The time I got someone fired

I have no idea what triggered this memory for me today. Perhaps it’s because it was around this time 15 years ago that my husband and I went on a Baltic cruise (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Poland, and Russia). Our time living abroad was coming to a close, and this was one of our last major excursions — and our first (and only) cruise.

At the time, I was a travel blogger. I was doing it before it was cool. That blog led to some paid work writing travel articles and guides (super fun and I miss doing it). Even so, I don’t think I had a large readership. I mostly blogged for friends and family so they could keep up with what we were doing.

But, you just never know who is reading, as I discovered a month or so later.

As we were at sea one night, we decided to take in some entertainment. It was … underwhelming, shall we say? Especially one of the acts performing that night. (I’m deliberately not mentioning the name and type of act here. You’ll see why in a minute.) I mentioned this on my travel blog. And I mentioned this act by name. And I think I used the term “boring” without going into much detail because I was more focused on writing about our shore excursions.

The person behind this act apparently got fired from the cruise line because of what I said on my blog that I didn’t think anyone was reading. How do I know? He emailed me.

This is one of the hazards of putting things out there for public consumption. For me, to have this person contact me out of the blue to claim that my blog resulted in his termination — it was awkward and I felt obligated to update my post to appease him. But in general, anyone who puts themselves out there opens themselves up to criticism, whether they perform on a cruise ship or post a public-facing blog.

It’s 15 years later, and I’m still skeptical that it was truly what I said that caused this. I’m just one person out of 2,000+ on that ship. I wasn’t an influencer (that term didn’t even exist then). I didn’t have 100 followers of any kind, let alone thousands.

Still, this crosses my mind sometimes. Especially since social media has suggested on occasion that I connect with him. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Gotta love social media. Someone emails you once or twice, and years later, social media thinks you should be friends.

In case you’re wondering, his career is doing just fine. (Or it was, last time I checked. Because I was curious.) And I have this anecdote I can tell people because it is a weird story. And who doesn’t love weird stories?

Drink in the wild air

It’s still very much summer, but I can see that fall is around the corner just by the changes in our yard. I am already harvesting ornamental gourds, for one thing. I am growing those specifically for fall décor.

I broke in my dehydrator by drying some cherry tomatoes. It took FOREVER (more than 24 hours), but it takes very little effort. Just rinse the tomatoes, cut in half, place them skin side down in the dehydrator, set at 135 degrees, and leave them alone. I checked on them after about 13 hours or so and then every few hours after that until they were all dehydrated.

Can’t wait to try these and see how they compare with sundried tomatoes. I’m probably going to do more because the cherry tomato plant is producing a lot.

Some recent photos from around the farm:

We finally burned the brush pile today!

S’mores anyone?

I’ve been watching the cardinal nest outside our living room window, and I’m seeing both Mom and Dad do feedings, but I still haven’t seen the babies. Hoping to get a peek at the babies soon.

Our new addition

“For never was a story of less woe than this of Karyn and her Broomeo.”*

Shakespeare, probably

On Saturday, my husband and I were watching a video on YouTube of curious otters reacting to a Roomba. I mentioned how I’ve longed for a Roomba for years, though I don’t think this was exactly news. I’ve said this a few times before.

Before the video was even over, he announced that a Roomba would be delivered on Monday.

Of course, I had to think of a name. There are many clever ones out there. You can Google lists of popular Roomba names. Ever the Shakespeare scholar, I wanted the name to be inspired by one of his plays. Of course, I mentioned this on Facebook — at the time, I was leaning toward Cobweb (a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But a friend (who has a Roomba named Mrs. Hughes, of Downton Abbey fame) started making puns of Romeo & Juliet quotes, and Broomeo emerged the clear winner.

Of course, Broomeo wasn’t delivered until 7 pm last night. A bit late to test it out, but we at least set it up and let it charge overnight.

So shiny!

This morning, I let it go around 6:45 or so. It took two trips around the house (with the exception of the living room at the back of the house because it is down one step, and Broomeo doesn’t do stairs — he does balconies … *ba dum tss*). It ran for about 90 minutes, then went back to its charging station. I thought it was done. But about 10 minutes later, it started running again.

I should note that Blitz hates vacuum cleaners and tries to kill them. So we had a very real concern that he would try to destroy Broomeo. While it was running this morning, we had him gated off in the living room.

When Broomeo started running a third time, I stopped it and sent it back to the charger because I needed to go out and work in the garden. I set it to only run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 8 am. So imagine my surprise when I came in from gardening at 10:30 and it was running. Again. And the dog gate wasn’t up, so Blitz had full access to the house … and Broomeo.

“Oh, Broomeo, Broomeo … wherefore art thou, Broomeo?”

And where was Blitz, for that matter?

Lucky for us, he chose to ignore it. Broomeo was in the hallway, and Blitz was sprawled out on the living room floor, looking bored. Whew.


(* With sincere apologies to Shakespeare, and to you, dear reader, for these puns.)

Summer Harvest

We’ve been here for nearly 7 months now — more than half a year — and while I’ve learned so much already, there is still much more to learn. Meanwhile, we are discussing what projects we need to do once growing season winds down.

My main focus right now is the summer harvest. I have been picking some berries here and there for a while now, but they are now starting to peak. I went out yesterday after 3 days of heavy rain, and the blackberry bush was bursting with ripe berries. There are some black raspberries mixed in here, too.

This is about three breakfasts’ worth, and most of it went into the freezer. (The rest went with my yogurt and granola this morning.)

I don’t even know if I’m going to end up making jam. I eat berries nearly every day, and I would like a rather large stash for the freezer. (Buying frozen berries at the store is expensive.)

This morning, I harvested the potatoes and carrots. I didn’t get nearly as many potatoes as I expected, but that’s fine. It’s a manageable amount for a household of two, and it just means I won’t have to parboil and shred and freeze the potatoes for hash browns — that was my plan if I had a huge amount. (And I wasn’t relishing the labor involved, to be honest.)

The carrots were very small, and that’s because they got a bit crowded. Other things started sprouting up in the same raised bed that I had a difficult time controlling. But I have enough carrots to roast for one side dish, and I have more seeds so I can get in one more crop (if I can keep the weeds under control this time).

The cherry tomatoes are coming along, but the Cherokee Purple tomatoes don’t look so great. The plant looks healthy enough. It’s just not producing a lot of tomatoes, and they all look small and deformed. Though I don’t really care so much about that, so long as they’re edible.

Nothing beats a fresh tomato and cheese sandwich for a summer lunch (on good bread with grainy or Dijon mustard). It’s just that I grew Cherokee Purples a few years ago, and they were large and beautiful, and the plant was extremely productive.

I am finding volunteer tomato plants everywhere now — either grape or cherry tomatoes, I think — though few of them are actually producing any tomatoes. I’ll keep them and see what happens. I am hoping to get enough cherry tomatoes at one time to dehydrate them since I love dried tomatoes, too. But I never seem to get more than 2 or 3 to ripen at the same time.

I will be very surprised if we have any apples this year. Some are rotting and falling off the trees already. The rest are spotted and misshapen. I have yet to see one that looks edible. (At least to humans … the deer might like them.) These trees might be nearing the end of their natural lifespan, or they might be plagued with disease and/or fungus.

Regardless, I have decided to remove them all this fall. At least 2 of them are half dead already. I’m not sure I want to deal with fruit trees. We’ll still have some: cherry, peach, mulberry, pear — but the mulberry was the only one that really produced anything, and that’s actually the neighbor’s tree. It just happens to be growing by the fence, so a lot of it is in our yard.

In other news, I am picking out paint colors for the interior of the house. I’m tired of white walls. (The only room I’ve painted so far has been my office, and I still have to touch up some areas where I either didn’t add enough paint or paint got where it shouldn’t.) The front room/hallway will be next for painting.

The demise of Frankenshrub

My readership has been growing at a steady pace, so I want to thank everyone who recently followed me and those of you who have been following me for some time.

Flowers … just because

Last week was super frustrating. Between fireworks and thunderstorms, poor Blitz spent a lot of the week quaking in terror. We got over 5 inches of rain within 2 days — badly needed precipitation, but it was a bit excessive for such a short amount of time. Thankfully, the flooding in our yard didn’t last very long. And I haven’t had to water the garden in a few days, which has been nice.

Of course, the rain kept me out of the yard for a couple days, so I made up for lost time today. Paying for it now, though. I’m so sore and tired. I spent the morning cutting down what I call “Frankenshrub” which was a tangle of at least 4 different trees/shrubs: maple, chokeberry, honeysuckle, and white mulberry. It was obvious these were all growing by accident, but they were pretty much all growing in the same spot, so their branches were intermingled. All that’s left of it now are the stumps. But it’s already a vast improvement.

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. The larkspur is all dried up into brown stalks now — very unsightly in the flowerbed. So I started pulling all of that up, too. Didn’t finish it all, but I filled a wheelbarrow full.

My kingdom for a massage!

My dwarf sunflowers will be opening soon, which I’m very excited about. Those were planted from seed. I have some taller ones coming up, too, but it will be some time yet before those bloom.

I just love watching how the garden changes from week to week.

In other news, a cardinal pair started building a nest in the ornamental quince right outside one of the windows in our living room. I think they’re almost done. It’s been fun watching them build the nest, but it will be even more fun when mama lays her eggs and I can hopefully watch them hatch and the babies eventually fledge.

We have an excellent view of the nest. I just have to be careful not to disturb them too much when we move around the room. I’m sure they can see us, too. (We can always pull the window shade down if we need to, which I do now when I vacuum, water the plants right by that window, or work out.)

Looking forward to this coming week, as I have some networking opportunities that will hopefully help me grow my writing and editing business. I have spent so many unpaid hours already working on my business, so I’m hoping that time will soon start bearing fruit.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead, whatever you do!

Self propelled flowers

I mentioned in my last post that I was making garlic powder. Well, it was a successful experiment in that garlic powder was the end result. However, all that work peeling garlic (7 or 8 heads) and the hours spent drying it in the oven only yielded half a spice jar of garlic powder.

Needless to say, I am never doing that again. I don’t care how much better homemade is than store-bought, it simply isn’t worth the effort for so little reward.

Lesson learned.

Other than the Great Garlic Powder Disappointment of 2022, Friday was magical. We had a lot of butterflies in our yard. Now, I’ve seen a lot of the little white ones flitting about, but very little else. And we’ve had a lot of dragonflies, which also make me happy. But attracting butterflies is the icing on the cake. And then I saw a monarch settle on the thistle … well, that was the sprinkles on the icing on the cake.

(Now I want cake.)

Butterflies are self propelled flowers.

— Robert A. Heinlein

We’re in a dry spell right now — so dry, our creek bed is dried up. And the pond is really low. Since the pollinators have been super busy in our yard, I decided it was probably a good idea to provide them with some water.

Bee watering station

I set up two of these. The bowls are melamine — so not the heaviest (they were in our travel trailer and really don’t get used, so I thought they would work well for this purpose). But I’ll see how well these little water dishes hold up to wind and maybe the odd bird or two that may attempt to drink from them.

There’s a 70% chance of rain on Tuesday. Fingers crossed. We need it so badly.

I was out weeding this morning, and I was happy to see that the candy cane zinnias I planted from seed are starting to open. The seeds were among several packets of assorted flower and herb seeds given to me by my aunt. Few of the seeds I planted actually grew. Not really sure why.

The apple trees look awful right now. I believe they have a fungus. I have some Bonide Copper Fungicide I can spray on them, but I’m not sure how well it will work. (In general, I’ve had good results with Bonide products, so hopefully the fungicide is effective.) Few of the apples even look fit for human consumption. A lot of them are spotty, and I chucked several that had signs of rot.

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you are aware I have no experience whatsoever with any of this. I’m learning as I go. But it’s also very overwhelming at times (like, right now), and prepping and spraying fungicide on the apple trees is just one more thing to add to my ever-growing list of chores.

0% chance of vampires

I hate growing garlic.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the taste of garlic. But I find fresh garlic to be extremely tedious, so I always just use garlic powder and jarred minced garlic.

Of course, I had an entire bed of nothing but garlic this year. Garlic that I didn’t plant. But it was hardneck garlic, at least, so I got to experience the joy of garlic scapes for the first time just a few weeks ago.

I harvested the bulbs on Wednesday. SO. MANY. BULBS.

After setting them out to cure — I dragged a rickety old bench (left behind by the previous homeowners) onto the screened-in porch to serve this purpose

That’s not even all of the bulbs. I set some aside to make garlic powder, which is what I’m in the process of doing this very moment.

So tedious, and now I smell like garlic

These cloves got a quick mince in the food chopper, then they were spread out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. At the moment, they are drying in the oven at 170 degrees F. They should be finishing up soon.

Once I’m satisfied that the garlic is dry, I will let it cool and then grind it into powder using my coffee grinder. I might regret that. I’m just hoping there won’t be a lingering garlic smell.

Anyway, wish me luck!

Choose your suffering

I’ll admit it: there are days (many, in fact) when I am tempted to just bulldoze our five acres and start over from scratch. A clean slate. Strip the turf grass. Burn the weeds. Start from bare earth. (The trees can stay, though, except for the ones that are obviously dead.)

But it wouldn’t matter. Once we start growing things again, the weeds will come back. They always do. Especially the thistle, bindweed, poison ivy, and the aptly named devil’s beggarticks — I’ve been doing battle with most of these for a while now. If I want to keep some of our property wild and natural, this is the price I must pay.

I started reading Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, which is all about adopting a mindset to stop obsessing over the inevitable imperfections in life (in this case, the slow, steady takeover of things I don’t want growing in our yard). You need to choose your suffering … in other words, decide what is worth stressing about instead of wasting your energy stressing over things that are inevitable or unimportant in the grand scheme of life.

So, let’s start with thistle. We have thick patches of it all over our yard. I will never be able to get rid of it, but I’ve already spent countless hours trying to pull it from the root. I’ve cursed at it, raged at it. And it continues to thrive. So I should just accept that it’s here to stay and make my peace with it. The pollinators love it, and the flowers are pretty. (I might try pressing it, actually. I have experimented with flower pressing before.)

On the flip side, poison ivy is unacceptable, and IT MUST DIE. Bindweed, too, because it keeps popping up and wrapping its evil tendrils around the plants that I am actually trying to grow.

And devil’s beggarticks? Harmless enough, so probably not worth stressing about. (Though it keeps popping up EVERYWHERE.)

This house, this land… this is worth suffering for. This is worth the sweat equity we’re putting into it. I can start to envision the changes I want to make to the landscape to improve it, and I know it’s going to be expensive and labor-intensive and stressful. But I can almost feel the immense satisfaction we’ll have once things start taking shape the way we want them to.

Besides, this land has given us so much already. Peace, quiet, the ability to commune with nature, the start of what will be a bumper crop of potatoes …

Not to mention, I seem to discover something new and interesting here every day. And I’m learning so much. Not just about how to work the land, but also about the flora and fauna. I’ve never been more interested in identifying plants and trees.

When we decided to buy this house, we chose suffering. We knew it would be a lot of work. A lot of frustration. A lot of stress. We knew it would be an endless loop of mowing and weeding and trimming and sawing and, and, and…

But we knew it was worth it.

Restored

Our last house (and the house we owned before that) was one of those suburban cookie-cutter subdivision homes. You couldn’t throw a stone without hitting another house with a nearly identical exterior and layout. Somehow, we owned two houses like this, even though it was never the type of home I dreamed of owning. (I love older homes with character … Craftsman, Tudor-style, etc.)

That’s not really the point of my post. But that’s the ambience we were dealing with when we acquired some antique furniture. And antiques didn’t really go in a house like that.

I acquired a chest that was built by my 3-times (I think?) great grandfather sometime around the Civil War. It’s been through some things. It’s really beat up and missing some parts. But I cherish it because of its history. And it’s still functional for storage, too.

My husband acquired a secretary that his great grandparents purchased and has been passed down through the family. By the time we brought it home in 2017, it had some significant wear and tear.

The secretary sat in a corner, where the living room transitioned into the dining room. It was largely unusable, since the back wasn’t stable enough to put the shelves in the cabinet and use it. It was like this until we moved to our current house.

So now we actually live in an older home (about 50 years old) that has some character. And antiques do look and feel right in this space. It was time to get this secretary fixed. We loaded it in the truck and dropped it off at Woodmasters of Greater Columbus in February.

We agreed that they would replace the back and remove the stains. They stripped and restained it, too. (The mirror and cabinet glass are still original.) We waited five months, but we were able to pick it up yesterday. And it’s so beautiful.

I just can’t stop looking at this gorgeous piece! And it looks great in our front room. It has a prominent spot near the front door, so it’s the first thing you see when you come in.

I wonder what they could do with that old storage chest, should I be inclined to restore it.

As spring fades into summer

Today is the first day I’ve been out to work in the yard in over a week.

Last Saturday was my birthday, so I took the day off from working outside. (Even though the weather was perfect!) I took my morning coffee out on our screened-in porch, listened to the birds, and played my word games (Wordle, Spelling Bee, and Bardle). My husband made a McDonald’s run and came back with an Egg McMuffin for me, along with a bouquet of roses.

Finally, a use for this chicken pitcher I bought in Italy years ago! (These pitchers were all the rage among the military spouses and mine just sat unused in a cabinet for years)

He also had me open my present: the dehydrator I asked for!

After a leisurely morning, we drove across town to have lunch at Mellow Mushroom (FANTASTIC pizza!) and see the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit.

My parents came over that afternoon for a cookout: honey-glazed chicken and shrimp skewers, rice pilaf, potato salad (my request from Mom), and cornbread, with strawberry cake and fudge ripple ice cream for dessert.

As birthdays go, it was pretty perfect. There are definitely worse ways for one to turn 47.

On Sunday, I was feeling incredibly sluggish. A little too much merriment the day before, probably. So I didn’t really do much, especially outside.

On Monday, the oven turned on and Ohio started baking. We had severe storms in most of the state that caused a lot of damage and widespread power outages. I feel incredibly fortunate that we were spared. The damage was minimal (mostly downed tree limbs, none very large), and our power stayed on.

The rest of the week was dangerously hot. We had heat indices above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say, that kept us indoors.

Today is much cooler, but it’s also really windy. Still, I didn’t miss an opportunity to get some work done. We were finally making some progress with the yard before last week. I feel like we lost a lot of that progress. The weeds came back and brought friends. I was already out this morning fighting that battle.

The lawn is going to get mowed later. And it really needs it. I still have to get up on a ladder to pick mulberries. And I need to deadhead the peonies.

The roses from last week’s bouquet are already on the way out. Half of them were droopy. But there were still some nice ones left, so I cut some flowers this morning to add to the bouquet.

lilies, cosmos, loosestrife, and larkspur

To be honest, I have no idea if some of these flowers work well in flower arrangements. The loosestrife (yellow flowers) is already dropping its flowers like crazy, and I didn’t put this bouquet together even an hour ago. But it’s fun to experiment.

The coneflowers are starting to open up, so those will feature prominently in my bouquets over the next few weeks. I love having fresh-cut flowers in the house all the time! I will be looking at creating a cutting garden next year.

Here are some random photos that I’ve taken around the yard over the past couple of weeks.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have homemade granola and bread to make today.