says..), and start baking in like October, was AWESOME.  We squeezed something like 64 people in our downstairs, and it was just a lovely time with everyone.  Shane's surgery was the following Tuesday, so we wanted to see everyone before he was down for recovery.  I'm already looking forward to doing it again this year.

The List

Anyway, I just thought I'd do a quick(ish) update.  Hopefully I'll start writing more often, now that 2017 is over and done, and it took its black cloud/punch-you-in-the-junk mood with it.

Plus, there are more of my hippie childhood stories that are too good not to share, so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading, and hope you're all having a lovely start to 2018.  It's gotta be better, right?