Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, Judy

My mom passed in 1993. She would have been 73 today. I still think of her often. It usually makes me cry when I consider that she'd be proud of me, and that she and Mr W would get along famously. I want to tell her thanks, that her influence helped shape who I am today. Thinking about the double-whammy of having both she and my sister gone is sometimes a big whammy indeed.
Both mom and Kris died of cancer (pancreatic and colon, respectively) and I don't want to die in my 40's or 50's. I'd just as soon be doddering about in my garden at 80, thank you very much. To this end, I enlisted the help a couple of years ago of a doctor who is an internist and specializes in cancer and women's health. Dr. R. rocks. Dr. R helps me take good care of myself, and I feel like we're on top of things. She's got my whole history, asks good questions, and is really good at getting results from other doctors (like the dermatologist, and the mammogram people, and the folks who x-rayed my hip a while ago).
I had my yearly physical today and I told Dr. R. that I haven't felt this good for a long time. Over the last couple of years I had hip stuff, back stuff, elbow stuff and shoulder stuff that would bug me periodically. It all feels good at the moment, and I feel like I need to take advantage of this, so I'm making efforts to get stronger. There are 147 steps between the entrance of the building and the floor where my office space is, and I'm trying to do the stairs at least once a day. I want to hike and bike more this summer, and get the dog and the kid out with me as much as possible. My blood pressure was good, and my cholesterol is acceptable. I mention these things not to boast, but to give thanks, as the rest of my family takes meds for both conditions.
It was a fitting acknowledgement of Mom's birthday today. I'm trying to take good care of myself as best I can in hopes that I can have many more years ahead of me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the move

At work, we're in the process of moving to the other building. The CDC built a nice new building a few years ago with the understanding that some of the PI's (that's Principal Investigator - the scientists who run their own labs) like mine would stay in the old building. And while it is old, with no windows, we had a lot of space and I liked that.

Well, we got the word a few months ago that we'd have to move to the new building, where there hadn't been designated space for us, so they had to move people around to make room. We also moved our offices, so now we're in the new Cubeville, two to a cube meant for one person - but that's how we were before.

All this sounds like a major pain in the ass, but it's been OK. In all seriousness, I take their efforts to mean the higher-ups intend to keep my PI on instead of jettisoning his research program in the face of tighter budgets. I still have a job for the moment, and for a contractor who is renewed yearly, that is a good thing, and I am thankful. Really, the job makes all the other stuff possible.

And the view - well, the building is nestled right against the first foothill of the Rocky Mountains, and Cubeville sits in a room with really high ceilings and walls of windows on two sides. The views are absolutely spectacular. I'll post some pictures. The bird virus PI has parked a spotting scope in the break area so we can look at ducks and things on the lake below.

I might not get much work done for the next week while we are putting stuff away, but it will be nice to get going again in our new space. I also scored the best working spot, all the way in the back. It just worked out that way, as that spot gives me good access to the equipment I use. Here's to being productive again!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A power tool question

I have some 4 x 4's left over from when my fence was built, and I want to use them for making a raised garden bed. I was all excited yesterday to get the holes drilled so I could thread pieces of rebar through them and have an 8" high frame.

No such luck, with my two charged cordless drill batteries, and my 3/4" drill bit, Mr W and I were able to drill exactly 1 and 1/2 holes before the batteries gave out. The drill is old (10 years) and the drill bit is part of an inexpensive set of about 20 that I bought when I moved into the house.

My questions are: Do these batteries get weaker over time? Can I buy replacements at a Home Depot type store? Also, are all drill bits created equal? Could I spend some money and get a good one that will stay sharp? I imagine the answers to these questions are all "yes", but was wondering if anyone who reads this blog has experience here. Thanks!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Better late than never

I finally got my seed starting light stand made, only about three weeks later than I had wanted to. Oh, well, it's all a learning process, isn't it? The wood was scrap wood from my garage, and I already had the heat mat. The fixture cost me about $40 with shipping and included two T8 bulbs. The tray, peat pots and dirt were probably another $20. It's probably wise not to calculate the per-pepper cost of these endeavors, right?

I'm pleased that Mr W and I worked together on it, and I will admit in hindsight that I held my breath as he sawed the pieces of the 1 x 4. It's probably taller than it needs to be, but we'll see. The stuff has weeks of growing to do yet.

I also received the brackets the I'll use to make my raised bed, and they looked bigger in the picture, you know? I can still get a 14" high bed out of them, and that will still mean plenty of dirt to haul to fill the thing. I might go out yet and get the lumber today, but otherwise probably tomorrow. There is still snow in the yard, but I'm eager to get going. I was hoping to grow some peas and cool weather stuff before summer hits in full force. This shouldn't be a problem.

I am going to try the lasagna approach, although I don't have as much organic-y compostable stuff as I could. My neighbor, on the other hand, has a big pile, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't mind me taking the leaves off the top. I want to have about 6" of soil, 4" of finished compost and and the rest will be the organic stuff in progress. Obviously I'm still mulling the proportions over, and I'll probably have some kind of minimum amount of topsoil and compost that I need to order for them to deliver it.

Yea! It's windy and cool today (although sunny at the moment) but we're slated to have some really nice weather over the next few days.

Friday, March 26, 2010


It's not like I've been traveling or anything lately, but I haven't written as much here. This is for two reasons. First, we're covering photosynthesis in the class I'm teaching and that takes some time for me to prepare. Second, well, um, second, I'm doing the online dating thing, and I'm surprised at how much mental energy it takes to pursue it.

I'm not even going to reveal my ratio of emails sent to dates (OK, it's zero), but this week I had two of the nicest (really) "no thank you" emails ever. It gives me some hope, and I try to remember that this does not, by any means, represent the entire pool of available men, so I still might run into someone nice in the produce department at Whole Foods (right, Suzanne?).

This note, though is to toot my kid's horn a bit. I wanted to say how proud I am of my son, the one and only Mr W (that's short for Mr. Wumpkin, a name he acquired shortly after birth). I got his report card yesterday, as well as the results from one of the standardized reading tests he took lately. He scored in the 93rd percentile. I was surprised. They have him in the smaller, and I thought slower reading group (which was fine, and that's what his teacher thought was best), so I thought everyone else was reading like he was reading, you know?

For his part, he said he had to guess at some of the answers, and couldn't see what the fuss was about - just a number. I noticed in the last few weeks that his reading has made a jump. I noticed it because he was reading me a comic and read pretty big words pretty fast. Didn't stop or hesitate, he just knew the words. This seems to happen about once a year. He kind of goes along, and then ramps up in some kind of skill - it's cool to see.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Too, too frou-frou

I've been on a pogo stick of a search for someone to cut and color my hair. I had the same woman do it for 10 years, and when I finally realized that I got a good cut about one time in three, it was time to find someone else. The next person I found was kind of militant in her view (chicken as pets, not food, for example) of things, as well as being open only on Tues, Wed. Thurs. I now am going to a salon downtown and I like the stylist that I have.

When I get my hair cut and colored, I really just want it cut and colored. I'm not, for reasons I'm not sure I know, into the "salon experience". If I wanted, I could have a paraffin wrap on my hands, as well as a scalp massage and a foot bath while my color set. I saw several people walking around with plastic bags over both hands and finally figured out that's what it was. The foot thing, I don't know, maybe it's all that Catholic school I had, but there's an element of servitude that I'm not comfortable with in someone bringing me a pan of soapy water to soak my feet in. These extras sort of took me by surprise the first time I went to the salon, but this time, the stylist asked, but didn't bat an eye when I said 'no, but thanks'.

It's funny, though. Product, it's all about the product, baby. It's an Aveda salon, and the stylist was saying how my hair looked so nice and shiny, and took the color so nicely, that I might consider using their $12 a bottle shampoo. I admit I really do like this spray stuff I bought last time that gives my straight and heavy hair some oomph. So I bought more of that and some shampoo, I think partly because she said it made my hair look nice!

So, I'll stay with this stylist, decline the extras and use the product.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Make mine a lasagna

I went to a couple of gardening workshops yesterday. One was on sustainable vegetable gardening, and the other was on the sorts of beds one can use in a vegetable garden. Both were interesting and I got a lot of good info. I've been doing a lot of gardening workshop/lecture stuff lately, it feels like. You know, as opposed to actual gardening. We got some snow this week, but it will be gone soon and it will be time to get going on it.

I purchased some of these brackets, which were sort of expensive, but I figured if I got them, I could make one really nice bed that will last a while. One of the emphases yesterday was on reusing materials, but I find I usually don't have the patience to sift through the freecycle and Craigslist stuff for more than a few minutes. I feel like I'm wasting my time. I know I should work on that more, and thought maybe if I could find an old bathtub with feet, it would make a fun planter for the raspberries I'd like to grow (image).

One of the techniques mentioned yesterday, which is very appealing to me is called Lasagna gardening. It's so very simple it seems like it wouldn't work, but the instructor assured us that it does. You start by soaking old newspapers (think 1/2" thick or more) or pieces of corrugated cardboard in water long enough for them to get really wet. You lay those down and overlap them a lot so for weed control. Then you layer uncomposted organic stuff - a mix of anything you'd normally compost. Then you add actual compost, and top it with a layer of topsoil. Sounds like it's worth trying.

In other news, I'm back doing the online dating thing. It wears me out, but I told myself I'd devote some effort to it before the weather go too nice, in addition to trying to get out and join things, attend things and do things. This past week I met someone, exchanged some good emails, and finally talked and Skyped with him last night. It was only when we were more or less face to face that we both realized there's no chemistry. Is it effort wasted? In the big picture, no. You have to be willing to have that happen a few times. I figure I've got really no more than two of those in me before I take a break. It is draining. He had such a cute smile... but we inhabit different worlds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On for tonight

Tonight, Joel Salatin is speaking in Fort Collins. The talk was originally scheduled to be held at one of the more progressive churches in town, but has been moved to our local performance hall (seats about 1200). I'm so excited! After reading about crap like tomato paste rackets in California, and meat farming down south, I fear (get ready for this understatement) that factory farms may not have our best interests at heart. And those links are for stories I just found this morning while looking through my regular news websites. *sigh*
I find these "in defense of food" stories empowering, and I become more convinced that the more we can do for ourselves in terms of being informed (even if we can't or don't want to grow our own food) the better. I joke about wanting to be adopted by a CSA farm to learn what they do, but I would like to learn such things. I will at least be spending more money ($20 a week is my goal) at the local farmers market, and also (I think this is as important) breaking out of my shell a bit to talk to people at the market. I also want keep an eye out for other ways to learn about what would be involved to not only be a better backyard gardener, but also to someday perhaps pursue that dream of making a modest living from what I can grow on some small acreage.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Will he, or won't he?

I've been playing a sort of tag with the person I had wanted to use for my deck project, and I think I'm going to look for someone else - it's just not working out. He is a friend of a friend, and supposedly does good work, blah, blah, but he's made it so hard to get to see said work, I'm done.

We've communicated largely by email, with week-long pauses between emails, and me finally asking (via email) if he was still interested in the project. The answer was yes, come by and see the project he was working on to get an idea of the quality of his work. All well and good. I email him several days ago, saying that Wednesday (today) would be good, and that I'd call him to confirm.

So I call today, and he's got the gall to say I could come by, but he wouldn't be there because the floors are being installed. And I sputter just a little and say the point is for him to show me his work, and maybe next week would work? OK, next week.

I thought about this a little, and it's just too much damn work. It feels like I'm pursuing a relationship with someone who's not interested, as opposed to someone I'd like to pay a few thousand dollars to do some work for me. No thanks, there must be some decent workers around who can do this relatively simple project. Back to square one on this.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Here's what I want

Tick tick tick. That's the sound of the growing season slipping away from me while I look around for the right light fixture to make my seed starting set up with. OK, things aren't quite that dramatic yet.
When I attending the very informative workshop on seed starting last month, the instructor had an example of a home made stand that held a 24" fluorescent light fixture. He was very casual in stating that the fixtures could be had easily and for not much money. It has been difficult to find the right fixture. For example, I got a 24" fixture from Home Depot. When I opened the box yesterday, I realized it's the kind of fixture you install in a ceiling, so it's got no plug. D'oh!

Back to the drawing board. I've looked around, and there is a surprising lack of options for what I want. Sure you can buy a grow stand from a seed company, but as far as I can tell, they've got one bulb (which isn't good enough for a tray of seedlings) and they cost $70-100! A four foot fixture is bigger than I have room for, so two feet it's got to be. I guess I'll order from the place I found the picture from. I'm a little wary of ordering from a place that I've never heard of, but I'm getting to the point where I need to start the seeds soon.

We have thawed here in Northern Colorado, and except for a stubborn patch of ice on the northwest side of the house, the snow is gone. It all looks like someone should come through with a hose and wash all the dirt and grime away.
I bought a second composter the other day, and turned my pile. There has been a distinct lack of decomposition (i.e. I still had green grass clumps from last summer), and the ornamental grass I put in there I don't think will ever decompose (it's almost like bamboo in consistency). This makes me think that maybe I'll want to invest in one of the expensive composters, I don't know. I was hoping to have my own compost ready to use this year, but that might not happen. I did, however, get rid of 6-7 bags of leaves from last fall that had been in my garage, so that's good.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hi, my name is Linda and I'm new here

I was in a long distance relationship for 2.5 years, which ended last fall. I traveled every 5-6 weeks or so to see him (he traveled for a living, so I willingly did the bulk of the relationship traveling), and would often work on my kid-free weekends to bank time for visits. I knew it at the time, but one effect of doing that routine is that I sort of put my relationships here in town on hold.

We all know it's hard to make friends. I think about my kid, who I've dropped off a couple of times at all day day-care when he's out of school and I have to work, and he doesn't know anyone except for maybe one of the teachers. Thankfully he usually knows someone, but any kid in day care ends up getting lots of experience making new friends.

Luckily for us adults, we can get online and find groups that have been formed specifically for the purpose of meeting people and doing social things. Meetup has lots of local groups, and I joined the Over 40 Social Club, the Card and Board Game group and the largest group, which is the Sport and Social Club. I'm excited about this. It's nice to have events already happening that I can choose to join or not, and it's always good practice to do this kind of thing, even if it makes me tired afterwards!

I sometimes feel a little insulated from social stuff, and don't quite know where to start. I've made one new platonic friend via, so that's a good start. In a sense, I feel like I'm doing things regarding making friends and just dating that I should have done in my 20's. I thought back the other day to how I married my first boyfriend. I look back and I can't believe I was so shy and retiring that I didn't manage to date some before I got married. Well, life has given me the opportunity to do that now, like it or not! And so I will comply.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I love a parade

I admit it, I love to watch parades, always have. I've become disenchanted with the Macy's Thanksgiving parade because of the plastic people and commercial endorsements, so give me a small town parade any day. The candy throwing, the local celebrities, marching bands. The picture is of the Fort Collins Nursery's "Precision Wagon Drill Team" or something like that. They go to and fro with their wagons, it's fun.

My town has an annual St. Patrick's Day parade that happens this Saturday. Mr W and I already have a full day planned with skating lessons, a birthday party and a sleep over for him, but I think we will just have to squeeze the parade in. I've gone almost every year, although last year I was out of town.

I can remember going down to the parade right after Mr W was born, so he was probably 6 weeks old or so. I don't recall all of the details, but I do remember feeling rather put out that I had to take him into the pizza place's bathroom to change his diaper while the parade was going on. Ah, motherhood before I realized that the little bald guy calls the shots. It seems like such a long time ago.

In other news, spring is teasing us. Everyone is acknowledging how nice it's been lately, but it's always followed up by something like, "but March and April can be the snowiest months of the year". As though we're all braced for another storm. Bring it. At this time of the year, the snow melts pretty fast and there's a lot of grime to be washed away from the winter. As a friend recently said, the weather really makes one run for the seeds and dirt and want to get going on starting some seedlings for the garden. Bingo.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sr. Joseph

My dad, who I haven't written about for a while, is alive and well in Ohio. He just turned 75, and is in good health. He and his partner love to go out and socialize, and Halloween is one of their favorite events. I just got this picture sent to me a couple of days ago, and it sums up Dad's sense of humor and outlook on life pretty well. I love it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What a day!

In a good way, that is. I went out to move things around in the garage the other day and noticed the front tire on my bike was flat. It was a nice morning, so the Sally the dog and I walked down to the bike shop, where this very cute, but kind of young, bike shop tech waited on me. I don't see myself as the cougar type, but maybe I could make an exception... Ha ha. When I went back to pick up the bike, he was there again and said (ouch) "my mom's name is Linda". (Ouch) OK, so maybe he was too young. Anyway, I am the proud owner to two new inner tubes, and am looking forward to tooling around as it gets warmer.

From dropping off the bike, Sal and I went to the hardware store, where I bought myself a boxcutter. I felt a little like I should repeat often that I just wanted it to cut boxes, but no one at the hardware store seemed to care. I've ordered enough stuff in the past year or so that has come in cardboard boxes that there was a small mountain of them in the basement.

I felt like a total dufus, though. I'm all set to start slicing up my many boxes, and I can't get the cutter open to install the blade. I squeeze, and I pull, and I push and twist, and spend about 20 minutes, thinking, "I am NOT going back and asking them how to operate a utility knife!" But I did, and as it turned out, part of the packaging was caught. The nice guy at the hardware store freed it and I was on my way. I cut, bundled and got rid of about 30 lbs. of cardboard at the recycling center - yea!

I like being able to patronize local businesses. It's funny, between those two things, I feel like I got a lot done.

I also washed several thrift store sweaters that smelled kind of old and musty, and I just remembered they are still in the bathtub and will need my attention here before too long. I still need to grade some school stuff and do dishes, but it's been a good day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

So, the fruit thing

I've been freaking myself out lately reading the blog Casaubon's Book. The future Sharon paints is looming and sort of bleak for the unprepared, and I've kind of decided to take a break from reading her stuff for a bit - it scares me. But this movement to be more self sufficient, and also the preponderance (EDIT: oops, I had originally used "dearth" and meant the opposite) of female homesteader blogs I've been reading, coincides with thoughts I thought I came up with myself, but probably have been influenced by these things. I want to grow more of my own food, perhaps learn something about preserving some of it, and generally move toward being somehow more involved with the local food culture here.

I grew up in Ohio, and remember the fruit orchards near Lake Erie. The family of one of my x's coworkers at the time owned an orchard, and the memory of being able to walk up to a sweet cherry tree and pick this amazing (it was a good year, 1988) piece of fruit that the tree just GREW is still vivid to this day.

I've been thinking lately about what it would take to be a small farmer (small, as in less than 5 acres). It's totally a pipe dream at the moment, but beside me right now are books with the following titles: "Rebirth of the Small Family Farm", "Starting and Running Your Own Small Farm Business", "Changing the Way America Farms", "Making Your Small Farm Profitable", and The New Organic Grower". I haven't even gotten past the "first, you need to examine your motivations for wanting to farm" parts of these books yet, but the idea is so darn tantalizing. It's fun to think about.

For the moment, though, I will have to be content to manage my current piece of land (she said with a snicker), which is my yard, measuring about 20 x 30'. And that is fine. I love where I live, and don't want to make the mistake of taking on too much and then being overwhelmed. It's funny, though. Since I've been able to make the choice, I've always chosen to live in a house with a yard, partly because I wanted to be able to have the space to grow food if I needed or wanted to.

So, the fruit thing. Well, with my little micro yard, and the fact that this part of Colorado is rather limited to fruit tree options, I've decided to grow a few trees in containers. There are varieties grafted onto dwarf rootstock, and apparently having the roots/tree confined this way mildly stresses the tree so it fruits earlier and a bit more prolifically. And, having them in pots allows me to move them inside if there's a freeze warning, as well as keep them a manageable size for the yard. I'm still planning on having the deck built sometime this spring, and will likely place the trees on the west side of that, in full sun.

And the choices right now include apples and apricots, two of each.

Did I say last night?

School rules, baby. I was planning on posting my fruit epiphany, but need to get some prep done for the class I'm teaching. Cellular respiration this time. We had a really nice day yesterday that is getting rid of the snow, but my alley is a muddy mess. I'll take it over winter any day. Oh, and another sure sign of spring - our local Dairy Queen opened for the season March 1. Sweet!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

LindaCO - Fruit Farmer?

I'll post more on this tonight, but had this idea that I could grow some fruit trees in pots in my small yard. I'm so excited!