Thursday, January 31, 2008

I'll let God drive

Yesterday we forgot to mail the form 944, Federal employment taxes. We HAD to go in today, and since we had forgotten (what do we have, brain damage :-P ) to do the "meter readings" we did them too.

I had seriously considered "making" side effects happen when I took my morning dose. I was going to be dropping off my application at Metrolift, wasn't I? Wouldn't it be better if I looked the way I feel most of the time? I decided I have 2 choices, either act like God's in charge, leaving it all in his hands, or refuse to believe that God will make ANYTHING happen that He wants. In trying to "make it work" for myself, I could mess up God's plan. My life is a car and I'm letting God drive it.

So I took my usual dose, one Lithium, 1/2 Lexapro. On the way to work things became very soft and misty. I had major side effects - the "Pillow effect" where I'm slow, mentally and physically, very amicable, and just kind of stare at things blankly. When I'm like this, I've noticed other people tend to be very solicitous and helpful - so I must look like I feel. I have a photo of myself with Bubbacat and I just look vapid.

I'm sure I looked vapid today. I sure felt it. I got everything done that needed to happen and Chuck showed up.

Ron decided he wanted to stay at work while we went to Metrolift to drop off my paperwork. However, Metrolift has MOVED. Chuck had to drive downtown and drop me off. I found the Metrolift arrow, pointing at a busy room.

I went in the room. The "Metrolift customer service window" was closed. They wouldn't reopen for an hour. "OK, Lord, if you want this to happen it'll happen. I'm asking for Your will."

"Excuse me," a nice elderly gentleman pointed out "if you need Metrolift I think you can go over there" he pointed. I thanked him profusely. I went "over there" and sure enough, found a very kind Metrolift employee who was happy to take my paperwork.

Mission accomplished! We picked up Ron at work and went to get barbeque. Ron is in love. He's moaning in the kitchen right now as he eats. He actually interrupted this post several times to have me 1) get Frosty and see if the cat liked bbq. He doesn't. 2) bus rib bones to bubbacat. and 3) bus scraps to bubbacat.

Chuck took Ron to Starbucks and I came home and took a nap. We have tomorrow off so I'll just go to Walmart in the morning, garden in the afternoon. I need to start my NZ spinach and the broccoli raab.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The 18 hour day

Things I'll do and things I won't. I wanted 7 top turnip seeds and a soil thermometer. I found one page, they had both! I was thrilled until I started the checkout process. They wanted $14 shipping. For a pen-sized soil thermometer and a packet of seeds. Forget it.

Then I found these guys: Not only did they have the 7 top turnip greens and my thermometer, they had some really interesting varietal seeds, EASY interface, and fun shopping experience. Needless to say, I got more than just the one packet of seeds. After I subtract the $20 "Ooops" money, I still have $50 in my online account. That means I get to spend $25 a week. I had a very happy shopping experience and when I went to checkout, $8 shipping, BUT it's UPS, which I like better. I know, egg me, I am a hypocrite. I was delighted to give them $21 of this week's internet money. I'll let you know when the goodies arrive and how things turn out.

So, Heather, how was your day? Sorry, I just finished with Stone Brothers and I'm all aglow with the joy of finding an interesting new seedsman.

My day started at 3 AM. Yeah. We had 4 hours at work and we used every minute. Things were reasonably brisk but not scary busy. While I was waiting on the trainees to finish buying their coffee from the coffee vending machine, one of the women told me not to worry, it's good coffee. I smiled and told her my husband made sure of that.

After work, we had some business at the bank. Ron wanted to go to the mall first and I was dealt a blow. "My" dollar store, which I love, is closed as of today. I got in at the last minute to buy 4-for-$1 goodies. I felt like a crow picking at carrion. I did get some garden labels and some instant cold packs, the kind you shake and use. If they work as well as my hot packs I'm going to love them come summer. I also got some plant labels and popsicle sticks. Those popsicle sticks are amazingly useful for marking where I've planted seeds, or boundaries on the various garden areas. I got the uncolored kind because I get a little twitchy over the colored ones leaching. 200 ought to hold me for a while. I bought some individually wrapped chewing gum that turned out to be as hard as a rock. While I was throwing it away, another patron at the mall asked if he could have them. I said, sure, don't break a tooth, these things are hard as a rock!

About this time Chuck called. We're dropping off my Metrolift papers tomorrow. Pray for me. It would be seriously awesome if I could get my own service. Ron is very kind, but sometimes we'd like to do different things.

Speaking of which, we came home after the mall and bank. I was beat. My hair was gross. But we had a trip to go to the Home Depot. I was happy to see I got my package from Bountiful Gardens.

The book (How to grow more vegetables...) was very interesting. I don't regret spending the money on it. It had a lot of philosphy. I'm an X-generation child. We were the literal children of the Hippies. I learned a LOT about ecology, stewardship, and conservation. At any rate, I'm doing everything right, and the soil amendment information was worth the price of the book right there. It reminded me a lot of Organic Soil Management, which I keep by my bed.

I guess I was hoping for more of an encyclopedia-type book on growing vegetables. I understand "Feed the soil, not the plant" but I'd like to know how much greensand my tomatoes would like. My Texas Vegetable book is probably my most favorite, followed by my Houston Garden books' chapter on Vegetables. Amusingly, neither book really covers the organic approach! Dr. Cotner (Texas Vegetable) speaks a lot on "Barnyard Manure" as applies to the various crops, but that's it. My Organic Gardening Encyclopedia has a little on everything. It's a good book. I just want to breed "Texas Vegetables" to "Organic Encyclopedia" and read the offspring voraciously. I love how "Texas Vegetables" has a chapter with lots of photos for EVERY different vegetable. It's my favorite.

Bubba-cat just banged on my window, so I let him in. Even when I know he's out there, it always scares the crap out of me when the black cat jumps out of the black night onto the windowsill. I always jump. Then I pet him and tell him "You like scaring Mommy, don't you?" as he purrs. He's crunching away at the food bowl.

I figured out which cat is using my garden beds for a urinal. Frosty came in with black dust on his hind legs. I'm using black mulch to attract the heat to my garden soil (4 months from now I'll be covering what's left of the mulch with light-colored pine barks) so it'll warm up. Even with cold soil, I got a good stand of purple beans in '06. I ordered more seeds, which arrived yesterday "Royalty Purple Pod bush bean" if you are curious.

Speaking of seeds, I saw the most beautiful display when we went to Home Depot today. I brought my 18-gallon red plastic box (with lid) and a contractor garbage bag (turns out I didn't need the bag). I left Ron with the box and did my shopping. 50 pounds of play sand. I'm strong! It was easy to manipulate! I put it in my cart and went to go look at the garden center. No good edging (weed barrier 4 foot lengths, about 6 inches deep). Darn it. I got the FS-25 starters I need for snack machine #1. I told Ron I eat enough of (business name)'s chips and drink enough of its' soda that I don't mind coughing up $3 and change.

Then I saw it. A beautiful display, courtesy of Ferry-Morse. They had white bush scallop squash (it seems like everyone likes it as much as the squash bugs and I did), and they had Lemon Cucumbers. I adore Lemon Cucumbers. I'm growing them every year, no questions. They take 2 extra weeks to mature but they're delicious. They're also a manageble "eating out of hand" size as well. Soybeans! Innoculant! If I hadn't already bought mine from Shumway I'd have bought some. I did get the soybeans. I love eating them. Square peat pots! Now I can start my NZ spinach! I was a happy camper and I spent less than $20.

When our ride arrived, we realized it was a real cab, hired by Metrolift. He still got his driver candy and I did all the heavy lifting of the box. I also gave him a cash tip because he didn't have to take the trip, if I'd hired him I'd give him a tip (Metro doesn't), and it was my trip anyway. It was a great ride home.

When we got home I got the cart and went straight out back to dump that sand. I'm glad I'm only mentally defective ;-P because it was pretty challenging. I was amazed at how much sand was eaten by the stump-hole. It took at least 3/4 of a bag. I do have a little left if I want to do a little herb garden. I stored the half-used bag of composted steer manure, along with the sand, in a large plastic storage box I used for compost originally (all the compost is now on the garden beds). Now I don't have to worry about breaking my ankle in the hole and hopefully the cats will use that area for their urinal.

Hey, a girl can dream. Off to take my anti-psychotics and bed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On our way to work, we rode with a woman who's a teacher. She doesn't have a very high opinion of children today. I think it's really sad. I'd rather believe the best and be disappointed on occasion than to give a child a bad reputation to live up to.

I was pretty toxic and miserable today. Queasy, weak, shaky, ugh. I had to take 5 ginger root capsules in about an hour. That's not good. I have to go back to 3 Lithium a day, obviously.

I perked up by the time the milk arrived. He's going to be off next week so we need to plan for a long stay at work so we can get the milk. I'm glad I know now.

By the time I got back to our area, it was really late. I had to do the pull and run the money so I could get paid and we could make our deposit. We'd already filled out our form 944 (federal employment taxes). I had about 5 minutes to do a half-hour job.

I left it in God's hands, "Hey, Lord, could you make it happen so I can do this and we get a good ride to the bank? Thanks!" Chuck called. He was in the area and he'd be happy to give us a ride to the bank when I finished. The bank has closed their formerly public restroom and it wasn't much fun waiting. It's the only place we go on a regular basis that doesn't have a public bathroom. Anyway, I got paid, paid back my advance, and then we went to Walmart (after about an hour waiting).

I was pretty shaky so I assumed (correctly) I just had to eat. I was right. I got my shopping done and we came home. I got my order from Shumways! Once I put up the ice cream - naptime! Bubba the cat was stretched out in my bed so I had a wonderful nap. I was awakened by a full bladder and annoying min-pin barking. Ugh.

Ron wanted to complain but I told him our cats roam around outside and I'm sure some people find it as annoying as we find the barking. If we didn't have cats, I'd complain. Not that it would do any good.

Besides, the barking can be a lifesaver. Years ago Ron had a Metrolift trip to work and home. He went by himself. He came home right around the time the school buses drive live maniacs down the main street in our subdivision. I had "Done mobility" with him and showed him how to get around the neighborhood if he ever wanted to take a walk. The driver dropped him off at our address "1234", but on the wrong street.

So here's a blind guy, 6 AM, cab has left. Wrong street, wrong house, where the heck am I? Then he heard it. Yap, yap, yap. The next-door neighbor's (on the other side actually) min-pin. Once Ron heard that, he knew where he was, one block over from our street, and he was literally able to "Follow the barking" to get home safely.

So, it's not all bad. But it is annoying. Here's to hoping the dog bites one of them, or messes on the rug.

Anyway, I woke up, started bagging up driver candy. Ron and I decided to do an early trip to work tomorrow, meaning "Get up at 3 AM". Not fun! We'll be done early and then, later on, we'll be going to the Home Depot. I need a bag of sand to fill in that pear-tree stump-hole.

I made some soybeans using this recipe and Ron loved the flavor but not the soybeans. So I'll be making it with pintos tomorrow.

Chili Beans
1 cup beans, soaked in water overnight
7-ounce can San Marcos Chipolte Sauce (I get it at Walmart)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 t chili powder
1/2 t cumin

Simmer the beans in water to cover until almost tender. When they're almost done, add the sauce and spices. Cook until almost "dry". Serve to great acclaim. This is REALLY hot.

I'll let you know how he likes it with the pintos.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Bipolar isn't a real illness"

It was an interesting morning. First, though, I have to tell you:
I DUG UP THE PEAR TREE STUMP! I am so thrilled. I was so happy I got the thing out of the ground, I almost brought it in the house to show Ron. I did slice my finger a little bit (probable scar, but doesn't need stitches) while sawing through the roots, but it was worth it! I mulched and amended all my garden beds except for bed 1. I don't want to get it just yet anyway, because I need to fill in the crater left by the stump removal (it looks like a fantastic way to break an ankle, leg, or both). I also need to wait for the soil to dry, the stuff around the pear tree was just miserable slock. It reminded me of quicksand. I plan to double dig the part I'm extending on bed 1, and I need to get some better edging. I had a great day and I'm so glad I did it!

I also got my seed order from Bountiful gardens ( The Malabar spinach included BOTH types, the red and the green. Awesome. I got a "Kid's pack" with a little bit of all the leftovers from the year before. I can grow lentils, favas, and an appaloosa bean. That's not even counting all the corn and marigolds. I'm very happy I already placed another order with them. The "Beet Mix" will be a lot of fun for the people who eat the beets (I plan to try a few baby beets, if I don't like them they all will find a good home with at least 2 postal workers I've recruited). I'm happy.

I'm going to have a $2 overdraft until tomorrow, when I get paid. BAD Heather! I will keep an extra $20 in the account so it doesn't happen again.

Something amazing happened today. Ron just called me about it, in fact. Someone, a regular at his Starbucks, bought him a $50 gift card. He left and had the barista give it to Ron. At first, Ron thought she was teasing him. I am so happy for him. He deserves to be spoiled and I'm glad other people see the good in him, too. He was so touched and thrilled. I am delighted that whoever did this will get shown how much joy they brought Ron and I by this gesture. He's a good man.

This morning I was definitely a glue-brain. Why, I wondered. I'm not useful like this. Then Ron dropped a bottle of water on the floor and needed help finding it. He didn't have enough time to "Do" soda machine #1, so I got the cases and stocked it myself. Oh, and he needed quarters, could I run and sort them for him? I did it all in about half an hour, I'm useful alright. Ron made sure I knew how much he appreciated my hard work. He is an awesome boss. I'm happy.

We had a scenic-route trip with a driver we haven't seen in a while. He's a really nice guy. I hadn't seen him since my diagnosis so I told him about it. He was cool. When I tell people about my illness, most of them either get really quiet, or they are happy I've got a routine that works. One client got off and other one boarded. I was getting lightheaded and I needed to eat. I got permission from the driver and started eating my soynuts. I had mentioned that "My medication can cause low blood sugar". The other client wanted to know what medication. I told her and told her what it's for.

"Oh, bipolar isn't a real illness." She said. She continued in this vein. I didn't need medication because bipolar was "A Made Up Illness" a plot by the pharmaceutical company to get me on their dole. The medication I was taking would kill me faster. I had a character weakness, she implied, as she told me I needed to have more faith in God. Fasting and prayer, at least a week-long-fast, would cure any "problems in my head". I had to give it to God so He could use it for his glory.

She spoke quite rapidly, (check) without stopping for breath, it seemed (check). She was very agitated, and kept moving around (check). She jumped from one subject to another and it didn't always make sense (check). She spoke of how she used to run all over the streets, staying up for days at a time (check), sleeping around (check), spending all her money in one day (check), and saying anything to anyone (check). Fighting, even (check). She had the very "made-up-illness" she was denouncing.

She continued to harp on the subject until got to our destination. With my medication, I didn't see the need to argue with her. Someone as deluded and ignorant as she was won't change her mind due to anything I say. I'm glad I have a strong mind, with no desire to follow her "advice". I would probably be dead in 2 months if I did. If she's happy starving herself, that's her business. I know God's will for me: Take my medication, live responsibly, educate as needed, be a good helpmeet and share God's love with everyone I meet. I don't always do it perfectly (especially the last), but God knows my heart.

Bipolar isn't a real illness. Yeah. Right. People like that are dangerous. I'm glad I'm out there telling the truth about my illness. You can't pay me to shut up.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My throat hurts. Back when things were bad, Ron used to accuse me of being "sickly". My sister has an immune deficiency disorder, but my ailments are about on track for an "average" adult woman. In some respects, I do a lot better. I went 9 years between flu outbreaks, while Ron was getting it every year for a while.

I'm a big fan of Olive Leaf, I like to think it helps me stay healthier ("Nature's antibiotic"). I also believe in supporting my immune system so it can kill the nasties. Right now, that translates to Vitamin C powder, instant Honeysuckle/Forsythia crystals (clears internal heat per Traditional Chinese Medicine), antistress vitamins, and nutritional yeast. My throat still hurts, but hopefully it won't get any worse.

I guess that means I can't go for my blood tests until this thing is cleared up. It would mess up the bloodwork (he ordered a CBC in addition to other tests). Onto happier subjects, while I was getting more Lithium today I also got the inserts they give me with my other medications.

I highlighted all the "side effect" issues that would prevent me from riding the regular bus. I'll enclose it with my application paperwork. Hopefully they'll understand - I'm leaving it in God's hands.

I was happy to find organic fire ant killer at Walmart. It really does my heart good to see organic plant options. I made a mistake, though, and overdrew my account by a few dollars. As soon as I get paid, I'm going to put a surplus of $20 in there so that won't happen again.

It's shaping up to be a nice, pretty day. I'm going to go play in the dirt, and attempt to dig up the pear tree stump before the monster grows back.

Once I finish that I'm going to finish fixing up my garden beds.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My Glain

Today was a pretty major day with side effects. Ugh. I had that glue-brain thick feeling (Ron was lovingly teasing me and calling it my "Glain" [glue-brain]) and some other icky side effects. When I finally got home, I needed my nap. It's worth it. Every day, it's worth it. I can depend on my brain. You can't imagine the horror of not being able to trust your own mind (I hope you never have that horror), or worse yet, the look on your spouse's face as they realize "Here we go again." Worth it!

I was still productive at work, stocking snacks and sodas and helping Ron. I like to feel like I earn my keep. We ended up riding around a lot on Metrolift so we only got 1.5 hours instead of two, but it worked. I'm glad we went in, the nasty weather ensured a hungry captive audience. They like what we're selling.

After work we went to Wal-mart for lunch. I wanted to get some of the red peppermints, the circular kind with the swirly thing? I only had $5 left but I get paid Wednesday. I was able to get a good tray for my seedlings, a packet of nasturtium seeds, and some more "Hot Hands" packets for us. I put a packet in the mail box for our carrier, and she loved it. I like to nurture people, it's my spiritual gift. We ate some dollar menu cheeseburgers and had a good trip home.

I dealt with my icky side effects and got my nap. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I wanted to make sure I got some garden time, but I had to get my sleep. I've noticed a nap works wonders on any kind of side effect issue. I woke up after an hour (I set my alarm) and headed out.

I started with garden bed 2. Each garden bed is 4x4 square feet and will be intensively planted. When I first laid out the beds, I double-dug them and worked wheelbarrow loads of organic matter into each bed. I mulched them with at least a couple of inches of mulch, so even when I was "sick" they didn't get overrun with weeds. Most of the mulch has decomposed and while it's still clay, the soil looks way better than it did when I started.

Garden bed 2 was worked when the ground was moist but not wet. I was able to till in 5 gallons each of chopped dry leaves, compost, and straw. I mulched it (about 1 inch) with more straw. I got my manure so I sprinkled 1 (2.5 gallon) bucket over the straw mulch. I've read a bit about mulching and one problem, if a bed is deeply mulched, is the bed has trouble warming up in the spring. Soil temps need to be at least 60 degrees for most plants to do well.

Can you tell I seriously considered a horticulture major? However, I didn't want to spend one year on pesticides/herbicides and another year on irrigation systems. I'm a happy, fairly well-read amateur.

One cure for the "cold soil when you mulch" problem is black mulch. Enter our buddy Chuck and his pickup. I bought 6 cubic feet of black hardwood mulch. All I had to to was sprinkle 5 gallons of mulch on top of garden bed 2. All done. Since I want to grow some root crops, btw, I didn't sprinkle manure on a 3 foot square area. That's reserved for the root crops. I gave a little composted manure "snack" to the collard plant, tucked under the mulch.

I moved over to garden bed 3. The soil was incredibly soggy, so I couldn't work it. I finished weeding it, and layered manure, leaves, compost, straw, mulch. It was a fair amount of carrying. I'm glad my disabilities are all in my head, and I don't have problems except for the tremor. Anyway, bed 3, done.

Bed 4, I weeded about half of it. I noticed some fire ants. Since I have an organic garden I got out my trusty bucket of coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are "bouncers" for fire ants, nontoxic, and good for the soil. I went ahead and threw coffee grounds on all the garden beds.

Once I finish bed 4, I just need to "layer" it. I need to put the manure and the mulch onto bed 5, and then I get the fun of digging up the pear tree stump. The ground is soaked, so it should be pretty easy (relatively speaking) to get the roots out.

Once I get that, I need to do bed 1. Right now it's 3x4. I want to expand it to 4 feet square, but the soil's too wet to work. Do I just do the 12 square feet, layer it up right? Do I wait and do it all when I expand it? I'm leaning towards layering the 12 square feet and then amending the 4 square feet I'll add to the bed.

I found a lovely surprise when I was looking for my pizza in the fridge. When I was manic, I'd buy all kinds of seeds. I kid you not, easily 1/6 of the fridge was seed packets. I threw them all out a few months ago.

Or so I thought. I had a fantastic surprise when I found radish, bean, and herb seeds hanging out in the back of the fridge, just waiting for me to find them. Awesome. While I "Could buy more" like I thought when I threw all the others out, it's fun to rediscover old freinds.

Which brings me to the dividers. I have some great plastic barriers, thick, tough plastic. They do a great job of keeping the bad guys out of the garden bed. I got them at Home Depot, but they don't have them anymore! The cheap "Pound-in-edging" is OK but not very effective. I've got to find a good edging that's easy and effective.

I'm going to go hunt around right now.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Some observations on Lithium

I mentioned to Ron recently that my stomach's been a lot happier since I started eating soynuts. I love to snack on soynuts, and probably eat about 1/3 cup a day. I can't eat regular nuts but I love my soynuts. Maybe it's the protein (they are high-protein), or maybe some unidentified nutrient, but I haven't had to take my Pepto once since my soynuts arrived.

Normally I deal with a fairly acid stomach, nausea, and no appetite. It's a nice change to just be able to enjoy my food without having to reach for the Pepto.

Ron told me I should post this, and it got me thinking about all the questions I had when I started my Lithium. I take four tablets a day, extended release 300 mg.

I have a funny taste in my mouth, will it ever go away?
When I first started the Lithium, and when I increased my dosage, I noticed a horrible zinc-lozenge taste in my mouth. It's a side effect. By the time I'd bought a good assortment of breath mints, it had faded. Very rarely it'll come back but it went away for me.

I'm thirsty all the time!
See above, it got a lot better after a few days. I'm a mouth-breather so I've always got a dry mouth, but I didn't notice it after a few days to weeks. Oasis mouthwash is very helpful too. I use that at night, when my dry mouth is the worst.

It smells awful when I urinate!
I never saw that side effect anywhere but it's true. My urine smells ghastly! It smells like I'm already dead! I just put up with it. You can always flush quickly. If you have any burning, discharge, or whatever see your doctor but don't worry about it otherwise.

I feel like a zombie
The first couple days on my pills, I scared the crap out of my husband. I was taking Lithobid. It really made me a zombie. Ask your doctor if you can change formulations - I do great on generic lithium carbonate ER, on twice the "zombie" dosage of Lithobid. Give it a couple weeks and see how you feel. I only get foggy in the morning, and if I miss my nap (but I have other things and not just bipolar). Remember that 11% of people with this illness kill themselves. Some cancers only kill a couple people out of every hundred. Ask yourself this: Would I put up with this side effect if I had cancer? I know I would. At least Lithium doesn't make you bald!

I feel sick to my stomach all the time
I take my Lithium with a big meal. I can't emphasize a big meal is very important. When I've taken it with just a little fruit cocktail, a salad, or a half cup of leftovers, I will get stomach pains, nausea, and burning. It's the nature of the beast, Lithium is really tough on your stomach. Some things that help me: Eating a high-protein diet, taking ginger root, Pepto-bismol (the chewables are great when I'm traveling), and sometimes a cup of Licorice spice tea (licorice root - NOT the black licorice flavor, is excellent for your stomach. It's sweet and kind of bland). I don't ever lie down just after I eat and I try to have several smaller meals thoughout the day. Be careful when taking heartburn medications, some of them will interact with the Lithium.

Can I drink?
You could, in small amounts, if you clear it with your doctor. Personally, it's been my observation that if someone drinks, the medication won't work, but when they stop drinking the pills work. I would say don't drink, and if you can't face the thought of life without alcohol then you need to get to AA. It's not worth it.

After I took my Lithium, I felt high. Is something wrong?
No, it's a side effect. I like it in small doses. I think of it as God's little bonus to me for not drinking. My husband finds it very cute. It tends to come and go (for me). Enjoy the ride, and if you're driving, pull over.

I hope this helps! Hugs to you if you're dealing with this illness (as a patient or as a loved one). It is worth every side effect to finally feel like I can depend on my brain. To know that I'm reliable for a change, that every day is going to be predictable and peaceful.

You can't bottle that. Well, you can. Slap a label on it that says "Lithum Carbonate 300 mg ER" and send it to me!

Why thin?

I was looking online at seed-starting books. One of them had a chapter on how to thin seedlings.

I've never understood the point of starting seeds, only to throw 3/4 of the resulting plants out. I have one Jiffy pellet with a tomato seedling, my "Stupice". I have two dill plants, and two cutting celery. That's all I want of them.

Sure, I may have a a failure or two but I can restart. I have a 10-month growing season, and I'm surrounded by nice nurseries. If I just can't get something right, then I can probably buy it.

It's what I plan to do with Rosemary - buy it.


After hours of frustration and exasperation, raised voices, and snippy attitudes, we finally got up our DSL. Thank you, Jesus. Oh, I am so glad it's over. So, so glad.

Yesterday I had a shitty day. A good, shitty, day. Chuck was able to take me to the Home Depot and got the mulch, manure, and fence posts I needed. Well, Home Depot doesn't have manure by itself (???) but Walmart does, and Chuck was happy to take me and wait in the truck. I got at least 16 cubic feet of mulch (eight bags!), four bags of manure, and a total of eight (six foot) fence posts. Once I pound the posts into the ground, they'll be five feet tall. I have two of them on the back of garden bed 1. They are great and I love them. But six-foot posts on Metrolift? Uh, uh.

I figure five feet of vertical is better than no feet of vertical, which is what I've got now. Ideally, I'd love six feet of vertical but hey, life is compromise. Five feet is better than no feet.

I'll get some of the plastic netting from Walmart and string that on the backs. Pole beans, winter squash, and cucumbers can clamber up the netting. I'm so glad I already got the purple pole beans. I've got some Kentucky Wonder (which was actually introduced as "Texas Pole") beans as well.

It's nice right now. After we eat our celebration pizza, I'm going to run out and do a little weeding and post-pounding, maybe dig away at my pear stump. It's been so wet and cold that I want to get out when I can. Besides, I'd like to burn off a little aggravation steam.

Horrible thought: doing the installation without my medication!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Ultimate Cheat

Today was an odd day. Normally, we just go in, get the milk, out of there. I had big plans for working in the garden once we got home.

When Ron called the milk man (Lechero in Spanish), he was told a substitute would be covering the route. Our Lechero's brother was violently assaulted a few weeks ago, and el Lechero had to take care of his brother today. Of course he did. I'd be a monster to complain. I pray for all of them, even the attacker. Normally we get our milk between 7 and 8 AM. It didn't arrive until 11 AM. On the postive side, I did EVERYTHING, cookies, chips, crackers, candy, you name it, I stocked it. The machines looked fantastic. On the negative side, since we put the ride on hold we ended up staying 3 times longer than we'd planned (good thing I brought the Lithium!).

When we "took the ride off hold" to come home, we got a ride in 20 minutes. Pretty awesome!

Not so awesome - by the time I got home I was utterly exhausted, in desperate need of a nap. I was starting to get really cranky. The sun had vanished and I didn't get to garden. But after I see my doctor tomorrow we should be home in plenty of time for me to have fun. We'll also maybe go get my soil amendments on Thursday if Chuck doesn't mind.

Ron did give me an advance, so I'm happy. I don't ask him for money, I ask for advances. He pays all the bills and the soil amendments and getting the book "How to grow more vegetables" from Bountiful Gardens is not life and death.

It will be a lot of fun.

About the only negative thing in my life is the fact that the determinate tomato I've been coddling has already started to bloom. That's bad. My seedlings (salad stuff, mainly) are all really leggy and wimpy looking. Not good. I need to get one of those 2-foot "stick lights" and put it on top of the seedlings (I plan to prop the light up with some cookbooks or something). It's been so gloomy the poor things haven't had any light. I don't blame the plants but I'm disappointed. I hate wasting good seed on a mistake.

I won't even thin. I literally plant one seed per Jiffy pellet so I don't have to decide who dies. I love them all. Since I've got a 10-month growing season, I can afford to do things this way. If I make a mistake (like I did with the not-enough-light), I can do-over.

I'm half-hoping I'll find a nice 6-pack or two at the Home Depot if we go with Chuck on Thursday. Ready-to-go transplants are the ultimate cheat.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Making the impact

My sister just sent me a link to enter poetry in a contest for people with mental illness. My family is a compelling argument for the genetic basis of mental illness. I may write something, I may not. We'll see.

I saw something at work the other day that made me fairly angry. The gist of the message was "God allows suffering because people won't come to him for help."

Uh, NO. That is not true at all. God allows suffering because it makes us stronger, we need to learn something, others need to learn something, or all of the above. I cried to God many times when I was ill "Why are you allowing me to suffer?" I needed to learn, and it made me stronger.

God can also use anything for good. Take my illness for example: When I was 12 I was deeply depressed. My HMO had me in group therapy, didn't help. They put me on an antidepressant. [eventually, that made me suicidal] Many meetings were had by my doctors and parents.

One day, my dad was scheduled to meet with the male therapist running my group to discuss options on dealing with my depression. Right after he left, Richard Farley broke into the offices at ESL and began shooting the place up. The people who died all worked with my Dad. [You can google this] My Dad was in the Army, he would have tried to take this guy out like the other victims did. They died.

But because I was born with this virulent strain of bipolar disorder, my Dad was safe and sound at the doctor's office. He wasn't saved yet, either.

So, if I hadn't been born sick in the head, my Dad could have been roasting in hell right now. We don't always see the "big picture", but I am convinced that Godly perseverence through terrible times is the most effective witness we can offer. Anyone can praise God when times are prosperous, but what about when you're unemployed? That's when we make the impact.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I'm a grub

We went to the wholesale store today to buy some candy and then we went to work. I brought my 5-gallon bucket (clean, with a lid) for the coffee grounds. We have a coffee vending machine, it fills a good 20 gallon trash can at least once a month. Why throw them out? They repel fire ants, are a balanced organic fertilizer, and the earthworms love them. I'll state the obvious, I'm a big fan of used coffee grounds even though I can't stand to drink coffee.

Ron tied off the garbage bag and set it in my bucket. The bucket's out in the backyard waiting for my next project. I'm not in a hurry to apply them; we have a good chance of rain 'most every day this week. Why let them wash away when they can hang out in a bucket?

Right as we finished up with the coffee grounds, I had my little "Candy wagon" all set up to stock. A woman came up to me: "I want to buy your tuna sandwich but your machines are down." "Your machines are down" - not a phrase you want to hear applied to expensive cold food vendors. I checked one of the machines, while the woman got annoyed "I want the sandwich out of the other machine."

I viewed the display. "I'm sorry, Ma'am, but I can't sell it to you."

"What?" She was black, I'm not (although married to a man who has "negro" on his birth certificate). The inevitable question arose: "Why?"

I showed her the display: Health time expired. "Even if I would sell you one, you wouldn't want to eat it!"
She thanked me for being ethical and went on her way, delighted that I wasn't going to sell her the sandwich.

In order have health code adherence, the cold food vendors have a health time limit. If the machine stays above 40 degrees for more than a couple hours, it shuts down for a "Health time expired" error message. You cannot get the machine to work unless you open it and rotate it completely. Now, some people could cheat, open the door, rotate it, close it again, leaving the expired health time sandwiches in the machine. But I've had food poisoning. When I was a child, I watched both my parents suffer through a terrible bout of salmonella; the same disease that "Got" me the day we closed on the house. I wanted to die, I was so ill. I would never sell bad food, it's anathema to me. Never.

As Ron and I were throwing out the food, a Postal worker came by. "Why are you throwing them out?" We told him. "But they power wasn't out that long. Why throw them out?" We explained, because the health time expired, they aren't safe. He kept telling us we didn't need to throw the food away.

I picked up a sandwich and held it out to him. "Would you buy it and eat it?" He shook his head. "That's why!"

I'm delighted that woman saw me as ethical. She'll remember that the next time she buys a sandwich. She knows it's safe, because I won't tolerate anything else in my vending machines.

Ron went to Starbucks after work. I went out in the backyard. We have an iron "burglar bar" door over the sliding glass door. We only had one key, so yesterday I had it copied. I leave it locked unless I'm out in the yard. I went straight outside and got to work.

I had a blast, but half an hour into my adventure I was filthy. My arms were covered in mud up to my elbows, and my jeans were wet and muddy. I called Ron. He asked how I was doing. "I'm a grub! A happy little grub!" I could hear him smile.

And I was. It's really easy to get tenacious weeds out of the garden beds when you've had over 3 inches of rain in the last week. A moderate yank got up even the worst offenders. I'm so glad I went out and did the weeding! The small, wimpy weeds are going into compost, the big mean ones are getting thrown out. I can hardly wait to get out there tomorrow. I weeded half of bed 3, and all of bed 5. I did some layer gardening techniques on bed 5, first I did the gypsum (1 cup), then I applied 5 gallons of compost, well spread. 5 gallons shredded leaves (thank you ash tree!), and 5 gallons dry grass clippings. I didn't want to work the soil at all, it was sopping. At least now the microrganisms can get a good start on the compost and leaves. Until I get something better, the dead grass is my mulch. It looks "trashy" but it works.

Since the weather was so miserable this weekend, I also had a lot of fun with my graph paper, plotting out my plant placements. My little garden makes me so happy, I'm glad Lithium gave me back my garden, too.

Tomorrow is Ron's birthday. I'm going to go bake him a little cake.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I am so frustrated with this stupid, high-speed-going-to-make-your-internet better circus. First they were going to turn in on Jan 9, so I busted my butt working on the install. The "DSL" light kept flashing red, I got very frustrated, and I gave up. They said "Oh, it'll be on Wednesday." Ron told me to do the install Wednesday. I told him, no way, call the company first. "Oh, sorry, it's not on yet, it'll go on Saturday".

Saturday arrives. I'm here. I'm tired so I take a nap. I wake up from the nap, bring in the tomato and onions (they were getting shaded and it's going to be cold tonight), check the mail. My seeds from Southern Exposure are here! Mineral, Virginia. I got my Jericho lettuce, Jimmy Nardello Pepper (going to wait to start that rascal), and Tomatoes (Stupice and Peron Sprayless). I'm starting the Stupice tonight, and I'll plant it out in bed 2 with the Celebrity. I'll have 2 nice, early, and one guaranteed flavorful determinate tomatoes that don't mind a little chill.

No peppers for a while though. I have a pretty good amount of mesclun, romaine lettuce, Mizuna greens, a chard, and 9 collards (if it's not up, it's sprouting at this moment). I'll plant the others out when the early stuff bolts and have a nice Romaine lettuce mix. I have a red and green (Rosalita), plan to get "Outredgeous" - red of course, the Jericho (heat-tolerant), and the old-school Parris Island Cos.

I'd love to have a "cooked green" area with some Seven Top turnips, the collards, and something else that is leafy, green, cookable and doesn't mind the heat (Mizuna?). Ron wants me to "try" something with the DSL again. I'll do it.

It didn't work. I love my dialup.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Happy Friday

I did it. I woke up today with a totally normal, manageable mood. Oh, thank God. I will of course tell my doctor that I increased my Lithium. He may want to order a blood test to make sure I'm OK but I doubt he's going to yell at me.

It was an utterly cold and nasty day. Wet rain and 30's - when you're in Houston everyone hates it. You could say we're spoiled and you'd be right, but you wouldn't want to be here during July. It's a different kind of hell. Me, I'd rather feel like a steam table vegetable than some poor wet, frozen thing.

Ron had planned a trip to Sam's club, but he cancelled. I agreed. I didn't want to get a box of candy bars home in the wet, frozen, and windy weather.

Have you guessed by now I'm not impressed with the weather? Ugh! I could never make it in Minnesota or Maine, I think you are heroes if you live there. Frozen heroes.

Speaking of Heroes, my Johnny's package (ordered the day before yesterday) is here already! Wow! Here's the link: I plan to get that bright red romaine lettuce after I get paid or make a deposit, whichever comes first. Fun, fun fun.

Every time I've started seeds the last couple years, I've wished I had my Seacom PGR. When I had the No-sun balcony in California, the Seacom made the things I could

Mockingbird staring in the window at me...gone

The Seacom made the things I could grow pretty happy. So I love it. It's great for using on plants that are under stress or about to flower, fruit, whatever. I have plenty of Nitrogen in my soil (per test) and I use complete organic fertilizer (Epsoma and Fish Meal) whenever I plant a block, so the liquid antistress fertilizer is a great idea. I love it. I've been wanting it for transplants, just as they come up I could nourish them with some lovely Seacom.

I have small areas (only 80 square feet of beds), so I'm sure the biggest batch I'll make is 5 gallons or so. I made a couple of quarts and watered the outside plants (collards and onions in the ground, collards in the 8-pack, onion transplants in the bucket with some seacom - they loved it). I moistened all my planted Jiffy pellets with some Seacom, and I soaked some Jiffy pellets in the Seacom solution to plump them up. I planted a couple of the "Cutting Celery" from Johnny's in them. Anyway, it's 1.25 ml to 1 quart water. I got a baby medicine syringe and I use that for measuring, the best $2 I've spent in a long time.

When I came in from gardening, I spied a large (24 ounce) bottle of Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi on the counter. Yum! I remembered at the last minute that's my Seacom. Oops.

The ground is absolutely soaked and I can't do any digging. I can't add my soil amendments and stir it all around with my spading fork, add organic fertilizer, stir and flip it again, and then cover with mulch. Bummer. So, I was thinking. I need to plant my onion transplants, although they look pretty good just tied together. All the rain, and the Seacom, have kept the roots nice and moist. The leaves are 90-some percent green. But I want to plant them, while fertilizing and amending the soil at the same time.

I decided on this: I'm a big mulcher, so I pulled the weeds in a (1x1 foot) block. I scraped back the mulch and stirred up the topsoil a little bit, although it was nicely stirred up by the weed-pulling. I used 1 T each of my Epsoma, Fish Meal, and Greensand (I use 1 cup each per bed, the math works out pretty closely). I just realized I forgot to "do" the gypsum, also would have been 1 T. I poked holes in the soil, leaving about a 3 inch space on each side, and planted the onions. I just covered the roots and came up about 1/2 inch on each onion. When I amend the beds, I like to add 5 gallons of compost, shredded leaves, and dry brown stuff. I had a lot of dead grass that I mowed and bagged. We have 2 wonderful ash trees that contributed a good 20 gallons or so of dry shredded leaves. I prepared the compost 2 years ago and let it cook in a couple of large plastic storage bins. The compost is beautiful. I figured out 1 quart each would about work - onions are not very heavy feeders. I actually did one quart plus a couple handfuls each, mulching in layers on top of the soil. I finished the whole works off with a mulch of shredded t

The Mockingbird is back. I'm telling it it's a pretty baby, yes it is. Birds sure love my Red-tip Photina. I confine it to an area and let it grow. The branches are a nice safe haven for birds. I don't butcher it, just trim off the branches that intrude into the walkways. The birds is still there.

So, I finished the project (about 20 onions planted) with a mulch of more shredded dry stuff (mainly grass with a few leaves). I don't have the store-bought mulch yet but I'm sure the soil is happy. As soon as I got into the house, it began pouring. I'm glad I finished when I did!

The Mockingbird finally left. I'm wondering if it's one of the babies the cats brought home last year. I fed them with wetted down dry cat food (I had the birds in a bowl, by the computer, while I researched what to do with them). They seemed awfully hungry and they really seemed to enjoy it. I put them outside and Mom showed up and took over. I'm pretty sure at least one of them made it, and I like to think it just came for a visit. I wish I had some crickets or something to feed it.

Even though it isn't gardening weather at all, I got a lot done. I'm happy. On Sunday we're going to bring home some used coffee grounds from the vending machine.

Tomorrow, I want to plant some more squares in the new way. I'll remember the gypsum.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Beet People

I've been running a bit manic the last couple days; I told Ron I would try an experiment. I took an extra lithium last night (1 at dinner, 1 at bedtime, I think my levels get too low otherwise). I felt great and I was less manic today. That means I was about a 2 on 1-10 as opposed to a three. Not bad, but a little aggravating. I feel like someone has given me "Super energy vitamins" and "Talkalot" pills. Not bad, considering other manias I have known.

So today I was chatty with anyone who'd talk to me. We have a lot of nice people at work. Remember the microwave sagas? The Post Office went ahead and BOUGHT 6 microwaves, commercial microwaves, for our area, and at least another dozen for the other vendor. Wooow! That was a very nice surprise.

If we end up going with Chuck to get my soil amendments, I'll have had a lot of preperatory lifting. I moved 48 cases of Coke. I stacked 24 of them. I put away our old microwaves (heavy!), with a little help.

So, I've burned off a fair amount of energy on the sodas. If I'm manic, I love putting sodas away. It helps me focus. I've stocked my machines.

I'm chatting with Zelda and I mention my garden, and the radishes. People who love radishes are always surprised I want to give them away. I arranged to give her some radishes when they're ready. I've ordered a "radish mixture" with all types of radishes. God only knows what I'll grow. They'll be large and flavorful, that's for sure. They are great companion plants. So, I've got 3 people for radishes. I mentioned to Zelda that I'd love to grow beets (why? I don't know, but I've wanted to for years). She and her husband love beets. Another postal worker I'm friendly with walked by and said he loved beets too. Good, good, good. I thought it was sad when Zelda offered to pay me. I don't want money. It makes me happy to grow them, you can only top that by going "Oh, how tasty! The ___ you gave me yesterday made a delicious dinner!" Ha, I'll tell her "Lie and tell me they were good".

So Yay! I have "Beet People" who will take the beets. I cannot STAND beets. UGH. But I'd love to grow them. I got some "Beet Mix" from Bountiful Gardens. I like growing an assortment of root veggies.

Tonight, if things work out, I'll be getting soil amendments with Chuck. Oh, I'm so excited.

I went to Walmart today to see if they had the "Landscaper Mix" yet. They don't. If it works out, I'll go to Home Depot tonight. While I was at Wal-mart, I bought 2 types of Corn: Early and Often (64 days) and Early Sunglow (63 days). I also got some Kentucky Wonder beans. I'll grow them up the corn. I plan to plant a block "Square Foot Garden" style, spacing 1 foot apart. Total of 16 plants in a 4x4 foot block. I've got a hankering to grow corn this year. I'm well aware that the organic gardener is going to deal with tagalong corn borers. You shuck the corn, go eeew, pull out the bug, and cook the ear of corn. I don't want to dust the corn ear with pesticide every 3 days up to harvest, like one book advises. Yuck. I'd rather face a corn ear borer.

That's one reason I'm getting the early corn. It fares a lot better when it comes to the bugs. At any rate, it'll be a fun adventure.

I found some red-edged "Rosalita" romaine lettuce. It looks tasty. I want a variety of things, including various colored romaine lettuces. I also plan to get some "Outredgeous" - the whole plant is bright red, when I get paid.

Oh, and giant, purple, radishes, ready in a month after sowing. I love purple, and they'll be fun to show off as I'm giving them away.

I'm glad I bought my onion transplants when I did. The ones at the store are looking miserable.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No-regrets policy in my garden

I woke up at 5 AM. The Lithium makes sure of that, I always need to run to the bathroom. NOT complaining, just stating a fact. I love my pills. I rolled over in bed and looked at my tomato plant. I have to say, last night the weather was miserable, and that plant looked absolutely smug. "Look at me" I could hear it saying "I'm spoiled and pampered. I get my own light source, window, deluxe 8-inch pot filled with organic potting soil (I got premixed at the store, NOT cheap but worth it), and I know Heather loves me!" (the last part is sing-songy)

I'm always anthropomorphizing (I think I spelled it right), giving human emotions to plants and such, but I have to say, it looks pampered. It rained tonight and today, so no tilling the garden beds (I use hand tools, and it makes a fantastic butt workout). All my garden books agree so I won't do it. I just saw a bluejay fly by. Ron and find it ironic that the prettier birds like bluejays are the most raucous sounding. Something like a Mockingbird (which I love, even when they eat my cherry tomatoes) is just a drab little gray thing. God's got a sense of humor.

Since I can't work in the yard (to me work implies dig up garden beds, because that's what I need to do

The bluejay is back again. Funny. He looked right in the window at me as he sat on the fence just a few feet from my window. I said Hi, he flew off. If I can feed them without setting up a slaughterground for the cats, I'm going to do it. My cats love to hunt. They tend to bring me live birds, generally mockingbirds which can be amazingly stupid. I wouldn't eat bugs out of a lawn if I knew a cat was watching me.

So, I need to work in the garden beds, so that's my "work". In a few months, "work in the garden" will mean bug checks, picking stuff that's ready, and watering, watering, watering. That's how I work.

I really investigated rhubarb. I thought, this is going to be one of those plants I'll always wonder about. "I wish I had grown a rhubarb." With my life, and the fact that I lost my mother, grandmother and nearly my husband several times in 2003. That when my dad went for his treadmill stress test back in 1997 they took him right off the treadmill and put him in the Cardiac ICU (the bypass worked and he's OK now), has given me a great appreciation for life.

See, the night before my husband's accident I went to work with him. We were working 12-16 hours a day, with one day off a week, trying to make the vending and deli business work. We threw thousands of dollars a month into the deli and still ended up in the red. It was awful, and because he was with the Federal Blind Vendors program (I like Dad's moniker - The blind man stand), we couldn't close it without approval. We couldn't get approval. We could either get out of the program and both be unemployed (I had a rocky job history before I began my love affair with Lithium), or suck it up and pray.

We sucked it up and prayed. Ron became very bitter and frustrated. I was down to my last nerve and it was fraying fast. When I was manic I started things like nightly dinner specials, a good food cost and a home-cooked type meal (we just did sandwiches). Spaghetti, chicken noodle soup from scratch, taco night, I did it all on one hot plate, 2 microwaves, and one steam table. Probably illegal, but a big hit. That helped, we actually broke even one month.

So, our marriage was highly strained. We were snapping at each other. He snapped at me over something stupid and I was nearly reduced to tears. "I'm killing myself here and he doesn't appreciate what I'm doing, he always wants more" I thought as I fought back tears. He came back and apologized. I had a choice. I could forgive him, or not.

I wanted to smack him, and I guess he could feel lit. He turned around "Go ahead, hit me a few times in my back, I know I deserve it!" I thumped him a few times, forgave him, and we hugged.

12 hours later someone came and told me he'd been run over by a truck. Boy, was I glad I forgave him. He was comatose for weeks, weeks that would have eaten at me "I didn't forgive him". Boy, was I glad I forgave him. After that, I adopted a "No regrets" policy of basically not leaving anything undone. It's worked great.

How does that apply in my garden? Well, if I don't like something, I won't grow it. Beets for instance. I can't stand the taste of beets. I might grow them if I knew a beet-lover who'd enjoy some good organic beets. I hate radishes but they are good garden "bouncers" - getting rid of the undesirable bugs. Apparently, the bugs hate radishes too. They're really good around squash. I didn't have a lick of trouble with squash bugs until I pulled the radishes I had next to them. When the radishes were gone, the bugs showed up. This year, my no-regrets with radishes: I ordered a mixture of seeds, all good. I also plan to get the purple radishes. I have two radish people, a guy at work, and my uncle. Look out!

I adore marigolds. Last time, for some idiot reason, I only had a half dozen or so in my garden. I plan to have at least a couple dozen this year. I love them, they're cheerful, they make me happy, I like the smell, and they're good "bouncers" too. I've got 9 jiffy pellets allocated for marigolds. I'm partial to Safari and mixtures.

The rhubarb? Well, our hot summers will probably rot it, I've found. If you are a Houston gardener with rhubarb, please let me know how it went, but for now it's a no.

I love growing romaine lettuce. I love the crispness when I'm eating it, and I love a good chopped salad. I plan to grow at least 3-4 varieties. Johnny's selected seeds even has a red romaine, how cool is that? I got some Jericho from another company, but I already mentioned that. Romaine Yes, other lettuce NO. I feel like a freak admitting it. What's wrong with me? Why don't I like leaf lettuce, or butterheads? One reason is the constant watering once it gets above 80. I will coddle a tomato, but I expect the lettuce to be a little less needy. Romaine is pretty undemanding. Other than that, I just prefer Romaine in a salad.

I want to grow New Zealand spinach. I have heard wonderful things about it during the summer. It's easy and undemanding, and I believe is related to the carpetweed family. I like having salads in the summer. Undemanding greens. Sounds like a winner.

I also want to grow some Malabar spinach, it actually grows to 6 feet long. I can grow it on the netting that I've strung between two poles. It performs like the NZ spinach, very productive during the hell days of summer.

From what I've read, the "Georgia" Collards I got (I didn't know it was a 9-pack! AAAAH!) perform equally well all year round, hot or cold, they keep on producing. I want "easy". They have a lot of nutrients and I like quickly steamed greens.

Winner winner. With tomatoes, I went with a balance:
Celebrity is my early tomato. That's the one I'm coddling in the pot. I've grown it before and it did well enough to merit a return.
Stupice, everyone raves about the flavor and it's early, about 2 months. I want a good flavor tomato. The smallish fruits are a plus with me.
Black Krim is very flavorful, a large slicer type.
Evergreen is my wild card. It's green, even when ripe, and an old variety. Now you know as much as I do.
Tropic is resistant to just about every tomato disease. That is my "no matter what" disease-proofer. NO one is talking about an excellent flavor, but if it's a tomato when everything else is dead I'll be happy. It does better in the heat, too.
Peron sprayless is resistant to bugs. I have problems with leaf-footed bugs (HATE THEM!) sucking all the life out of my tomatoes. If I have problems with the leaf-footed-bastards at least I'll have one tomato.
Some kind of cherry. What, I have no idea. I don't want it to crack, and it should have some flavor and like the heat. I'm open to suggestions.

7 tomatoes, that's not even two in each garden bed. That ought to keep me and Ron happy.

I grew white cherry tomatoes in 2005, in large pots. They were so productive, and so bland! Same with the pear tomatoes. I might grow some just for giving away, but I'm pretty indifferent. Black cherry tomatoes were fantastic, until the leaf-footed-bastards got them.

Hey, I've got my Safer Insecticidal soap and I'll be getting a new hand sprayer. One thing I want to get pretty soon is some seaweed spray. That's really good when your plants are a little depressed. It perks them right up.

I'm embarrased to admit I had a lot of trouble with squash my first time around. The first garden bed went great until I pulled up the radishes. I had only gotten about a half dozen (white patty pan) squashes when the bugs got it. AAAAH! The White patty pan squashes were very good and I hate squash. I tried to grow an "Acorn" winter squash (the seed packet was 10 cents, I was manic), even though I don't like winter squash. It was too shaded (I didn't think it would extend over the garden bed, until I went out one morning and saw it). The poor thing sprouted half a dozen puny leaves and died. If I can find a good "summer squash mixture" I might grow one or two (no more) plants. I'd like to have enough to give away, without people hating me.

I'm still toying with the idea of a little bit of corn. Maybe....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I started getting manic about a week ago. It's January, I'm manic for gardening. The frosts have killed off all the weeds in "Heatherworld" (our name for my garden area). I went out there and started clearing. Hey, this isn't that bad. I got most of it finished in about 4 hours, and I had a lot of great, shredded dry stuff for soil amending, mulch, and/or compost. I should mention that I've always been an organic gardener. I don't see the point of putting chemicals on things you grow. If you want pesticide, fungicide, and synthetic fertilizer in your food, go to the grocery store. I try to grow things that work in my zone (allegedly it's zone 8 but it acts more like zone 9 every winter).

For instance, after April, you can forget the leaf lettuce. It's not happening. The high heat and humidity are going to make the plants miserable. Lettuce likes days like today, in the low 60's with a drizzle. I plant Romaine lettuce, specifically "Jericho" which was bred in the Middle East. You know it's used to some hot and miserable weather. Tomatoes do great from about March to late June, then again from August to frost date (generally sometime in mid-December). Peppers do great, but they won't fruit above 90 degrees. Don't hold it against them, you wouldn't want to work out there either. Just wait and you'll get your peppers when it gets a liiiitttle cooler.

I'm back. I've got dirt under my fingernails, garden plans in my head, a tomato in the windowsill (next to a desk lamp with compact flourescent bulb), and onions and collards (from what I've heard, Collards are the wonder green, they can take it from freezing all the way to high 90's and keep producing. I've got to try that!) out in Garden bed 4.

I still have about 70 more onion transplants to put to bed. They seem OK, though. In 2006, I planted onion transplants in April. They did pretty well considering, but I always wondered how big the onions would have gotten if I could have planted them in January (!!!). This year, I find out.

I find myself funny when I go out to work in the yard. If I have any kind of heavy digging planned, I always wear jeans, garden boots, t-shirt, and gloves. My clothing is immaculate and I've got on my heavy leather gloves. Fast forward an hour. I'm sweating, my coat's on the ground, my gloves are off somewhere near the coat, and I'm up to my wrists in the soil. I'm never happier.

My big question of the day. Do I want a Rhubarb?

Gardens I've had

I was sitting there on the title box, wondering what to title this blog entry. I thought of the "Chicken Soup" type titles "Rediscovering myself, and my garden" and other sappy crap. Then I thought of the dry toast titles like "gardening again".

Here's the backstory. I grew up in Northern Virginia, zone 6. We had a huge yard with dozens of beautiful shrubs and trees. One year, we had a fantastic vegetable garden that set the bar for my garden expectations. We also had a monster compost pile. Jumping in the compost pile used to be a fun activity (for everyone but me, the jumping part terrified me). When we moved to CA, Mom always had a huge flower garden with perennials, annuals, and bulbs. I used to talk to her as she'd work in the yard.

In Januaries, I get manic for gardening. At my first place in CA, the balcony didn't get any light at all. I could barely eke out a few sugar snap peas. I yearned to grow roses and succulent vegetables. It didn't happen - not for 7 years.

When we moved to Texas, the weather was perfect, the sun was abundant, and I ached to get planting. Lease restrictions said "NO PLANTS" outside. It made sense, poorly tended container plants can really make the place look bad. I looked around for a community garden but they all involved multiple bus rides and hours of transit.

At my third place, I lived in a third floor apartment with a balcony. No restrictions (we had multiple drug dealers in the complex), and I had wonderful southern exposure (lots of sun). I'd buy bags of potting soil and 15 inch square pots, and lug it up all three flights of stairs. I'd plant my treasures, hand-carry water to them, position them where they'd get the best light, mulch them, and basically spoil them rotten. I even made small amounts of compost in a bucket. My "Marie Pavie" rosebush got so huge I had to give it to my father in law. He planted it in his garden and it's doing great. I had a "thing" with giving him a different fragrant rose every year (Iceberg, Don Juan, Cramosi Superior), until they got to be a little much for him. He loved them. I didn't get quite enough light for tomatoes, curse them. I still had a lot of fun, until my (?!?) neighbor downstairs screamed at my husband one night. He (the neighbor) liked to wash out his underwear in the bathtub and hang them over the balcony railing to dry. Every day. I didn't know that and how was I supposed to deal with it? I was watering my plants, and the runoff would "mess up his drawers".

He was not supposed to hang laundry on the railing, but the management wasn't interested in enforcing violations as long as you paid the rent every month (I'll remind you of the drug dealers here). One night, in a fit of rage, he came up the stairs and ripped all the leaves of my elephant ears. We were almost at the end of our lease by this point, so I began watering the balcony plants (inaccessible to the neighbor) with fish emulsion fertilizer. It has an incredibly pungent, rotten fish aroma. I felt avenged.

We moved to place #4. It was a decent duplex in a marginal neighborhood. I had enough sunlight and outside space to improve on my container garden. I mainly had roses and some annuals. One of my roses outside now (Reine de Violettes - a wonderful fragrant, purple, indesctructable rose) is actually one I had growing outside in a pot for years before I planted it in the ground. The neighbors were poor respecters of property and some of the neighbor kids were pushy and rude. They used to throw rocks at my cats, so I went with plants that could defend themselves from assault (ie roses). If a nice kid (non-rock-thrower at my cats) admired a rose, I would give it to them.

Then someone there poisoned one of my cats the day we moved into our house. To backtrack a bit, when we looked at the house I spent a fair amount of time (about half of the tour) outside in the yard. I loved the large (4000 square foot), sunny yard. Sold! The "garden tub" and the abundance of natural sunlight in the home were the clinchers. We already knew the neighborhood was great because we'd been seriously interested in another house in the subdivision.

I didn't plant anything (other than my purple rose) for about a year. In 2005 I started growing vegetables in containers. I also started a monster compost pile. Let me tell you, you can grow fantastic cucumbers (lemon, marketmore, and straight 8), tomatoes (the red pear, yellow pear, and Matt's wild cherry were the tomato all-stars). I grew a watermelon (sugar baby) and a canteloupe (Hale's best). The only problem, all those pots had to be watered, every day. God help you if you miss a day, in Houston Texas, watering a container vegetable. I liked the rainy days the best, God would give me the day off. I collected some soil and mailed it off for a soil test.

I used these guys . They're great. My soil came back with "unusually high organic content" for unimproved soil. I found out why about a year later, when a neighbor told me "Oh, yeah, the first people who had that house raised pit bulls out back. They used the whole back yard for a dog run." Dog manure, well aged for 5 years, makes excellent soil improver. Aged years, I repeat. I found out my soil was basically fantastic and all it needed was a little calcium, magnesium, and potassium (easily remedied). I dug the compost into the garden beds I'd prepared (I have five beds, each 4x4 feet).

In 2006, I started a well planted and thought out garden. I had a collection of peppers, tomatoes, onions, and salad veggies. I had an incredible harvest up until June... when I got depressed. It was hideous. I was plagued with constant thoughts of suicide and had a hard time getting up the energy to shower. The garden went to hell. Last year, I wasn't much better, but the garden was a lot worse. My symptoms were all over the map, I couldn't think, much less get up the energy to tackle the major clean up I had on my hands.

Which takes me to my next entry.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The soynuts are delicious!

Oh, I opened them. The butterscotch flavor is soooo goood. Ron is eating himself sick on cheddar jalapeno. Good call. I had to chase the UPS deliveryman and give him some driver candy.

Don't worry. I'm being "upgraded" to broadband (against my will, shocking isn't it? That I want dialup?) in half an hour. I'm consenting because it will save my husband money. He also likes the idea of not picking up the phone and hearing the screech of the modem yelling at him to hang up, you monster! You hung Heather up! Again!

We're reminiscing about all the fun we've had with dialup and how exciting it was when I got up to 28K.

Anyway, I'm tired, need a shower, and need to take my pills. If I don't post, I'm OK, just pissed at Ron for jacking with my internet.

Ron's chortling. He can get an IPOD now. I say, get an MP3 player and save the money you would have spent on the name brand. Save it to buy tunes. We'll see.

Wish me luck.

Out for delivery - the soynuts are coming!

I should be getting my flavored soynuts in the next couple hours. Obviously, I'm excited. Hey, they're healthy, great tasting, crunchy, and they won't give me migraines. I can't beat that.

I just told Ron I'm still a little manic, so I'm going to use my powers for good tomorrow and work on cleaning up the backyard. I might space-bag some of those "don't fit" clothes while I'm at it. Greg the handyman is coming out in a few days. Long story short, no more wasps in the garage, I will be able to use the garage without fear. We have to prop the door open slightly so the cats can get in and out of their cat door. Greg's going to put a cat door into the garage door, so the door can stay down. Yeeehaw.

This isn't a bad mania. Maybe a 2 on a 1-10. I don't have any incredible urges to call anyone up and yak forever, I don't want to buy everything in the world, I just tried a few new driver candies at Walmart. Peanut butter kisses. Don't they sound yummy? The Cherry cordial ones were a huge hit, too, so I wanted to get more of them. Then there was some kind of nutty chocolate assortment... when I spoil my drivers I spoil the drivers. I can't eat chocolate or nuts but they can and they might as well eat some good stuff.

I just want to clean and organize (I am a naturally messy person). This is a good mania.

I finally got candy for the vending machines today and stocked it. Now I don't feel like the machines are peeping at me for food every time I walk by them. Ron's been teasing me by making peeping bird sounds at random moments - a guaranteed donkey-bray, thigh-slapping laugh attack for me. It always alarms him slightly when I really laugh, but he likes it.

We had an unusual ride to work today. Our driver was a conspiracy theorist. The most alarming thing for me wasn't the fact that I was trusting mine and my husband's safety to her, but that when I told someone in the OFFICE her theories the office worker agreed! Ay yi yi. I give up. Everyone in my world needs to take my antipsychotics.

I sold some loose change to Ron yesterday ($50!!!) and bought some organic spices (oregano, cumin, etc.), soda, and driver candy. Ron just tested the "new" candies I got (one small piece of each) and made lots of enjoying the candy noises. He said they're perfect. I want to know the candy I'm sharing is delicious.

I am really impressed with Walmart. Organic no-sugar-added soymilk, organic soy yogurt? It was delicious and I ate the strawberry, which I normally hate. It was decadent, creamy, and delicious with no chance for hating myself in the morning. Wow, I am really impressed. They also had lots of organic spices at a very competitive price. All their stuff is very well priced. I am always delighted to shop at Walmart.

I took some driver candy to the pharmacy when I picked up my prescriptions. Yay! They found some more phenergan in the computer. Now I have a dozen to hold me through my next migraines. I love the Walmart Pharmacy, they know me by sight and they're incredibly kind and professional. I don't think I would be that nice to someone taking my medications, but that just shows they're a lot better people than I am.

That's it for today. I hope you have a good one!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Manic for soynuts

I want my brain to be a rowboat on a nice, placid lake. Paddle, paddle... nice and dull. Instead, God issued me a surfboard labeled "bipolar".

Other than my accident "Issues" which come up this time every year, I've been a little manic. I'm not talking my head off. I have $70 two weeks after I got paid, and I only want to buy a few things at Walmart. Most of what I want to get is driver candy (always a huge hit). I'm not irritable, paranoid, or very delusional. Off and on, I think I hear a phone ringing. I go "Huh? Huh?" and try to figure out if it's in my head or not, figure out it's in my head, sigh, and get on with my life. If it were any worse I'd call my doctor.

I've just got this intense fascination with soybeans. I want to buy them in all shapes and forms. Soy milk powder, soy grits, soy nuts, and whole soybeans. I did buy the first 3 online because I want to try them out anyway. My food choices are getting limited these days. I'm just itching to buy a big sack of black soybeans. Then I want to smack my head against a wall and go Why God? Why? Why must I have this illness?

It isn't that bad these days. I've just got soymania. I'm sure the soybean farmers are ecstatic. The internet health food stores appreciate my business, my order is being processed. ;-P

I do want to kick myself in the head a few times and get this soymania out of my head. It's not bad, I'm grateful for my health, but God, I wish my brain were a nice boring rowboat instead of a surfboard!

The anniversary I'd rather not celebrate

I have a lot in my life that I'm grateful for: the fact that the Postal Workers are wearing shorts because we've had highs in the high 70's, the fact that I have a job I truly love, even when I'm taking out the dumpster, a husband who values and respects me, and the kind of life where I can take a nap every day if I need to (I do).

Yesterday was the 5-year anniversary of Ron's accident. An exhausted and distracted postal worker (he worked "Tour one" or the night shift) ran a red light while my blind husband was crossing the street on foot. Ron traveled all over the country by himself, just the white cane. He went everywhere and had a great time. He even made it home drunk one night by himself (the development director bought him a few drinks at a Christmas party). I knew it wasn't Ron's fault. The driver saw Ron at the last second and swerved to avoid him, but it was too late. Ron was dragged at least a couple hundred feet, he was knocked out of his shoes by the impact. He had multiple fractures and required emergency open-heart surgery to repair a busted subclavian artery - he needed a graft. He sustained a terrible head injury with lasting, permanent, damage. Ron still can't use his right side properly. He can walk, but it's ugly, and he can't go far. His right hand and arm don't really work at all. I want to make a very sarcastic and biting comment but I won't, because it would be hurtful to my husband if he heard of it. Needless to say, we're BOTH affected. He has memory and impulse control problems, not bad but annoying at times.

It was months before he had both feet squarely in reality. If I hadn't had delusions for most of my life, I would have run like hell because he had lots of them. He thought we lived in the Home Depot. He thought the hospital was a restaurant. He thought the nurses left him outside in a cab. He thought we were spies, trying to infiltrate a drug cartel. He thought he was hiding in a ladies' bathroom from Iraqis. My favorite? The time I went home (I slept in a chair because he'd pitch a fit if I wasn't there) and instructed the nurses to tell him "I went home". No. When Ron woke up she told him "Your wife is gone." Ron thought I was gone, dead, and he was inconsolable 'till I returned. He thought I had died and left him in a nursing home run by "Mexicans". The nurses, apparently, had a good gossip En Espanol right outside his door. When I'd tell people about it, or Ron did, they'd just laugh and say "Oh, they've got him on some potent medication." No, they didn't, but other people don't want to hear that. They want to blame "medication" and run like hell. Oh, it made me so angry.

Speaking of things that made me angry, let's get to Officer Barfield who investigaged the accident. He took Ron's backpack from the paramedics (he had the papers from the bag). He opened it up and saw Ron had about $2000 in it. We couldn't afford a business checking account, so Ron paid our deliveryman cash. We also had to pay the rent and other bills, so Ron was about to deposit the other thousand after work. Anyway, I assume the bad cop opened the bag, and saw the money. It was mostly small bills, and we lived in a drug-infested neighborhood. He assumed Ron was a drug dealer and stole the money. Then, to make matters worse, this thing came to the hospital the day after the accident and told me it was my fault for letting a blind man out of the house by himself. Oh, great, blame the grieving wife! Oh, that still smokes my bacon. It's a good thing I was exhausted when he said that because I would have hurt him, badly.

Manic-depressive and unmedicated, I got the priviledge of caring for my husband as he recovered. He was loving and sweet (99% of the time). I discovered that most people are wonderful, caring individuals who'd love to help you out. One guy in particular collected books for me. We didn't have a TV and Ron slept a lot. Sometimes the little things make a huge difference. It did for me. Ron says I get all the credit for his recovery.

Ron recovered, somewhat. I knew from the start that a coma lasting more than 1 week would probably leave lasting, permanent damage. I was glad it was only physical. We got the soul-sucking money pit of a deli closed, eventually (they sent Ron back to work in a wheelchair to run the deli???). We bought a house in a safe, non-druggie neighborhood where they don't throw rocks at my cat. Or poison them.

We have safe, mostly reliable transportation now. Metrolift. Two healthy loving cats. I've been diagnosed and medicated. Life, overall, is good.

But I do get a little bitter and resentful on the anniversary.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The cow bites back

Lactose intolerance can trigger migraines, a fact I've learned just this last month. No milk products at all. I thought I was "OK" with yogurt, when we went to Whole Foods I got 2 quart tubs of delicious cream-top plain yogurt. I ate about 3 servings on Saturday.

Sunday, I had a killer migraine. The only "new" food was the yogurt; not to mention the instant milk migraine I had about a month ago. We've also got a big drop in barometric pressure and it's about a week until my period, all conspire to create a pretty miserable migraine.

I don't really get scared when I get a migraine. The only thing that scares me is the fact that I can't take my Lithium due to the nausea and vomiting. As migraines go, this last one was a solid 6.5 to 7 on a 1-10 (10 worst) migraine scale. I doubt anything will beat the migraine I had with neck pain and a sinus infection about 10 years ago. I had to get a spinal tap on that one.

I don't like to whine. I was somewhat functional today (I had a good nap when I got home), able to go to work and receive 3 deliveries. That's about all I could do but Ron wasn't stuck. Someone I met today mentioned a bad headache and I was happy to share my Tylenol.

Boy, my drivers sure love their candy. It really warms my heart to see their eager reactions. I will never stop giving them away.

Ron signed me up for high speed internet. It'll cost him less money, so I said yes. I hate change when it comes to my computer, but I don't want to be like that boss I had back in 200o, using a program from 1994. Ugh. It was incredibly inefficient and obsolete.

My soynuts ought to be here Wednesday (thank God they aren't a trigger!). I'm really excited to get them. I'm fairly limited in my snacking these days.

It looks like all dairy will be out now. No cheesecake or pizza either, probably. Waaaah!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The perfect snack

I told Ron I wanted to take a trip to Whole Foods today, and Ron made it happen. I hate asking him to come with me because it's a long ride, it's never a straight trip, and odds are high we'll end up like sardines in the back of a minivan. It's a lot to ask, but Ron said he'd like some Cajun Mix.

I had a few things on my list. Organic soy stuff (flour, soy grits, and beans); wheat germ, organic molasses, the usual "health nut" goodies. Whole Foods doesn't have soy grits. They don't have wheat germ (in the bulk bins), and they don't have organic molasses. I was pretty disappointed. I'd budgeted $40 for the trip and I only spent $30. I got some lentils, soy beans, organic soy flour, and the no-aluminum baking powder. My brain suffers enough, it doesn't need aluminum poisoning on top of everything else (typed as I'm drinking out of an aluminum soda can).

I'm not too happy, then Ron tells me Metrolift is going to be half an hour late. "You should get yourself some kind of dry mix." He said as he muched on his Cajun mix/rice cracker mix (he likes to combine the two). I figured, it's not a bad idea, and went back into the store. I passed the soy nuts. Salted. Organic. Hm.

I've been seeking the perfect snack for a while. It should be portable, non-perishable, high-protein, neat, nutritious, sugar-chocolate-nut free and tasty. Without MSG. Good luck, huh? Ha!

I loaded up on a couple of pounds. The last time I tried them, I wasn't impressed, but back then I could eat nuts, chocolate, and MSG. My choices are somewhat limited these days. I also got some carob powder. When I'm having fits, wanting chocolate, I can whip something up with the powder. It doesn't taste like chocolate but they're related. I like the flavor.

I paid up and went outside to wait with Ron. I opened up my bag. I ate a few soy nuts. "Hey, these are good." I got a handful. I munched happily until Metrolift arrived. When we got home, I put some in a plastic bowl with a screw-on lid. Now they're completely portable. They won't come "open" in transit, they'll keep for months, although I doubt they'll live that long. I found them very tasty.

Since Whole Foods didn't have some of the items I was looking for, I decided to get the rest of my items online. I found great stuff at excellent prices, but $20 shipping for $12 worth of merchandise seemed like a really BAD deal. I wanted to get "something" healthy and fun, so just for fun I froogled "soy nuts".

I found Yummy, delicious flavors for only $4 a pound! Reasonable shipping! Ron liked my plain, salted soy nuts so I ordered him some fun stuff like BBQ and Jalapeno-cheddar. It will keep him out of my Ranch and Garlic/onion. Mmmm. It'll be so nice to have a healthy thing like soynuts in my backpack. I tend to have hypoglycemia from the Risperdal (which, curses, has gone up to $140 a month with no generic in sight), so it's a good idea to have a high-protein snack in my bag. When I get wobbly, I can take them out and munch. They are very tidy eating, and I always have a soda so I won't get thirsty.

Found: the perfect snack.

A visit with the parents

So, my Dad's in town.  Along with my adoptive Mom.  Say what you will, she did raise me.  I slept pretty well last night - no noise.  ...