Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First garden seeds sown indoors!

Why is it that the blog always falls by the wayside? There are always so many ideas in my head. Oh well.

I started the first garden seeds yesterday, which are now setting on the heat mats in the basement. I sowed artichokes, broccoli (Diplomat, as recommended by my CSA farmer, and De Cicco), cauliflower (Vitaverde), kale, and lettuce (Flashy Troutback). I really wanted to start my tomatoes, but it's too early. Really. I try to go by the fabulous text from local gardeners Jennifer and Ron Kujowski, "Gardening Week by Week." I'm still too far from my last frost date (not to mention all the snow and ice still in my yard) for starting tomatoes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

the Gardening badge

Such post as I will make on the livestock will have to wait. I want to set down what we did yesterday for the Girl Scouts' Gardening badge before I forget!

Here's the description of the learning objective and the requirements for the badge, and an image of the badge (pretty!):

"Creating a bright bouquet of fresh flowers, making a dish with garden-fresh herbs, growing a little green cheer inside with houseplants—these are all things a gardener gets to do. In this badge, dig your hands into the earth and spend time with soil, water, and sunlight to find out how to help life grow from a tiny seed. You can make your own garden—no matter where you live.

1. Visit a garden
2. Explore garden design
3. Learn how to choose garden plants
4. Experiment with seeds
5. Grow your own garden

When I've earned this badge, I'll know how to help plants and flowers grow."

We will be visiting one of the greenhouses at the University at our next meeting, and that will have to suffice for 'visit a garden.' It's January in Massachusetts.

I've asked the horticulturist who'll be hosting us to discuss garden design and choosing plants. We also spent some time talking about how to choose plants at the meeting yesterday. The girls were great about coming up with questions we should ask when planning a garden - what do we want to grow? Do we want flowers or edibles? Can we do both? How big will the plants grow, and will they fit in the space we have available? How long do they take to grow? How long until we should expect to see them come up? We learned how to read the planting guidelines on the back of a seed packet - how deep to plant the seed, how far apart seeds should be planted (and whether to overseed and thin), how long the seed should take to germinate, how long until it's mature, how big it should get, and when we should sow it outside (if we were direct-sowing).

As a craft, I had the girls decorate some white contact paper with which to cover 2-pound yogurt containers, which they used as their seed-starting pots. I didn't get the shape of the contact paper quite right, so all of the pots had crinkly coverings, but the girls didn't seem to mind. We moistened the seed-starting mix, as it had been in my basement, open, and was completely dry. I held up packets of various seeds - giant sunflowers, carrots (and "Tiny Fingers" carrots), basil, oregano, marigolds, spinach, lettuce, bush beans, pole beans, sweet alyssum, and maybe some others. We talked about which seeds would and would not be suitable for planting in our containers. For example, a giant sunflower would NOT be suitable, since it would tip the pot over - and the pot probably wouldn't have enough space for a good root system. We decided that full-size carrots would not be suitable, but that the little carrots would be ok. Each girl decided what she wanted to plant. Then we opened the seed packets, and compared seed sizes. The sweet alyssum seeds were tiny, like grains of sand. One girl chose spinach and lettuce, and we compared the sizes of those seeds. We marveled over the size and shape of the marigold seeds - which look kind of like a miniature carrot. That covered both choosing garden plants and experimenting with seeds. Then the girls put their seeds into the potting soil, covered them at the appropriate depth, and we put the lids of the yogurt containers on for safe transport home. I asked each of the parents to punch some drain holes in the bottom of the containers when they got home, and suggested they could invert the lids as saucers.

We had a really good time, and there was only a tiny bit of seed-starting mix that got onto the table!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hurray! Hurray!

After complaining all week about being hungry all the time and not seeing the needle on the scale budge, I had to triple-check my eyes this morning when the needle rested firmly on


Not only is that progress, but I have had in the back of my mind that I'd really, really like to see the needle UNDER 180 - even if only by a hair's breadth - by my birthday, which is on Tuesday next week. Suddenly that seems like something I can achieve.

Additionally, I had decided that as an incentive to myself, when I hit 180, I'd treat myself to a haircut at a hairdresser's. I've been using the corner barbershop since 2008, and that's been fine, but it's growing out right now and I'd like an actual style.

And in yet more awesome news, Mom, Andy, and I went out to dinner last night at my new favorite restaurant, Viva Fresh Pasta in Northampton. All day yesterday as my stomach growled, I counted the hours until we would be going. I calculated the points in advance. And when we got there, it was even better than I remembered. I had salmon, broiled (I think?) with butter and salt, artichoke ravioli (sublime!) with just a little bit of Alfredo sauce (yum...) and when I was finished, I FELT FULL. I was SO happy. And then, my Mom, who was facing out into the rest of the restaurant, while I was facing her, noticed a dessert being delivered to another table, and ordered one for the three of us.

OH MY GOODNESS. A flourless chocolate tort with just a bit of whipped cream, with a semi-sweet outer shell and a fudge-like interior... it was exquisite. Even shared among the three of us, it was enough.

I'll save farm news for another post.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Oh, the difference ten degrees make!

I am kitted out the same today for animal chores as I was yesterday:

Cotton socks, cotton leggings, sweat pants, wool socks, boots. Turtleneck, wool vest, wool cardigan, long heavy bathrobe, winter jacket, down vest, fleece-lined wool hat, insulated deerskin gloves.

The difference is that today I broke a sweat!

Yesterday the temperature was hovering at zero; today it's all of 10*F. Still stinking cold, but better!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Colder yet, and cranky

Lily the Golden Retriever is 8. It's been years - YEARS - since she's needed to go out in the middle of the night. However, last night she needed to go out. At quarter to two. It was -0.5* out. I was not happy.

This morning, it was -5*. Imagine my delight when the school bus driver didn't even stop long enough at the foot of our driveway for us to hear the engine. Now, it's her position that she HAS to adhere to the published schedule, which has our stop at 6:55. This regardless of the fact that she gets them to the schools so early that there aren't even any teachers in the buildings yet. It has been the position of EVERY OTHER DRIVER WE'VE EVER HAD that getting the children to school is the top priority. This woman expects my children to be waiting at the foot of the driveway in BELOW ZERO TEMPERATURES for her to show up. Sorry, that's not ok. The driveway just isn't that long, and the time it takes them to get from garage door to bus door is, oh, maybe 15 seconds. I had to get into the car and head almost a mile into the back neighborhood to catch up to the bus. And oh, by the way? The driver she's replacing realized within a week that the schedule got her to the schools too early and started showing up between 7 and 7:05. Nobody was late to school. And even in bitter cold, when my children stood at the door into the garage, watching for the bus, she gave them enough time to get down the driveway to the road. Is not the purpose of public school busing to provide the children safe and reliable transportation to school, and relieve the parents of having to drive them? Why should there need to be private vehicles spewing more carbon exhaust to get children to school???

This morning marks the first time, in the ten years I've had children riding school buses, that I have called to complain.

In other news:

I got in for my allergy shots yesterday. My left arm is kind of stinging and a bit achy today. It's a series of 30 injections, once to twice weekly depending on my schedule, to retrain my immune system not to react to the allergens. I started the series in September. The first ten shots come from the 'green' row, the next ten from the 'blue' row, and the last ten (plus maintenance) from the 'red' row. I'm into the red row now for everything! So - five or fewer weeks from now I can go from weekly/twice a week trips to less and less frequent trips. In case you're curious, I tested allergic to the following:

Dog (problematic!)
Cat (wasn't a problem until I got suckered into a house cat, and had a barn cat hurt who is in the house until spring, and likes to sleep on my chest)
Feathers (less of a problem before the dairy goats arrived, causing me to spend more time in the barn with the hens)
Trees (their designation, not mine. No idea which trees)
Grass and plants (their designation, not mine)

Looking forward to not needing daily allergy tablets - and even more, to being able to breathe through my nose reliably!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Too doggone cold

It was 5 degrees (F) when I got up this morning. I wish to file a formal complaint!

I have mounds of laundry waiting to be washed.

WW is going well - last week only showed a 1-pound loss, but that still brings me down to 184. I started in September at 196, so HURRAY! My jeans are so loose now that I can pull them down without unfastening them. Last night I finally found my belt, which made my jeans feel much more comfortable. I have a box full of various smaller sizes, which I'll pull out when I hit 180. My Mom has already plundered the box, but she's 60 pounds lighter than I am, so I don't think I'll have to duke it out with her for jeans that fit. The two pairs that do fit right now are both 14s, but are pretty stretchy. I tried on two other 14s last night, but they were too snug. Oh well, it's coming. Slow and easy wins the race!

Back to the cold - I have various sets of clothing I wear out to do chores. There's the wool sweater, which has been a standard piece of gear since early December. Some days I top it with a down vest. Other days I wear a winter jacket over it. Then there are days like today, when I'll wear the jacket AND the vest. And a fleece-lined wool hat. And still be cold. I already have cotton leggings on under my sweat pants, and a turtleneck, wool vest, and wool sweater on here in the house, and I'm cold. My fingers are clumsy and slow. It's 54 degrees here at my desk, though the fire's been going for more than two hours. *sigh* I'm going to remind myself of the AWFUL flea problems we had last summer due to last winter not being cold and snowy enough to kill them off well. But really, fleas are pretty far from my radar right now. *sigh*

Friday, January 11, 2013

a happy, but caloric, day

It's raining. It's JANUARY. I wish to protest that rain, not snow, is falling. I like snow. I like the ground to be frozen. It means no mud. *sigh* There is still snow, but it's icy on top.

WW has been going well, for the most part. I was hungry today, though. I'm allotted 27 points per day. Today was a 44 point day. For the week, it has looked like this:

Monday: 31 points (27 daily, 4 [of 35] weekly)
Tuesday: 38 points (27 daily, 11 [of 35] weekly)
Wednesday: 30 points (27 daily, 3 [of 35] weekly)
Thursday: 33 points (27 daily, 6 [of 35] weekly)
Friday: 44 points (27 daily, 17 [of 35] weekly)

I have 8 weekly points left for Saturday and Sunday. And, I have to say, I feel pretty icky tonight. Bleah.

I started in September at 196. I lost 7 of those during December due to cold -> flu -> sinus infection. Not a fun way to lose weight, but it was my lemonade from all the lemons. I started WW at 189 on January 1st. I've seen 184 one morning this week - but Monday is my weigh-in day, so we'll see how the weekend goes. For reference, my goal is to lose 25% of my body weight. From the 196 figure that'd be 147; from the 189 figure it'd be 142.5. I figure 145 is a reasonable goal. I was 135 pre-children, but I don't think I could get there and stay there AND be healthy.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

progress indoors and out

The weather was milder today - quite a bit of snow melted off the roof into the rain barrels. I'm very happy that my new submersible stock tank heaters have come. Two of my rain barrels were empty and are refilling; the third has ice on the top too thick for me to break through it (yet). Still, enough melt water got in around that ice that I was able to fill a couple of buckets from the spigot. I'm looking forward to being able to put a heater into all three barrels and all three galvanized tubs, so that the water in them will be accessible all winter. (No, I won't have them plugged in all the time!)

I scored six more Christmas trees for the goats today, too. Two from friends, one from a friend's next-door neighbor (who had seen the spot on the news about Hope's goats and their fondness for pine trees - AND who'd heard the spot on NPR about various ways to re-use Christmas trees, which did not include 'feeding them to ruminants') and three others from the side of the road, set out for the trash companies to take to mulching facilities. The first tree my goats had is now more akin to toothpicks. They were very happy to see a new one.

Inside, Eli came over to visit, and after plying him with hot chocolate, we moved some furniture. The work table is out of the kitchen, the butcher block is moved to behind the gas stove, the desk is in from the living room, and we moved the poster-sized photo I took in 1988 in the Bavarian Alps to the living room, and moved the children's art bulletin boards into the hall, where they are actually visible. There's still ever so much more tidying, chucking, and cleaning to do, but progress is good.

Friday, January 4, 2013

WW update

I had a 29 point day planned yesterday, but got the munchies mid-afternoon, so ended up with a 34 point day. Well within plan limits, though!

I was at 11 points after lunch today, but I was invited to have dinner with Mom tonight - I was glad I had a bunch of points available! It was a 19 point dinner, but SO worth it. 30 points for the day... I can live with that!

I'm not logging any exercise, though I know I'm getting some. Coming in from feeding/watering/milking in a sweat in 15* weather is a pretty sure sign of physical exertion, from slogging through the snow, carrying 5-gallon buckets of hot water around, etc. I am content so far.

I had my allergy shots yesterday. It had been 29 days since I last went in for them. I made note that last night I had a nasty headache, right above my left eye, but that could be PMS. Unfortunately, it woke me up at 2 AM and kept me up until 3 AM, so I was pretty much useless this morning. I hate that. I got up at 2:30 AM, had a handful of almonds, and some Motrins. The headache did go away, eventually. Haven't done any cleaning today, but tomorrow is another day, and the children are away, so my time is (alas) my own.

Better weather, and hungry

Low sometime yesterday was 9.7*F. That's a huge improvement over anything below zero! My indoor-outdoor thermometer had to be replaced yesterday, though - the wire leading to the outdoor sensor broke in several places. It was at least 7 years old, though, so I don't begrudge it. I got a new one at Radio Shack for $17, and this one also reports indoor humidity. That's useful when heating with a wood stove, as it's easy for the air to get way too dry. I'd rather find out about it by looking at a gauge than by raising sparks off of the dogs or cats. I suspect they'd prefer that, too. I do always keep a kettle on the stove, though.

Day 4 on WW. Doing fine, points-wise, but dang! I am HUNGRY this morning. I had the 5-point cold breakfast around 8:30, and by 10:30 after chores I was starving. I had a clementine orange and an apple. Should hold me until lunch. I weigh in again on Monday... I'd like to see the south side of 180 by my birthday on the 29th.