March 31, 2012

To-Do List Revisited

So, I know that those of you who read my previous post are dying to know what I actually did or did not accomplish on Thursday. Let me fill you in.

Yes, I did make the bed. And fed myself breakfast. Off to a good start. :)

I then went straight to the greenhouse. First I watered all of the broccoli, kale, lettuce, spinach and chard that has been growing beautifully for several weeks now. Then I planted tomato, pepper and basil seeds as well as a few ground cherries and some miscellaneous herbs. At this point, I was feeling quite accomplished as it was only 11 a.m., but I was also feeling quite sore from the cramped greenhouse work. So, I went and laid down for 45 minutes and browsed through the latest edition of Mother Earth News.

Next, I hiked down to the spring to fetch the yogurt starter from the bucket of cold spring water that was hopefully serving as a refrigerator. I hadn't intended to leave the yogurt starter down there for as long as I did (just over a week), but I had sabotaged my own yogurt making schedule by leaving the soy milk languishing in the mini fridge at the office in Blacksburg and had to wait until I was back in town to fetch it. Upon close inspection, I decided that the starter had gone funky and was not to be trusted. So, I switched gears and chopped up one of our last two homegrown butternut squashes to put in the solar oven for dinner.

Having just finished lunch and already accomplished (besides yogurt making) my entire revised to-do list, I was feeling quite proud and eager to tackle "the big one" - weedeating the garden. Now I must go on a rant. Is it just me or do other people, especially other women, find it next to impossible to start any of those stupid "pull the rope" engines!! I consider myself a very competent woman and can weedeat with the best of them, but why must they make me feel like an idiot, wearing myself out yanking that stupid cord for 15 minutes in vain!! Joe usually stands back and watches me for the first couple of pulls, giving me a chance to do it on my own (which occasionally, miraculously, does happen), and then steps in and in one swift pull gets the thing roaring. However, I did not have Joe to step in for me this time as he was at school (but I did call him halfway through the process, in order to vent and catch my breath and get some emotional support). At long last, just when I was about to quit, the weedeater finally came to life. I was utterly exhausted, but I dug deep into my reserves and started mowing down the jungle around me. I had weedeated half of the garden when the other big weedeating hurdle reared its ugly head...out of string. This is another area where I often prove incompetent and usually rely on Joe to reload the stupid thing for me. I seriously contemplated calling it quits and taking this as a sign that it was indeed naptime, but I was so inspired by how good the mowed half of the garden looked that I decided to try reloading the string myself. Another frustrating 15 minutes later, I had string again and finished the garden. What a sense of satisfaction!

Definitely time for a much deserved break. After sitting on the porch steps and soaking in the glow of a freshly mown garden, I spent an hour or so relaxing, beading and watching a movie. I have actually had several paid beading gigs recently, and it is so nice to be able to relax, do something I enjoy, and feel like I'm being productive a the same time. Here's one of my more recent beading projects that I was pretty happy with. I sold the one in the photo, so I've got to find time to make another for myself.
Okay, so I know you're already super impressed with my day's accomplishments and pretty exhausted yourself at having read all of this, so I'll spare you the details and just say that in addition to all of the above I also did access and prune two of the four remaining unpruned fruit trees and transplanted half of the lettuce and spinach plants into the garden. And I did the dishes. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. And throughout the whole day the baby was doing some serious gymnastics in there. I don't know if he/she was also feeling energetic and trying to lend some support or was maybe protesting my activity and trying to convince me to give it up. Given the fact that the gymnastics continued long after I was lying in bed, attempting to sleep, I'm thinking it was the former.

March 28, 2012

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and clear, and I get to be home ALL day! So, here's my to-do list for tomorrow, in no particular order:

- Weedeat the garden
- Mow the yard
- Start tomato seeds in greenhouse
- Make yogurt
- Transplant lettuce and spinach seedlings from greenhouse to garden
- Prune the last four fruit trees
- Weed the other half of the strawberries

Hmm, I just remembered something. I'm 30 weeks pregnant and whereas I like to think I'm a fairly healthy, fit pregnant woman, you won't be reading any news stories about me having just completed a marathon or anything. With that reality check in mind, let me take another look at my list and see what I might reasonably expect to accomplish.

- Make the bed (I know this wasn't on the original list, but given my current condition, I often add this to my list of "accomplishments" for the day in order to boost my self esteem)
- Weedeat the garden (Assuming I can get the weedeater started, and that I remember to fill up the gas can on the way home from town today, I'll give it a try. I'm really not sure how it will affect me physically until I attempt it, but I probably shouldn't expect much)
- Mow the yard (Yeah, probably not, especially since the grass has already gotten too tall for me to use the electric mower, so I'd have to push the heavier gas mower around. Once again, assuming I could get it started, I might get one or two swipes done....hmm, maybe we'll just skip having a yard this year and settle for a couple of "pathways"??)
- Start tomato seeds in greenhouse (This absolutely must be done so I'm not even going to consider not doing it an option!)
- Make yogurt (Surely I can manage this, although the hike down to the spring and back to fetch the starter from it's hopefully chilled location may consume enough energy to knock several other items off the list)
- Transplant lettuce and spinach seedlings (Is it naptime yet??)
- Prune the last four fruit trees (The reason I haven't done this already will probably still keep me from doing it tomorrow, that being that I fenced them in so well to keep the deer out that I also fenced myself out. In years past, I've gotten down on the ground and actually shimmied under the fencing to reach the trees, but that ain't happenin' this year!)
- Weed the other half of the strawberries (Considering that the first half of the strawberry weeding was a time consuming process requiring a lot of uncomfortable crouching and impossible bending over and still wouldn't be done had Joe not joined in on the project, I'll not set my hopes too high.)

So, what does the revised list look like?

- Make the bed
- Start tomato seeds
- Make yogurt

Looks like a full day to me! :) (I'll let you know how it goes)

March 15, 2012

Ode to Walmart

I'm about to say something that I never would have thought I'd say, and most of you who know me will be shocked as well. Are you ready? Brace yourself! …..I Love Walmart!

There, I've said it, and at the moment, I truly mean it. For the most part, Walmart is everything I try to avoid in life - cheap, mass produced, soulless. However, I'm not a snob, or not much of one anyway, and I do occasionally patron the giant box, primarily for things I can't easily come by elsewhere. And for tires and oil changes. In this category, I fall in the everyday American pattern of seeking cheap and easy.

Last night, Joe came home from school with a tire rapidly loosing air from a nail in the sidewall. Yep, unrepairable. And, because we have an AWD car, apparently all four tires must be replaced at the same time or else you risk serious damage to the transfer case. (Aren't you impressed with how knowledgeable I sound??) I found out all this information from one repair shop that I took the car to because it is directly across the road from the office I work in on Wednesdays. I tend to avoid this particular repair shop because it is one of those places were you walk into a pristine storefront, deal with a clean, well groomed salesperson, and never actually see a speck of grease. There's something way too sterile about it all. However, the across-the-street convenience occasionally has me permitting them to deal with minor issues that I'm pretty sure even they can't find a way to rip me off on. I didn't doubt their information in this case, but I couldn't help but imagine their joy as they handed me a $500.00 quote for a whole new set of tires.

After briefly wondering if this was a sign that I should break my Walmart tire streak, I folded and headed to Walmart to see about getting new tires. I can't even explain what happened at this point. I didn't want to ask too many questions lest I break the magical spell. They did have record of us having bought our tires there last July, and although the tires came with a 60,000 mile warranty I didn't assume this situation fell within that warranty. However, after looking at the wear and tear on my other three tires, they said they would pro-rate the price of the new tires and discount them to $13.00 a piece!! At that price, I decided I was definitely going to add the additional $10.00 a tire for the "road hazard warranty", a program which would give us the benefits we were somehow getting for free at this moment.

Just over an hour later, I left Walmart with four new tires and a receipt for $76.00. When it came time to ring up the bill, the computer wasn't processing the discount on the tires. I was extremely patient and pleasant as the guy repeatedly voided and rerang up the order. I did not want to give him any reason to rethink his amazingly generous offer. Finally, he announced the total and I swiped the credit card. The total was even less than I had anticipated, so I nervously asked "Did that include the road hazard warranty on the tires?" "Yep", he answered, followed by "Where did you get that dog?" Wilson and I had spent the past hour sitting on a bench right outside the tire and lube center. Wilson's delightful mopey demeanor and amazing leashless manners had everyone charmed. He would graciously and calmly allow all passing Walmart customers to pet him, without getting at all worked up over their swooning and baby talk. So, I told the guy that we'd gotten Wilson from the county pound, the best $10 I'd ever spent, thanked him and drove away before the clock struck midnight and the magic ended.

Upon examining the receipt later, it appears that the guy (who was in fact the manager of the automotive section, so probably had the authority to do this) got tired of arguing with the computer about the price of the tires, erased them completely from the order and only charged me for the extras - the road hazard warranty and lifetime balance and rotation thing. Wow! As my sister said, God was definitely smiling down on me today, in the very ironic form of a giant yellow smiley face.

March 09, 2012

So, Joe didn't go to the beach for his spring break from Radford, but we did don our bathing suits and check out the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. We've been wanting to do this for a while, and it's a good thing we didn't wait much longer. My non-maternity swimwear was stretched to the max! Being pregnant and all, I wasn't able to test out the water slide, but Joe had a blast on it. I did enjoy swimming some leisurely laps on my back and soaking in the 95-degree "therapy" pool.
Testing the seams on my bathing suit at 27 weeks pregnant.

A blurry close-up.
Even though we didn't do much actual swimming, I still felt like I got a pretty good workout. We were both exhausted after we left, so we treated ourselves to a hand-packed pint at Ben and Jerry's. :) Joe should get spring break more often!

March 07, 2012

Today marks the first day of Operation Chicken Lockdown, for their own good. Yesterday, Joe was home and witness to a broad daylight attempted chicken attack by a hawk. Luckily, the attack was unsuccessful and all the chickens were able to scatter for cover, and the hawk flew away when Joe came outside to investigate what the guineas were screaming about. We lost Wanda our Speckled Sussex hen last week to what I'm 90-percent sure was a hawk attack. That puts us down to six hens and two roosters, and I've had enough! Unfortunately, I'm not really sure what to do about it. My best guess, confirmed by the internet research I've done, is to keep them confined for several weeks or even months until the hawks lose interest and remember that they're supposed to eat wild rabbits and squirrels! The Wareing Chicken Shack is closing! No more free meals, especially if all you intend to eat is the head! I've gotten some bird netting to cover the pen with as we've learned that the hawks are not afraid to fly into the pen for their snacks. It's going to be sad keeping the chickens all closed up, but I'd rather them be bored than beheaded. :(

March 01, 2012

As I lay in bed last night (well these days I find myself propped up to an almost sitting position to sleep, but that's beside the point), listening to the rain on the roof, I kept hearing a strange noise. My first thought was that we had a leak somewhere and rain splashing somewhere inside. But then it dawned on me - it was a frog in the pond!! Yep, last night of February and we've already got our first frog staking it's claim to our little lily pond. (They must have heard it was a "leap year".) I was so excited I dreamed about frogs all night. In my dreams, they were bright blue and yellow poison dart frogs, similar to the one in this photo (taken from