Project Transition

It’s transition time — preparing for the new school year means reevaluating routines, time management, and the ongoing project list.

One thing I want to do is make better use of my time in Mishawaka while Amy is in preschool. I think I will not do BSF this year; it will save on gas, for one thing. I might work through the pattern drafting book Mark got me for Christmas a few years ago — I’m not sure how much I will be able to do without my sewing machine, but it might be worth a try. I might also work on knitting items for my Etsy shop. It would be lovely to have a lucrative place to play or teach dulcimer, but that’s pretty unrealistic — weekday mornings not typically being very lucrative in the music business.

Speaking of time use, I will need to be more disciplined about getting enough sleep. I downloaded a program called Switch Off that will shut down my computer at 9pm; I just haven’t been disciplined enough to shut it down at that time myself.

For Amy, it might be nice for her to have some kind of lap desk she can use in the car. And stories on CD. With three days of preschool each week, I think unstructured time will be especially important; I would love to have some playdates as well as unstructured time at home alone. I still think she needs a quiet time in the afternoon — and I am quite sure *I* still need it. It frustrates me (at least a little) that the down time I have during preschool doesn’t meet my need for peaceful time to myself — I seem to need it more in the afternoon than in the morning. Oh, and I am still thinking about whether or not to sign her up for the Thursday afternoon dance class her friend attends. She is so interested in dance that a year-long class might be a good idea for her.

In the meantime, I have some projects at home.

It is past time to declutter and organize the garage. To that end, I want to design and build some better shelving at the front of the garage where we have the most room — something with shallow drawers or trays to better organize Mark’s tools, something to make it easier to keep painting supplies, hardware, car stuff, etc in proper accessible places. Something to corral grill supplies and giant bags of kitty litter as well, and the recycling bins. Maybe even a place for hooks to hang snow clothes on.

I think I also need a better system for starting seeds. One shelf across two stools, set in front of the sliding glass door, worked okay, but it would be better to a) have enough space to start a LOT more seeds at the same time, and b) not have something so large in our small dining area. I’m thinking about what I could do in the basement — whether some sort of table with a single grow light or set of grow lights, or some kind of multiple shelf unit with individual grow lights, or what. I’ll have to look into whether it would really be less expensive to make my own system or to buy one ready made.

There’s still more blueberries to pick, if the farm’s crop is still going, and peaches to pick. There will be peach and blueberry curd to make, and tomatoes and green beans to freeze (I sure hope we get enough to freeze, anyway). And I should make pesto to freeze.

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Here’s a great plan for a seed starting system.

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The garden

One of my friends has been creating a beautiful garden in curved landscaping beds around her house, and drawing encouragement from spiritual lessons in weeding, pruning, cultivating, and the like.

My garden, with its half-eaten broccoli and brussels sprouts, inadequately thinned salad greens, beets, and carrots, whole swaths unweeded or mulched, quite a few things not yet planted, bales of straw still sitting around, and half the fence not yet pinned down, has other spiritual lessons.

Sure, we could talk about failure, and laziness, and how you reap what you sow and therefore don’t get as much quality produce from a haphazard gardening effort.

And that lesson would be especially appropriate if we were poor and / or lived in a culture where feeding our family depended on a productive home garden.

Since we are not that poor, and don’t live in such a culture, should we act as if we did anyway, and take the failure lesson to heart? Push on to garden perfectly in addition to meeting all life’s other obligations?

Or can we accept our own context, and consider the lesson of “good enough,” and of “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly”?

We can, perhaps, enjoy the salad we had tonight, scrounged from that overgrown lettuce bed, supplemented by the tiniest carrots from a three-minute thinning session, and by baby peas, without mourning overmuch for the tatsoi and mizuna that bolted before being picked much, and with only a cursory glance at the beet bed, waiting its turn to be thinned.

We can be grateful that there are a few leaves on a few of the broccoli and brussels sprouts plants, and hope for a fall crop, too.

We can admire the red clover and how huge it’s getting, or the equally impressive size of other weeds less pleasant than clover.

We can rue the fifteen new fly bites and think how many more we can avoid by not staying in the garden to work some more.

We can adore God who will not snuff out a smoldering wick or break a bruised reed, and who doesn’t look down at me with scorn for my un-ant-like garden work ethic.

This “good enough” thing is tricky; for those of us with a highly developed sense of obligation, perfectionism, and massive capacity for guilt and shame, it is easy to focus on Scriptures that do urge hard work and attention to detail and exquisite standards. It is interesting that there are also those smoldering wick and bruised reed verses — certain messages, certain exhortations, are for certain times of life, times of day, certain temperaments and personalities, and so on.

Notice Jesus’ summary of the law — to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself — does not explicitly spell out a work ethic or elevate “do perfect work” verses over “smoldering wick” verses. Love can be fully itself, fully mindful, fully whole-hearted, fully present, in any situation, whether focused on a work, on breathing in and out, on connecting, on playing, etc.

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ETA: We could also turn the whole thing around and talk about the immense value of rest, reflection, contemplation, and the like. And the dangers of overwork and anxiety and stress.

Allergic asthma again

My allergies are back in full force.

Last spring, after a day of spreading spoiled hay several inches deep over the whole garden, I was slammed with sinus congestion, postnasal drip, and eventually asthmatic stuff. I still don’t know if I officially wheeze, but definitely get constricted — I described it last year as feeling like I’m underwater with a throat full of feathers.

In early March, I think it was, I got the drip going again and a week or two of Claritin plus neti pot seemed to do the trick.

For the last several days it’s been back, and worse, and I’m getting that feathers feeling again. I’m not at the point where I can’t talk or breathe deeply without coughing, but I’m definitely uncomfortable.

I hate that there is any such thing as allergies or asthma, and I wish that eating as well as we do made more of a difference. Perhaps if we ate all organic, and prepared everything just so.

Meanwhile, though, I hate the suggestion of cooping myself up indoors. I’ve got plants that need to get into the garden. I need to water the garden. I like being outside. The sun and fresh air are good for me, other than the allergy bit. And while it’s not hot now, I don’t like the recommendation to keep windows closed and use AC. Open windows don’t use up energy. Same feeling about air filters. The whole thing reminds me of antibacterial soap and other hyper-sanitary ideas.

Grumble.

(I do still have a good bit left in last spring’s inhaler, and I know where it is, should things progress in that direction.)

In the garden

Things are happening with the garden this year.

The hydrangea and the irises that I left after removing the other flowers and shrubs (the spot was first a veggie garden, then a memorial garden, before we bought the place) are now gone — the irises tossed on the brush pile (I offered; only one local person wanted some) and the hydrangea laboriously moved to a spot near the back door.

That, and squaring up the plot to have nice straight lines and right angles, meant a significant increase of space.

And now that we know it’s a 24×31 plot, I’ve got a to-scale planting diagram — with the birch tree and the compost bins marked in their actual locations.

The garden has already escaped its budget, what with the seed order, fencing materials, and more fencing materials, but I still need more fencing materials. I’m short just about ten feet of chicken wire, and in some places it looks like I need some sort of stakes or anchors to hold the bottom edge snug against the ground so the bunnies can’t just squeeze under.

The first sprouts have appeared — peas by the backyard fence, and mixed salad greens in the garden itself. I’ve also planted half the beneficial insects flower mix and some carrots — hoping to get beets and cilantro in this week. Meanwhile, some of the starts will soon be ready to transplant and have been hardening off here and there.

So far the permanent mulch idea — with its promise of less backbreaking labor — is not so labor-less as I’d hoped. Maybe I don’t trust it enough, but it seems I still need to break up and rake up soft loose raised mounds for things like carrots and salad greens. Maybe I didn’t have enough mulch to start with, but there’s barely a half inch anywhere — the method is supposed to involve maintaining eight inches, which seems insane. I have maybe ten bales of straw to spread, and then as the season progresses there will be grass clippings. Even so, I don’t know if it’ll ever get to eight inches. It seemed to start at eight inches last year with that huge load of spoiled hay.

It sure does well at reducing weeds and watering, though.

I got a broadfork for my birthday. I love the idea of it, but I’m not sure it’s working very well. It lifts up great clumps — and reworking the same area doesn’t seem to break up those clumps much more. Is the ground still too damp?

Today I worked with a hoe and a rake instead — mostly because I was working on smaller beds, I suppose. The back corner bed for the beneficials mix was especially laborious, as it was turf just a week ago. When I dug the pea bed by the backyard fence, I just turned the sods upside-down, but there is a little grass still making its way back through, so for this bed I broke up the sods and tried to loosen as much dirt from the grass and roots as I could.

I only caught the new fence with the hoe once. It is a little bulgy there now… but not too bad.

I’m still not sure about bracing the corners. I don’t know what I could use for horizontal braces (posts are 6′ apart), especially already being over budget, and I don’t know if the diagonal wire braces would be effective without horizontals.

D S T

D = Daughter

If you think I have an intense need to know, if you think I have a hard time accepting reality graciously, if you think I’m high-maintenance in all sorts of ways, you should meet my daughter.

“Why is that?” “But I want to” “But I need you to” “Oh, sure, you may, you can do that” (there’s something rather grating about being given permission by a preschooler) “WAAAAILLLLLLL!” (wanting to open the door but people outside the restaurant opened it first) “NO!” “I’m afraid I can’t” “I’m not going to be able to” “I can’t do it” “I can’t do anything” “It WON’T WORK” “I’m never going to come out of my room” “I’m NEVER going to feel better” “[insert every possible counterargument to every possible suggestion you might make here]”

She gets angry when she gets caught in a lie or in other misbehavior. When she has to switch gears — time to clean up, time to get ready for bed, or just having to let go of something she wants / wants to do but can’t right now — she often makes her trouble worse until we’re nearly at wits’ end how to respond in a way that will help without caving. And by then we’re just as angry as she is and don’t really want to help — we just want to put an end to the situation, and, frankly, we want to win.

I want to work at adopting the ideas from the books I’ve found so helpful theoretically, and see how well they might work practically. Clearly what we’ve been doing isn’t the most effective for helping us or her. (Not that it’s always out of control around here… I’m just not currently writing about all the things that are wonderful, charming, smooth, pleasant, impressive, and so on. There are many, and I treasure them, and why am I feeling the need to defend myself? …I tend to write as a way of processing, and negative things generally need more processing…)

If my daughter has a hard time letting go of her angry willfulness even in the face of unpleasant consequences, you should meet me — especially when I’m trying to deal with her.

S = Sinus

Please turn off the hose in my left sinus. Thank you very much.

T = Thanks!

Thank you to Mark and his parents for the garden broadfork — can’t wait to try it out. And thank you to my parents for money which so far has purchased new garden fencing and posts — hoping to do a sturdier job of the fence this year, and hoping the 1” poultry mesh will keep those bunnies out.

And to the many friends and family members who sent happy birthday wishes via Facebook, email, and phone.

And to Mark and Amy for the Texas sheet cake and a nice dinner out, even though Amy mostly ate French fries.

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I refuse to think about Daylight Saving Time until the morning. So I’m not really up THAT late.