Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mick's First Job

After school let out and Mickey was spending time with his friend, Lily, who lives up the street and who always seems to have cash to spend at The Southfield Store, Mick started itching to have his own cash for spending at The Store. His little wheels a-spinning, he began questioning me where he could get his own money. I proposed that he do some out of the ordinary jobs around the house that I needed done and would be willing to pay him for, like vacuuming and washing the cars. I offered to pay him $10 if he'd do the Blazer because that's what it would cost me if I did it myself in town at the wash. He was all for it. So, Saturday came and he couldn't wait to get outside and get started. After I  made my weekly trip to the transfer station (read "town dump"), I hauled the vacuum cleaner out to the driveway and he started in. I honestly thought he would last about five minutes. I told him I had to check his work and approve and if I found where he needed to do a better job, I would tell him and wouldn't accept attitude or a meltdown. He agreed. About an hour later, the Blazer was thoroughly vacuumed and washed. Perfectly spic and span? No, but highly acceptable and, most importantly, I didn't have to do it!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Newest Member Of Our Family

Even before Misty was gone, folks tried to get us to get a new dog. We just couldn't, as long as Misty was alive. It just wouldn't have been fair to her. She needed all our attention. And then, of course, two weeks later our cat died of a broken heart, so we were in no mood to get a new pet for quite some time. But this winter, we told Mick that if he could prove he could be responsible and make his bed every morning, we'd consider getting him a dog for his birthday. I figured that if we were going to get a dog, we'd need to do it right after Mick and Tom were out of school on summer break. I started looking online at and marking the cutest dogs I could find as "favorites". Eventually, I had the courage to show the dogs I had favorited to Tom. He narrowed my choices down, confirming what I had already suspected would be the few dogs we would choose from, and then I sprung the news on Mick, showing him the possible candidates.

In my mind a dog named Tipper and a dog named Winken were the two dogs I knew we'd choose between. Both were cute with a capital "C". As it turned out, Tipper was in a shelter where, if he stayed too long, he'd be euthanized. Winken, on the other hand, was in a shelter where he'd stay until someone would adopt him, regardless of how old he got. Case settled. We'd adopt Tipper.

We got in the car and drove to Saugerties, New York. We told Mick where we were headed and why, but warned him that we still might come home without a dog. When we to got to the "shelter," we were pretty much grossed out. The place smelled to high heaven and there were dogs galore out in the fenced yard yapping their damned fool heads off. We went to the door, but no one answered. There was a car in the parking area, so someone had to be there. We went to the other side of the complex and finally an old guy came out to see why all the dogs were making such a fuss. We told him we were there to pick up a dog for adoption and he promptly told us, chidingly, that were were on the wrong side, that we needed to be knocking on the other side.We told him we had been over there but that no one was there. "She's there! I just saw her!"  Perhaps. But she didn't answer for us. So he dragged his tired old self around and knocked and he got the same response we did. Nada. So he went inside and closed the door. We heard some mumbling and then the door opened and Tipper bounded out.

Tipper, as it turns out, was the name they threw at him after he was dropped off by an animal control officer who had picked him up on the side of a road. Tipper, because of the white tip on his tail.

I signed a hastily prepared official looking document with a lot of blanks not filled in, paid our fee, which covered the rabies shot he had been given, and headed out the door with the old guy leading the dog to our car. We hadn't brought a leash, so he took the kennel's leash off, tossed him in the car and hastily closed the door before he could bolt. Tipper was wild not to be taken away from this old guy; he had been with him since early April and had obviously become attached. We all slid into our car doors, strapped ourselves in and took off for home. Man, did that dog stink. Like pee, to be exact. Plans were made about what we would do when we got home. At the top of my list was to drag out my No. 10 wash tub from the basement and give him a bath out in the yard. Long story short, he cleaned up nicely, is smart as a whip and will soon be fixed. Mostly, he stays in the yard with you without a leash, but if he catches a whiff of an animal that has been in or around the yard, all bets are off. He's part some sort of terrier - Jack Russell? Boston? - and beagle. He's already learned to sit, largely thanks to Mickey who takes him out first thing in the morning (sometimes with a puss on his face, to be honest) and when he gets home, and insists Tipper sit so he can put the leash on him. And then he makes him wait so he can walk about the door before Tipper. And Tipper waits. Smart as a whip.

Here are some shots from his first day in his new home with his new family.

In the pic below is Megan, who is living in our guest room for the summer. Last summer she was an intern at the Southfield Store. This summer she's a full fledged member of the pastry department. Enlarge the picture and look at how in heaven he is. In truth, when she comes home each evening, he parks his crazy head off at her. It's that whole watch dog and territory thing. I think he's forgotten this early moment of bliss.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mary, Mary . . .

I'm not going down that gay road, BUT, Mary's garden is growing very well. Please and thank you. Finally. Let's start with the prettiest pictures, some of my herbs.

Sage and thyme, but I've left out parsley and rosemary and cilantro and dill, but they're all doing very well.

My collards seem to be very happy. I have about 6 or 7 plants.

 Unfortunately, my two surviving okra plants aren't that happy. As my mother puts it, "hot and dry", and it certainly hasn't been that here in the northeast. I mean, we're still wrapping up under quilts at bedtime with temps in the low 50s. Not okra weather. Oh well, I'll stick it out to see what I get.

 My tomato plants seem healthy as can be. I wove a trellis of nylon cord for them to grow up, and so far, they seem to understand.

I wish I had blooming squash plants to share. Squash blossoms are so fairy tale since they're so big, bright and beautiful.

Fairy tale or not, I still have yellow squash and zucchini babies living under those great big leaves. In about five minutes, I'm sure I'll have grown up squash I can pick and try desperately to give away. Isn't that what happens with squash? At least zucchini?

My brussels sprouts and broccoli seem to be very happy. My cauliflower, not so much. Yet.

Here's a photo of a bed of my Kentucky Wonder pole beans, climbing the trellis, yellow squash, collards down the center and lettuces on either side of the collards.

Did you know that pole beans grow up their supports the opposite direction of other vining plants?

I finally have some healthy looking beet greens, but I have no idea what's happening below ground. My mother says not to be surprised if nothing is happening beneath those beautiful green tops.

And while I have a seeming forest of carrot tops, I fear there is nothing below. Just like the danged beets.

I was fairly confident that my first lettuces were going to be a failure as they didn't match up to neighbors and friends of neighbors around me. However. We have been harvesting mesclun from my first planting, and I'm loving my planting of red leaf lettuce and romaine.

And lastly, some new flowers blooming on the hill behind the house. This flower garden is fun to watch because I have no idea what I planted last summer, nor do I have any idea what my friend, Elise, planted there last summer. This garden is a sort of community effort. It's so big, and there's no way I can buy enough plants to plant the thing, so I've gotten and am getting all kinds of plants friends and neighbors have dug up from their own gardens at division time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oh, Beautiful!

Toward the end of the school year, one of the teachers at Mickey's school decided to institute an annual talent show for the students. The First Annual. The note came home in his folder and instantly I decided Mickey would have to sing. He agreed. I thought of different genres to explore and somehow landed on "patriotic". Always a sure winner. At first, we thought he would accompany himself on the autoharp, but then, wisely, I decided playing the auto-harp and singing was simply too much. So, we decided we'd pull accompaniment off of iTunes. Of course, I have no idea about iTunes, but Papa being the young one of us two, he was called upon to find our accompaniment. When we were mulling around the auto-harp, I landed on "America the Beautiful", since I was able to find some simplified chords for the auto-harp. Even though we ditched the auto-harp early on, "America the Beautiful" stuck. "On that day", I was running late, having gotten tied up at work, so I called the school to say I was coming and to not let Mickey sing first thing. As it turned out, Mickey was the last talent to perform. When I got there, Mick had such a puss on. I figured he had gotten in trouble with his teacher. I mouthed to him "did you get in trouble", but a shake of the head "no" was his response. Then he mouthed back, "I'm scared."  Holy crap. I worked with him on all sorts of vocal technique and it never occurred to me that he'd be nervous. There was nothing I could do or say at this late date but sit back and let things unfold as they may. When you watch the video, watch how he looks at the camera before the songs begins. There's nothing but utter joy on his face. And then, right after, seriousness and concentration takes over - two things rarely seen from Mick - and he launches into his song. Although I cut the audience response short, his song got the greatest response from the adult led audience. Days after, I ran in to folk who were not there but had heard about his performance and they had to stop me to tell me how great they heard he was. And he was. Now, we're not talking about American Idol, but for a second grader conquering his fear and singing a nationally important song, he did GREAT! (And watch the teacher behind him being cross with the kindergarteners on the front row - love it!)


Friday, June 17, 2011

Le Potager

So, this spring late, I began to fulfill one of my thousand dreams of living in the country and that is to have a vegetable garden. I've looked at books and Martha Stewart magazine articles for years describing and illustrating every form of kitchen garden, from the humble to the painstakingly plotted, and somewhere in between - but closer to the humble - I envisioned my kitchen garden. I guess mine is really fully sitting on on the humble line of the dial. It's grand in proportion, at least that's what everyone tells me, but I just can't get anything to flourish. Everything I have planted has germinated. Not every seed, but every type of seed anyway. I haven't planted rows and rows of peas or eggplant, only very small amounts of what we can consume. Although, I have a feeling three zucchini and three yellow squash plants may be be four plants too many. And it is the squash plants that are among the most thriving. I planted seeds, not plants, so my squash are behind those of the other resident gardener, Michael Richman.

You've met Michael in posts before. He and his wife Elise moved in three houses down from us two weeks before we moved to Soggy Bottom. Once we met, we became instant friends. They live more in the woods and on top of nothing but stone, so Michael proposed he'd pay for whatever was necessary if he could garden in my yard.  At first what sounded like a great idea to me eventually became difficult. It's all about real estate. I've waited years and years to have my own plot of land, and I find it difficult to share. Just like a certain seven year old I know.  But we've started.  I bought and built all the beds you see in the photos above and below, and the Richman's paid for the soil. Being grandiose and unable to share freely, I've given Michael only two of the six 4' x 8' raised beds, plus one corner of the two 4' x 4' rhubarb beds for his solitary rhubarb plant.

In the 4' x 8' beds will be the bulk of the garden. Then there's the two 4' x 4' rhubarb beds, and to the right of those you see two long, narrow beds. The nearest bed is for herbs, and the furthest is for tomatoes. In the tomato bed I have sixteen tomato plants and two cucumber plants. I am not going to stake the tomatoes; instead, I am going to weave a web of nylon cord on which to trellis the plants. I had better get busy weaving because the tomatoes are, so far, the plants that are thriving and they are going to be begging for something to climb on soon and very soon. 

These are chive that came with the house. They were growing in the midst of a thick mat of Siberian iris right next to the front porch. When the excavator was digging the trench for the foundation drain, I had him move the iris (and the chives) up to the swale he had cleared out at the top of the hill behind the house. When it came time to start planting around the house, I retrieved the iris and discovered the chives. They now are at home in their own herb bed.

I showed a colleague in the office the photos of my vegetable gardens and she confirmed my fear. The soil we bought for the raised beds is screaming for organic matter. The mesclun and arugula below was planted nearly a month ago. Since the soil, in short, SUCKS, it has taken them two or three weeks longer to get the to the pathetic size the are below than what they would have if the soil was full of good stuff.

Below is a carrot. I didn't plant rows and rows which required thinning out. I planted only what I needed. 

Here's one of two okra plants. This photo was taken about a week ago, and today my okra isn't much bigger. Aside from the soil, it's just been too cold and wet for a warm weather loving plant like okra to be happy.

My pole beans - Kentucy Wonders, just like what my Grandpa Foon planted - are some of the more successful plants in my garden. I have twenty-four of them. 

Below are two of three yellow squash I have. I planted four but only three germinated. Not sure if I'm going to plant the fourth.

My collards, below, are actually doing well. Just within the last couple of days they've really grown in size. I'll be taking more photos so you can see their progress.

Like I said, I think I've probably planted three too many zucchini, but at least they're thriving.

This is flat leave parsley below. I didn't plant this from seed. 

Below are may cauliflower, which are not too happy, my broccoli, which are a bit happier, and my brussels sprouts, which are very happy.

A couple I sing with in the choir at church gave me strawberry plants and rhubarb plants. While they don't look it below, the strawberry plants are actually doing well. They're sprouting new growth, so I know they're not dead.

I loaded composted cow manure onto my two beds of rhubarb and in a matter of a couple of days all the plants, even the one that look like it had died to the ground, have sprouted all new leaves. Yeah!

I have sixteen tomato plants. I chose Romas and San Marzanos, which make the best sauces. I also planted two cherry tomato plants. We love to roast the cherry tomatoes with a little garlic, olive oil, balsamic and salt and pepper and then toss that with pasta. MMmmmmm.

And from the herb garden, we have lemon thyme . . .

a variegated sage


dill ... from seed .. miniscule

and another variegated sage.

And while I'm at it, a few friends in my flower gardens: