Sunday, July 15, 2007


My life has been a little crazy lately---a rollercoaster of ups and downs, really. But, this little guy has made me ridiculously happy.

Now, I don't like tomatos, actually. I like tomato sauce and a lot of tomato based items, but a regular tomato I could do without. So, R. will be the recipient of this little guy, but just the fact that I grew him and have more growing I feel is a real accomplishment.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Patio Garden July 10th

Wow, there's been some changes in the garden in just a week! My Chinese Five-Color Pepper began it's bloom. It's really quite a pretty flower! Unfortunately I couldn't seem to get a decent shot of it, so what's below is a bit blurry. But, my Tumbling Tom is starting to get some color, so hopefully soon it will be ready to be plucked and eaten as my first grown edible!

The Chinese Five-Color Pepper and it's pretty, purple bloom

The ever-ripening Tumbling Tom... Can't wait to eat him up

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Patio Garden: July 3rd

I haven't done a very good job of keeping track of my growing vegetables. I water them, check their progress, but haven't kept tabs on what's doing well, what's struggling, what's blooming and when, etc.

So, here's my first attempt to at least keep some visual records of what's going on in my "mini-farm" as it's been dubbed.

My "Strawberry Temptation" never did grow. Not sure what happened, but it just never came up. Of course, this was the plant I was looking most forward to. Oh well, everything else came up so I can't complain!

This is a poor picture of my "Tumbling Tom Red" tomatoes. I planted about five plants and they are all either showing off smalll green toms, or are blooming and will offer tomatoes soon.

Another poor picture, this time of my "Strawberry Popcorn" plant. Tassles are beginning to show and it's great fun to watch this large plant shoot up on my deck

The whole she-bang. The other plants are two kinds of peppers (one hot--Chinese 5-color; and one sweet---Golden Marconi), not yet flowering or fruiting, but growing taller and sturdier each day.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

If I Had A Million Dollars

This weekend, most of my immediate family went up to Iowa to visit my Grandparents. One set of grandparents lives in a small town-- a very typical, rural, Iowa town. It is populated mostly by the (now) elderly who left their farms in the '50s and '60s because it was no longer economically feasible to live on the farm.

About 100 years after my ancestors built the house and began to farm the land, my Grandparents and their children moved into this small town and off of the farm that both my Grandpa and Great-Grandfather had grown up in. From what I can gather, the farm house stayed in the family until the 70s--with different tennants, before it was bought from my Grandfather by a friend.

In the 1990s, both men well into their seventies, struck a deal where the farmhouse would go back to my Grandpa. The house is about 30 years past being livable, and probably a few more years past that of being "nice." Over the years, my Grandpa has done all he could to repair the home of his youth and his children's youth, but unfortunately the house needed much more than the paint and the patch-work a 70 and 80 year old man could provide.

Usually, my parents and whichever grandchildren want to participate, head out with my Grandpa to the farmhouse about once a year. Generally, we walk around the outside while Grandpa or Dad tells stories. On much fewer occassions we're allowed inside to roam what once was your typical Iowa farmhouse. I suppose, in a way, it remains the typical Iowa farmhouse--abandoned and falling apart.

Over the years, my Grandpa has brought odds and ends out to the old farmhouse. The living room is practically furnished with a chair and a sofa and an incredibly old piano with keys and pieces missing. Grandpa likes to go out here and tinker around, play the piano, and I suppose remember what it once was. At 84, with numerous physical ailments, there's very little he can do to avoid the continual decay of his beloved home.

Saturday morning we drove out, and after walking around the home that I could so easily see as once being beautiful, we assembled in the living room as if it were a functional room. Grandpa and Dad told stories and, for me, it was so easy to see what once had been. While they were remembering, I could imagine. As my Grandfather turned to the piano and played a hymn on sticking keys, I felt tears in my own eyes. The sadness in the room was overwhelming. It was as if the air was full of all the people who had once lived in this home---who had once so lovingly cared for it--were all there mourning the decay and loss. For every time I could see it's potential in my minds eye, reality was right there waiting with rotting walls and caved in ceilings.

There are places in this world where I feel connected--but it's more of a belonging--as if I was always meant to be there. But this was new, different--it was more a connection to the people of my past. I'm not much of one to believe in ghosts or spirits, but in that room there was a presence from people long gone. A sad, mourning presence that sunk over me in a way that was both comforting for it's connection yet... devestating from its sadness.

There's always talk in my family, if we ever have some disposable income we'd fix up that house. I think as much for Grandpa as for ourselves. But, disposable income isn't easy to come by in this world. The time and money and effort to fix a house so far gone is well beyond our abilities. But I know, when the old question comes around, exactly what I'd do if I had a million dollars.

My Grandpa and Dad discussing property lines

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Let's Go! Let's Go! Let's zzzzzzzzzzzz

Last week as I voracioulsy attacked the new Kingsolver book I had ideas! and inspiration! and motivation! and excitement! popping up everywhere. Then, around Thursday I began to feel under the weather which lead to a weekend of feeling not quite right. I didn't feel sick totally, instead had the off and on symptoms of a sore throat, a temperamental stomach, and extreme fatigue.

Needless to say, though today I'm finally feeling normal, all those exciting ideas and motivations kind of went down the toilet. And though physically I'm feeling fine, mentally I'm feeling sluggish and lazy. There's a million things I NEED to do...and probably as many things I WANT to do, but I can't get mind, body and motivation on the same page.

In somewhat exciting news, my tomato plant is flowering like crazy and I have a few mini tomatoes starting to grow! I'm not sure if any other of my plants are going to produce, so it is exciting to see something actually bearing some fruit. Also it make me happy that my tomato plant is the one bearing because when I started my container garden venture, someone told me that there would be no way I could grow tomatoes in a pot. So :P I showed them. =)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Making a Difference

There are many reasons why I buy every book Barbara Kingsolver comes out with. I enjoy her writing style, she writes, most often, about things I enjoy/care about, and I feel so often as I read her words that "aha" or "yes" moment. A moment where either I agree so completely it's amazing or a moment where her words so perfectly describe my feelings and therefore makes them that more tangible and expressable.

There's another part of that equation--whether it's her fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction, she has the ability to make problems seem surmountable. I'd say this goes double for her writing on environmental and food issues.

Changing the world is no easy task, and I think we live in a culture where (despite David and Goliath parable) chnage is viewed as negative and nearly impossible. If we put a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat in a room together--do we really expect peace or a calm resolution of some political problem? Perish the thought.

I have often felt that I will never change a person's opinion, I could never have the kind of influence to save something of importantce, and no manner of talking, writing, expressing will change the government, the policies, the ideas, the beliefs of the world in which I leave. And because of all that it's so easy to say, WHY BOTHER? My voice doesn't matter and it won't ever matter. The end. This is a philosophy that goes beyond my own personal crusades. Something won't turn out like I want it to, why bother? It's a habit ingrained in my own personality and ingrained in some portion in the culture in which I grew up.

However, reading Barbara Kingsolver often makes me realize that it's not so much the results as it is the try. I may not make a world of difference, but a person of difference works can be just as important.

"Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately they will, or won't, add up to having been the thing that mattered." "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."

I especially would recommend this book because of one simple fact: it isn't all about giving up. It's not about sacrifice or deprevation. It's about what you can do if you try. It wasn't about totally changing to local food and cutting everything else off. It was about trying to change and making more responsible choices. If you feel you must have something you can't obtain locally--try to find organic, free trade options.

I have to remind myself that change is not a over-the-night thing. There's so many things I'd like to change about myself--that I've tried to change for years--and still haven't succeeded. I can't expect to go local and be done with it. But, making smarter choices and integrating a different food ethic will help start taking steps toward change...and right now, that's the best I can do.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

One Meal a Week Challenge

Now that Farmer's Market season is starting around here, I have been trying to find farmer's markets in my areas. I have found a few that claim to be farmer's markets in my direct area, but sell mainly California or other imported food stuffs. Because of the summer followed by winter weather we had in March/April, a lot of fruit growers in the area suffered--and according to a local article, fruit is where the moneys at. So, call in California. This isn't to say they won't carry ANY local food, just not very much.

There are some fairly decent farmer's markets in my extended area. And by extended I mean upwards 30+ miles away from me and nasty construction and traffic on the way. As I'm not much of a driver, especially a city driver, I like to avoid those areas if possible. I know that radius still means it's local food, and likely food from closer to my apartment than it is to the city, but nevertheless I'm not to the point where I'm willing to make that drive at least once a week. (Yet, anyway).

I found a possible Farmer's Market a little bit closer, so R. and I are going to go check it out on Saturday morning. And, I'm like a little kid ready for a trip to Florida. I keep reminding R. we're going, lest he forget. And, currently, it looks to be the highlight of my week.

I have been reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, as I mentioned earlier. There are a lot of statistics included, and typically I distrust statistics because it's so easy to manipulate a number, or to conduct research in a way that makes whatever you have to say seem authoritative or to find statistics to back up ANY opinion under the sun. But, I found this statistic particular interesting, even if it's only partially true. "If every U.S citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we could reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week."

That's a lot of people doing one small thing and making a big difference, no matter how you look at it. I'm not at a point in my life where I think I can make a drastic change like living a month on local goods or even a week. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go totally local--partially because I am a very picky eater and partially because I am notoriously lazy. But, I feel one meal a week is COMPLETELY doable. And it could lead to two meals a week--a meal a day--and on and on until maybe my diet is mainly composed of local.

Now is the perfect time to start this challenge. Farmer's Markets are opening up everywhere and the summer bounty will soon be upon us (I had my first tomato flower pop up on Sunday!). If we're not really eating locally at all, why not try just one meal a week. It could be something as easy as 2 locally laid eggs and perhaps a piece of locally grown fruit for breakfast.

My success will depend on what we find at the Farmer's Market on Saturday and my ability to convince R. to try this little experiment with me (and continue to return to the Farmer's Market). (I promised to do a few things for him if he promised to read the book when I am finished with it).

If there's anyone out there still not integrating local foods into their diet, I think this would be an excellent first step.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The History Dork Within

In order to get to many places (my job, my parents house, etc), I have to cross part of the Missouri River. I've mentioned before my fear of bridges, which is especially heightened on this particular bridge for some reason. I guess the narrow lanes or some such. Nevertheless, I feel a little less nervous when someone else is driving and I can look out onto the river.

The other night, R. and I were heading to my sister's softball game. The night was very humid and foggy. As I looked out onto the darkening Missouri River, I got this flash of what it must have felt like before these bridges and buildings. The dark fog of an early summer night. The uncomfortable humidity and irritating bugs. In my mind I could visualize the Lewis and Clark Expedition camping, sailing, doing the things they did back in this time when very little of our world existed.

This happens to me in certain places--my history studies + imagination on overload I suppose. Not many in my family/friend circle enjoy history the way I do, so it's an odd, inner way of enjoying what I know of history...and wondering what it must have been like to live so long ago.

In other news, I bought Barbara Kingsolver's new book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." I am so excited! And, as a warning, it's bound to inspire many political, food growing and philosophical type posts. Be prepared.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Pink Lady Slipper

I'm sure I've mentioned (oh, about eleventy-million times) that as a young girl I spent many a spring and summer week at my Grandma's house in the Iowa woodlands. Regardless of the season, we would often walk the woods and creek, but in the spring wildflowers were our first priority.

There were certain flowers that were the old standby (Spring Beauties, Sweet William, Dutchman's Brithces). Certain flowers that only grew in one area (Virginia Bluebells, Buttercups) and some that we rarely or never found.

My Grandma often talked about Lady Slippers--both yellow and pink. We'd search for either, and never found either while we together. I believe she once found a yellow Lady Slipper when I wasn't there, but the Pink Lady Slipper was somewhat our Holy Grail so to speak--something we searched for and never found.

I'd never seen one before last weekend. On our fated Bear-Poop hike I saw what had elluded me for so many years. Something I'd very nearly forgotten about--until I saw a clump of these pink beauties at the edge of a trail deep in the Smoky Mountains.

Just as normal as could be, their pink little heads stood there at the side of the trail as my breath caught in my throat. I couldn't help but look up at the sky through the trees and feel my Grandma hiking along with me. Surely she saw it too.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Probably the most related tale of our Smoky Mountain trip revolves around these 2 pictures:

The first is a tree limb that had fallen over the trail and looked suspiciously as if it had been scratched up by a bear. The trail was off a gravel, one-way, mountain road that only had one other car on it that we saw the entire 14 miles. R. was a little concerned by this, but it didn't bother me overmuch. We continued to walk along this trail a ways and then saw the second picture. Luckily, we had been at the visitor's center not too long before and had seen a replica of Bear scat. This had exactly the same look. R. was ready to throw in the towel, but I waved it off. It was just some poop after all.

We went another 1/4 of a mile or so and discovered another lump of scat--also right on the trail. This time I agreed with R.--time to head back. We didn't see any bears, but neither of us wanted to chance it. We'd rather see a bear from the confines of our own car.

And, that we did, the next day. Cade's Cove is a driving loop in the Smokies that is fairly popular. We were trying to get out, stuck in some nasty traffic, before we saw two park rangers by the road, directing traffic. We thought maybe some kind of fender bender, but as we passed we saw 3 black bears in the clearing right off the road. I tried to take a picture, but as the park rangers were waving us on (and we didn't think to stop for a second to disobey them) I never did get a shot of them.

Still, it was neat to see them (from afar)! I couldn't help but wonder if they felt a bit like a circus sideshow with all the people gawking from their cars.