Back Forty Update

Hugelkultur bed with garden balsam

Lots of flowers are growing in this new hugelkultur bed in the front at the end of my driveway, along with lots of volunteer “mouse melons,” tiny watermelon-like fruits that taste like cucumbers. I’m using them as a ground cover – did not plant them. I believe that is a Juliet tomato there that I didn’t have room for anywhere else so I just popped it in there. It might be a Roma. There’s not any fertilizer in this bed. There is mint and parsley and feverfew and calendula. I’ve pulled out the ageratum in this photo. For next year’s bloom there is hollyhock and evening primrose, and the garden balsam blooming now which should reseed freely.

So many cherry tomatoes! And a few Roma tomatoes, although quite a few have blossom end rot despite me putting Epsom salts in the planting holes. Maybe I forgot on that particular one. We have had so much rain and it has been muggy hot, so the new garden bed in the back is lush. I gather tomatoes every day and I try to pick them just as they start to ripen to keep them from splitting, and so that they don’t tempt hungry birds and critters. The ground cherries don’t make it indoors. I eat them on the spot.

Herbs and flowers

^^^Ageratum grows everywhere, and I like to keep some to bloom for the bees in the fall, but it’s one of those plants that is selfish and wants all the land for itself. Now that I’ve pulled out most of the ageratum, this bed is devoted to herbs this year. There are three kinds of basil, mint, feverfew, tarragon, borage, and parsley (which was overwhelmed by the ageratum and did not grow well this year). In between there are a couple of dozen foxglove seedlings that volunteered from last year, and a few rudbeckia that survived the groundhog attack by hiding in the ageratum. The celery and kale did not survive the critter attack. The motion sensor spraying device there is out of business, and didn’t work except on humans. There are a few lamb’s quarters left in there that I eat for greens. Next spring this bed will look awesome with foxglove flowers and the bees will love it. Herbs will be shifted somewhere else next year.

Candy roaster squash

^^^If I get any candy roaster squash from these vines (I see the harbinger of doom in the back of the photo) they will be huge, like pumpkins but oblong. Right now they seem hellbent on Back Forty domination. No squash in sight so far, just flowers.

Butterbeans!

^^^Butterbean Survivor – there are a few bean vines that survived the groundhog feast, and some of the damaged ones are trying to play catch-up. I’m picking beans now, but only enough to add to other dishes.

Rudbeckia survivor

^^^”Rudbeckia Survivor – The groundhogs think that these flowers are very tasty so I’m proud of this tough little survivor that made it to full bloom.

Saturday midday coffee pot post

Normally I don’t drink coffee past noon, because of my sleep issues. Today I am breaking that rule. I’ve got a spurt of energy going for me today and I don’t want to lose it!

The tree removal has been moved to Monday. He started on Thursday, and stopped after taking down one big lower limb and the bottom of the sky fell out. I mean flash flood warning heavy rain. I watched from the back door and the white clouded sky behind the limb was like a flash of light as it fell to the ground. I can already tell that these two guys are gonna be good at this, which is a very tricky job. A double trunk, about 80-100 feet tall as I estimate, covered high up in wild grapevine attached to other trees, and way too close to two houses. It’s not a good idea to climb trees with a chainsaw when everything is wet and slippery.

One secondary benefit, because we did not have this in mind when we decided to take down the tree, is that we have a perfect roof for solar panels. The quote we got from NC Solar Now impressed us. We will have to tie in to the power grid through Duke Energy’s meter and pay a meter charge, but in the optimistic view that big storage batteries might get cheaper and we will still have a reliable operating national power grid, it will be a few years before we can think about going off-grid. It’s probably a good idea to try this first anyway. They think that because our power usage is pretty low, twelve panels could cover most or all of our electric needs.

This is one way I can help make the world a little better, and it makes me feel better too. Although I strongly feel that it is too late for us to turn around the tidal wave of climate change – of course it is already here – I believe that we need to do what we can to adapt to the new reality.

It is a good day today. It’s not raining at the moment, which I’m grateful for, and even though I had an awful recurring dream in which I have somehow married an old boyfriend who stalked me for years and I am bewildered and horrified as to how I got into such a predicament, such dreams do make me grateful for the opportunities I have had in my life and the choices I’ve been able to make. I often wonder how things might have worked out if I had made different decisions at key times in my life. So many times I didn’t know it would be a major fork in the road. For example, what if I had chosen UNC Chapel Hill instead of UNC Greensboro? My life now would be entirely different. What if I had not dated another old boyfriend here in Greensboro? I would not have met Sandy, my husband. What if I had not gone to Oregon to take a tapestry workshop with Pam Patrie? I would not have the wonderful friends and connections in the tapestry world that I have now.

Then sometimes I think that what I thought were important decisions really weren’t. For instance, I don’t think that my degree in Studio Art is worth all that much, although that is where I first learned to weave and do woodcuts. I’ve learned much more going out into the world beyond Greensboro and taking classes.

What if I had decided to head out west or emigrate to another country? Who knows how completely different, for better or worse, my life would be?

It’s too late to emigrate to Ireland. I’ve had to accept that. You have to have an income of $55,000 individually or $110,000 as a couple combined. We will never make that much money. Canada doesn’t want retirees at all. There’s not even that option to check on the application. I don’t want to move south. We’ll check out Portugal next year, but I’m realizing that nothing is a given in this world – we can’t know that any place in it will be better than here by the time we are ready to go.

These days, I am looking at aging in place. I still hope to move west to Washington or Oregon, but that will be a while. I am not willing to give up a good job that is secure for now before I get to age 62, and I might have to wait until 67.

In the meantime, our house value is going up, up, up. The house next door sold immediately for an insane amount of money. The new neighbors are currently in Bangkok, where one is teaching at American University. They plan to move in in November, and have arranged for Armando, a young man who worked for them for several years, to take care of the yard. I might employ Armando myself. He thinks very highly of our new neighbors. It all seems good.

Today, it is still humid and the mosquitoes unfortunately did not drown in the deluge. The temperature is still below 90 so we have the doors open and the fans on. I have been to the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market and bought peaches, corn, eggplant, yellow squash, potatoes, and sweet peppers. We have lots of cherry tomatoes and some Roma and Better Boy tomatoes ripening in the back, although the groundhogs have eaten a few that are not protected by wire cages. They don’t bother the ground cherries or herbs, so I have those. The candy roaster squashes are taking over the back – if they bear fruit and the groundhogs don’t eat them, they will be huge and a nice source of food for this winter. Not all the butterbean plants were eaten and a few that were damaged are playing catch up. I’ll have a few but probably never enough for two servings or freezing. The few I’ve shelled have gone into soup.

I’m about to slice and dice and fire up the dehydrator, maybe blanch a few veggies for the freezer.

I’m toughening up. I’m thickening my skin. I’m getting ready. I’m also being kind to myself when I need downtime.

Halfway through Bella Poldark, the last of the book series. I will be sad to see it end. Then I will catch up on the TV series. I canceled Sling when the price went up this month, which included HBO. I will miss AMC but I’ll figure that out. That, along with the 2% raise I’m getting, will pay for the solar panels.

Only one photo this time – my new steampunk loom, Rosie, which I need to warp up once I catch up on my Fringeless online class.

I shall name her Rosie.

Sunday morning coffee pot post

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We’ve been home from the lake a week now, and it was a good time. I finished my stitchery for the Gardens of the Heart project at last. We ate a lot of good food and enjoyed good company. I ate at Dale’s three times!

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It was fun sitting on the pier and watching this heavy rain storm come through. Most of the time it was perfect weather. It was a bit humid but stayed in the 70s/80s. We turned off the air conditioning for most of the week.

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Yesterday I bought the pieces and joints for my new pipe loom. It will add a steampunk flair to the studio. Putting it together is the next thing on my agenda for today.

We went to Ed McKays used book store and I don’t know what happened there but it was a very good thing. Lots of new old books, some that I would have grabbed in hardback if I was still collecting certain authors. Prices were lower…the bargain shelves had much lower prices for better selection of books. We bought a copy of The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon for $1.50, now the biggest cookbook on my shelf. HUGE, and don’t you love her name! Also two prequels to the Mists of Avalon, a quarter each. And The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich. Yes, I know I swore off buying books this year. Some others will go to the little free library to make room.

Finished Four Souls and found that it wasn’t depressing as I feared it might be. It was actually very funny in parts. I don’t think I’ve ever not enjoyed a book by Louise Erdrich.

When we finished errands yesterday I sat down with my t-shirt scraps and worked on the t-shirt blanket. Or I should really say played, because I got into it so much that I lost all track of time and didn’t want to stop! I finished putting together one of the panels for the back side – it will be reversible, but I think of this as the back side. And played with sewing all these little scraps together. So much fun, and I made myself throw away the teeniest scraps instead of hoarding them for paper or whatever. There was a while when my intention was to use up every bit of everything. Nice concept, crappy reality in a small house. I don’t think that I will put a batten between the two layers. I’m going to just sew the layers together in a grid.

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Groundhogs have started eating the tomatoes, even the plants, that are not in cages. Okra is gone. I’m amazed that they haven’t gone after the ground cherries or the huge candy roaster squash vines, but I probably shouldn’t have written that. Tempting fate. I still have lots of cherry tomatoes and the Roma tomatoes under the wire cages. The fig bush is loaded with fruit. With all the rain, everything looks lush but the skeeters have come out.

The silver maple is scheduled to come down this Friday. Mixed feelings. I love trees, but not necessarily this one. There will be more sun for gardening and for solar panels. It will be safer and a good thing, eventually.

Raining at the Lake

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I love rain at the lake. There are two old gliders on the screened porch and the sound of the water dripping off the eaves is heavenly.

Today we have a few friends coming to visit. This will be their first time here, and I wanted to show it to them in case it ends up being sold.

Weezer has changed very little about this house since my cousin Fred died. She added central AC and heat and new mattresses, but all the old furniture is here and the odd mix of prints, paintings, and funny signs are still in their places. Fred wouldn’t tolerate even a bar stool moved out of place so I’m glad in a way that she honors him this way. I did move a stool and looked skyward and promised him that I’d move it back.

We’ve done little since Monday. My family came in and we’ve enjoyed hanging out with them. On Monday afternoon my brother visited and then my sister came back from Chapel Hill with a surprise…my niece Brooke! We sat in the lake in folding chairs and drank beer and mostly talked about retirement plans. Politics was mentioned only as he was leaving so we dodged that bullet. My brother is a Trumpie.

On Wednesday we drove to Wilmington and ate lunch at Indochine. Totally worth the drive. We stopped briefly at Trader Joe’s so now I know where that is. Still need to find the local co-op so that I can support them. Unfortunately Big W in Whiteville was closed yesterday, so the pasture raised pork brats are not an option. I hope it is not closed for good. I know he could not have been making much profit on selling that quality at competitive prices.

Yesterday Lisa and Brooke and I played Sequence. I really love these kind of strategy games so I may have to buy it for myself.

I finished my re-read of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and a new book, Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart. I look forward to reading more in this series. Now I am tackling Four Souls by Louise Erdrich but I’m not sure it’s a good book for the lake. I need something that is not depressing right now.

Not getting any artwork done, other than the slow finish of this project for India Flint’s collaborative “Gardens of the Heart” project.

Sleep has still been elusive and this is becoming a serious problem so I will need to search for other solutions when I get back.

Monday at the Lake

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Yesterday we snoozed and read and stitched and drew and drank adult beverages and sat on the beach and sat in the water and ate corn on the cob and watched Poldark and the mystery after it and got a good night’s sleep.

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Every time I come here I find more photographs, even when I think that I have exhausted all the photographic potential after literally hundreds of photographs over many years.

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My eyes focused on small things on the beach. What made these tunnels? What made these tracks? I haven’t seen a single anole yet, which is disturbing.

I sat directly on the sand and watched the ants scurrying around. There are still several different kinds of ants here and as far as I can tell they live at peace with each other.

One large black ant was carrying an insect wing a little larger than he was. He would circle around and around with it over a pile of driftwood and bald cypress needles and other flotsam. Whenever he left the pile to walk across the bare sand he scrabbled about with his legs and it seemed that he couldn’t get a firm foothold, so he returned to the pile. I noticed that the other ants who were not carrying a load had no problem walking on the sand. He wouldn’t let go of his burden and he couldn’t get where he wanted to go while he was carrying it.

Take what you will from that. I found it interesting.

If there are duplications or mistakes in this post, the corrections will have to wait. My connection is wobbly.