Once again, it took a friend to remind me that I haven't been blogging in some time! I'm sure you all can identify with the way the days just fly by for me, slipping through my fingers. Every day I think of this blog, and plan to write something; and I try to keep up with reading all of yours, too, but I seem to go from one thing to the next, and one of the "things" I get to isn't getting a blog post done!
As I said, I've been busy. And it's full summer here on the Plateau, and that means hot and humid! So I've been doing lots of indoor activities, like shopping and napping.
At the end of last month, I went to a collage workshop that was given by a couple of women who are in my spiritual directors' peer group. The theme was on the various questions that Jesus asks in the Gospels, and two that caught my ear were, "What do you want me to do for you?" (answer: take away my fearfulness), and "What are you afraid of?" The boards we used were the centers cut from mat board -- wonderful material on which to collage. Rather than naming my fears, I chose to make affirmative statements, because I knew I would want to focus on it. Here's mine:
Hell's bells, I'm not happy with this picture, but it's the best I could do. I'm sure it's my editing of it, but I'm not going to mess with it now. If I did, it would be another month before I got a post done. Oh, well. Live and learn.
I wish you could read the words and see the pictures better. You can see the bright colors, which make me feel positive. Under the "Freedom" is a beautiful dove. Above that it says, "Choosing Faith Over Fear," and the little strip below the chalice says, "breakthrough." The little orange card at the lower right is a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson: "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." Making this small, simple piece reminded me how important it is for me to do even simple creative projects. I'm grateful for the reminder.
I've been shopping for my Italy trip. Got a good leather knapsack, some lightweight tops (to wear with lightweight skirts I already have), some good walking shoes. I'm busy plotting out my itinerary, and finding more and more black madonna sites that I'd like to visit. I've got a summer's worth of research to do before I can even decide where I need to stay. Got a recommendation from a friend to check out Hostelling International, and for 18 bucks (yes, I qualify as a senior) I think I'll join. Most hostels offer single rooms, and the prices are excellent. I'll continue to explore monasteries, as well.
You can see that my gardening is happening in fits and starts:
The front porch is still a work in progress. I've filled three big pots, and still have a window box to do. Then I have several backyard planters; meanwhile, the plants are languishing, poor things. I need to set them into a tray of water, at least. There! I just took ten minutes to do that -- maybe the poor babies will live to grow another day.
I keep working at things in bits and pieces, but that seems all I'm capable of and have time for right now. Lots keeps happening on the church front, including lots of folks in the hospital. I'll get it all done before I go on vacation in late July, though -- I'm sure of that.
The veggie garden is thriving, including the weeds. I've got all kinds of baby veggies, and with the heat has come the tremendous growth spurt I expected. Rain has been forecast every day for ages, and some folk on the Plateau are getting it, but it seems to pretty much skip over my little corner of the world. This morning I got about 8 drops of rain before I walked the dogs, then maybe a 10-minute shower during the 8:00 am church service, and that was it.
This is the fullest view of the veggie garden I could get in a pinch. In the lower right corner, barely visible, are my grape tomatoes and Italian parsley. I'm pretty sure it's all weeds on the lower left. The next bed in has beans and bell peppers -- the beans are really taking off, beginning to blossom. They look like they'd like something to climb on, even though they're supposed to be bush beans. Last year they were in the bed at the bottom of this picture, and the deer ate them nearly clear down to the ground. Not this year! They don't munch much on tomato plants, so that's what went near the fence. The patch of dirt at the bottom is Swiss chard that hasn't sprouted yet. The third bed from the bottom has all tomatoes, except for 2 bell papper plants. The tomatoes are Romas and Better Boy. Beyond that are watermelon, and beyond that, my strawberry bed.
You can see that my "Spicy Globe" basil is thriving -- about time to clip some (I have two plants) for my tomatoes.
I'm eating lots of tomatoes these days. They're available, juicy and ripe, in all the fresh produce stores. It's a minor competition around these parts, to see who can get their tomatoes in earliest, and get them to the farmer's market, or garden center, or produce store, or farm stand, the soonest. I've failed miserably at that, getting most of my stuff in after Mother's Day this year -- a really safe, "sissy" date to plant. The best trick I've heard is to put some fresh cow or horse manure beneath a thin layer of soil in the bottom of your planting hole -- the manure is "hot" enough to warm the roots of your plants and encourage them to grow, even at pretty cold temperatures. And you've got built-in fertilizer!
Look at the teeny baby cuke! I've actually got one bigger than that on this plant, but still a few days too small to harvest. This one will be full-size within a week, probably. They grow really fast! And that's a good thing, because I'm learning about using cucumber slices in place of crackers for cheese spreads. A friend gave me some local chevre with Italian herbs, and yum! Unfortunately, I'm doing a 2-week, low-carb food plan, and can't have those lovely, buttery and crunchy little crackers. So cucumber slices are not too bad as a substitute. I'm also eating quite a bit of salad, and enjoying the cukes and those ripe, juicy tomatoes in salads. Soon I'll have them from my very own garden!
Here, happily, are some little bitty grape tomatoes. Yum, yum, they're my favorites! I am so glad that I went to the garden to take these pictures, because I hadn't seen anything but grapes and the one cuke so far, and I was getting worried (why do I do that?). Now I'm much reassured that I will have produce this year, probably more than I can eat. Have I told you here that I freeze my tomatoes by sticking them whole or cut into chunks into quart or gallon size freezer bags? If you chunk them, unless you freeze them spread out on a cookie sheet first, they're going to stick together -- so I usually put the chunked-up ones in quart bags. But the whole tomatoes don't stick together, and so I freeze them in the gallon bags, and then just pour out as many as I need for a soup or sauce. No, I don't blanch or peel them first. Yes, I have to contend with (or ignore) peels at cooking time. But the romas can be dropped one-by-one into hot soup, then speared almost immediately with a fork, and the skins slide right off. I almost always consider the skins as "bonus fiber" and leave them in, unless I'm making something fancy.
I promise, this is the last veggie photo, though I have some other non-veggie photos to share, too. Aren't my grapes just wonderful? I can't remember if they're the reds or the whites, but the other vine didn't produce very well. The only bad part about these lovelies are that they hang on the outside of the fence, and if the birds don't get 'em before I do, I'm afraid that the deer will! But this is the first year I've had any significant production of grapes at all. Last year I had one very small bunch, very good, but very small, and that was it. So this year I'm thrilled.
Now, just a few more pictures. Do you need another beer, or glass of iced tea, or something? Now would be the time to get it. I can't help it -- once I get going, I have a hard time stopping. Next time I'll try to find something more interesting to natter about.
Now, isn't this bee balm pretty? Last year a neighbor, a gardening buddy, gave me bee balm and bright pink yarrow, and I put them in this "nursery bed" until I could figure out what I wanted to do with them. Look how big they've grown! Somehow I thought they would be knee high, and instead, they are shoulder-high. I love them. It has been a great year for flowers on the Plateau, probably owing to a cool spring and lots of sunshine. I'm also going to post a closeup of the bee balm, because it's so pretty, and so unusual-looking. No simple daisy-shapes here!
Doesn't it look like some kind of strange, alien thing? I love it. Very delicate.
Now I have only one more picture I'm going to share with you. I took a couple more, but I do want you to see a problem I'm facing in my back yard. My predecessor here planted some very beautiful, very invasive variegated bamboo. It's everywhere, and I can't get rid of it. I have a corner bed that has many interesting things planted in it, bordered by boxwood. You'll see in the photograph that the bamboo is taking over everything, and you can barely even see the boxwood. I can cut it down, of course -- did last year, which caused it to grow up even thicker and more beautiful than ever. I may try to rescue the plants that are struggling to coexist in this bed -- but I'm afraid if I move them, I'll bring along shards of bamboo, too, and it will soon invade elsewhere. I could spray it with poison, but I hate using poison, and would probably kill everything else growing in this bed (Solomon's seal, hostas, a Japanese painted fern, and a bunch of other stuff that I can't even identify). I don't want to kill everything, but I'd sure be happy to get rid of some of this bamboo!
Isn't it pretty? Isn't it lush? Can you find the boxwood? Nope. How about the hostas and other stuff? Sigh. I'm about to just give the whole bed over to the stuff, and abandon all hope and all the other lovely things there. Sob.
So just one more thing. The low-carb food plan I referred to. I'm on day 9 of 14. It's Dr. Phil's Rapid Start Weight Loss Plan. It's only a jump-start prelude to his much more moderate and wise weight loss plan, which I intend to follow. Basically the Rapid-Start Plan is carbs (breads and grains) only at breakfast, small portions of everything but veggies, and just a little fat. In 9 days I've lost 6 pounds -- not too bad, though I'm pretty sure I did as well in my first week of Weight Watchers, way back when. But the thing is, I finally decided that I should quit waiting for a hero to come along and save me from myself -- I guess I'm going to have to step up and be the hero of my own life (I think Elizabeth Gilbert used that in "Eat, Pray, Love"). Losing weight is difficult, but it's not rocket science: eat less and move more, right? So I've ramped up my runs to 45 minutes, 5 days a week, and continue to try to get to yoga 2-3 times a week. I want to do a little weight work at home, too: building fat-burning muscle, and all that. I've got to get some weight off so I can dress more comfortably, fly to Italy more comfortably, and walk more comfortably once I get there. I finally faced up to the numbers and now admit that I have about 85 pounds to lose. Sigh and sob again. But the good news is, that I'm doing it. I always believed that I needed carbs to feel satisfied, and couldn't imagine a meal without a carb. Of course, my mom was always a meat-and-potatoes kind of cook, meat, starch, and vegetable. But if I do it right, I can be quite satisfied with minimal carbs. It really is an addiction of some kind, thinking I need my bread! So this week I've allowed myself to feel pretty smug. I've done well, even in the light of temptations like the parish barbecue dinner, complete with potato salad and cake for dessert. Skipped 'em both. If I do it right, I don't even get cravings, though I've had them from time to time this week. Five more days and I can have a glass of wine and a cracker with my cheese.
It's 49 years since my father died. I miss him this Father's Day.
Now it's off to bed with my journal and my mug of ice water. It has been a good day. Happy solstice! Happy summer!