Thursday, May 28, 2020

Decisions, decisions

I usually make a plan for the garden each year. What plants I'd like to grow in it, which usually has my favourites plus one or two new items.

The last few years have not been good garden years for me. One year giant slugs stopped by, and i watched in horror as they calmly ignored the diatomaceous earth I had confidently sprinkled around each plant. The first ones to ignore the DE line were stopped, but the second and third waves, merely crawled over their desiccating brethren and continued on towards the green prize. Another year, deer discovered the garden plot and treated it like tapas. Last year the yield was paltry, and for some unknown reason, the regular  tomatoes didn't do well at all. The cherry tomatoes did all right. The peppers were pouty all season long. The cukes gave a meager crop, so while they were good for fresh eating, I didn't have enough to make pickles, which was what I had hoped to do.

This year, i was late starting seeds, and then we had snow on 9 May so while mulling over how to prevent a dismal garden year, i decided the simplest approach might be best. Instead of a bit of this and that, only to be disappointed, maybe i ought to try for largely one type, and call it good.

My favourite veggies are green beans and wax beans. When i don't know what veggie to serve with a bit of meat, my default is green beans. Most years i have a few green bean and wax bean plants of the bush variety, and even in bad years, i still get something from them. I realized with a bit of a start that i don't really find wax beans at the grocery store anymore. I can't say why, i just don't. I used to be able to find them both fresh and frozen. And that i would be as eager to serve wax beans as i am green beans, but once I couldn't find any, then i stuck with just green beans.

I kept hearing good things about pole beans and decided over winter that this would be my year for pole beans. And then decided that since wax beans don't seem to tickle commercial fancy, it would  make sense for me to give them lots of space in my garden. If I had a good year with them, i could not only eat them fresh, but can, freeze, or dehydrate some.

So,  how much do i need to plant? You would think with the World Wide Web at my fingertips, the answer would be relatively easy to obtain. I know there are variables, as different varieties can provide different yields, and soil health and weather idiosyncrasies also play a part. It would also depend upon how much I want to have for my household. Even if we have the same number of people in my household as next door, we may want to serve beans three times a week, while they want them just once a week at most.

Still. I expected that i'd be able to find an answer that could say something like, "On average, healthy plants, healthy soil, for a year's supply X plants per person."

I know that pole beans tend to be more prolific than bush beans, so long as you keep them picked, but i wanted real numbers i could work with. Alas and alack, i found a range from 4 to 20 plants per person. Often with no explanation. One notable exception was a homesteader who said she worked with about 10 plants per person, and that was enough for them to have fresh through the season, put up 50–60 jars, save some for next year's seed, and her particular variety could also be used as a dry bean, and she usually allowed for about 200 of those. This was something i could work with. She didn't say what size jars, but i assumed quarts since she had a family of four. The pole beans i chose weren't used for shelly beans or dry beans so far as i knew.

The seed packet highly suggested to use innoculant on the seed. I reached for what i thought was innoculant only to find it was rooting powder, meant for houseplants, with the warning that it was NOT to be used for food plants. sigh.

I went to my favourite nursery. Only one entrance and one exit with this pandemic shopping strategy, masks required, yet not one did i see that would actually keep the virus away, and i decided to ask as soon as i got there. An older woman was on the phone, and the teenager beside her guiltily affixed his mask as i approached.

"Bean innoculant?" i asked the lad. He looked over to the older woman who had heard me, and shook her head no.

I walked out, taking my mask away from my face as i approached the exit door. An older masked man was on the other side and looked loathe to touch the door as i came out. I had  held it open for him out of habit. Would he be scolded for entering the new EXIT ONLY door? Unknown.

I ended up going to four places before I could finally find some, once again shooting a hole in the "go out as little as possible and and as few places as possible" directive. I do go out as little as possible, have been doing that for the last nearly 11 years I've been here, since I don't care much for shopping and prefer to make fewer larger shopping trips rather than numerous small ones in the same time period. First my favourite nursery, second and third hardware stores that have just about everything, and the fourth, another nursery where i never go.

The fourth place was hopping, and I figured it was best to ask where the innoculant was rather than amble all over. The man in front of me didn't wear a mask, and he was busy talking to a younger unmasked man who i found out as they conversed was an employee helping him with his order. He was a regular customer, and included me in his conversation, when he turned around and saw me behind him, also not wearing a mask. He was a jovial sort and happy to learn they guaranteed their trees for one year.

The store was very much quieter when he left and a somber feeling filled the space. I asked about the innoculant, and my eye fell on it as i ended my question. The Jovial Man has blocked my view of it right at the cash register.

"It's here," the cashier said and pointed. "And i see we'll need to order more. We can't keep this stuff in stock."

I thanked her, paid in cash, because I don't like businesses--especially small, local ones-- having to pay a percentage of every credit or debit card sale, and exited, innoculant in hand.

An older woman with a beautiful Australian shepherd on a leash, enquired where the rest room was. She was directed to portapotties in the same direction where i had parked. She looked a little concerned, and i offered to hold her dog's leash if necessary. Here, her brow unfurrowed.

"Oh, he'll stay right outside." A pause although she was still looking at me. "But, thank you."

"You're welcome. He's a beautiful dog." Here, he looked at me, seemingly understanding what i was saying. For a brief moment, i saw the lady's eyes brighten. She may have been smiling under her mask, remembering that not so long ago, no one would think twice to offer as i had, and yet it now would seem unthinkable to allow a stranger to touch her dog's leash.

I made my way over to the truck, noting that a New Jersey car was parked next to me. Looking at the hundred or so of people looking at the plants outside, most masked, i could sense most of them wanted some kind of normalcy. It was time to plant flowers. I noted here as i had in the other places where i stopped that seed racks were mostly picked over or bare.

The plant sales i would frequent weren't happening this year. Too bad. I especially liked the school's plant sale, because I'd invariably see the kid who helped grow a plant i wanted, and they'd gush about it. It was good to see them so interested, and they enjoyed being praised for their efforts.

Decisions. I decided I'd be cheerful as i went out and about, hoping to stop at only one place for one item. I remained cheerful at every other place, even if they didn't have what i needed. They were places i normally shopped when looking for things, and living in a small town means that most people working there recognize you even if you don't see each other outside of that store.

The errand for innoculant took much longer than i had anticipated. In the end, after i had cleared the small beds just beyond the deck, determined the soil was dry and warm enough, i planted the innoculant-covered beans. Twenty-one of the green beans (one kind, called Monte Cristo), and twenty-two of the wax beans (two kinds, ten Monte Gusto, and twelve of Kentucky Wonder).

Wonder what kind of garden year this shall turn out to be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

On holiday, and quelle surprise--it's a staycation

Yesterday was Memorial Day here, a day we're to remember those who died in battle or from their battle wounds. No parades, no solemnity at the cemeteries, just a feeling of being lost when you're out of your routine and not quite sure what day it is.

I had thought to visit the nearby cemeteries, take my fife, play a few tunes, and end with Taps. But, i slept in for a change, and by the time i got up, it was too late.

I have a mental list of things i'd like to do before i rejoin the rat race and decided that I'd list several for today. I listed six items instead, and have finished four of the items. The fifth i started but likely won't complete until tomorrow. The sixth i can do tomorrow.

I also did a few things not on the list and feel rather chuffed about that. And the warm weather and wind felt good as i went on my walk around the neighbourhood today.

The gift of doing what needs doing but not having to rush to do it is delicious.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Back for the moment

I had run out of things to say. Well, not really, i've spoken a great many words since my last blog entry. But I had run out of things i wanted to report to Blogland. A few times, i thought of returning, picking up where i'd left off, but did i really want to cover all that ground? No, or if i did, i didn't necessarily want to spew it out for others to see.

For a time, I felt i had landed in a nice neighbourhood in the Blogosphere and felt comfortable, but then I knew people whose accounts were hacked, and I found myself growing more and more reticent.

I continued reading some of my favourites, but they, too, for the most part had taken a break or were talking about things that didn't hold my interest. Something felt stale, and life got a bit busy, so i stepped away.

I was thinking about some of those bloggers over the last few weeks. Wondering how they were. And so today, when I was watching something on YouTube and wanting to make a comment in the chat, I couldn't because I had to sign in. Right. Somehow i had deleted all of my firefox bookmarks with the recent update (note to self. if they advise you to delete because they may not carry over correctly in the latest update, TAKE A CHANCE AND SAY NO). So i needed to sign in, and couldn't for the life of me remember my password. I knew my user name, but they weren't interested in that. And then they did the whole is it really you? and Let's play 20 questions to see if it is. Which left me cold, and i found my password, only by then, they wanted none of it. Nope. I could be someone nefarious rather than just a middle aged broad who couldn't remember the @(U*(%($(#$TU($#TU($ password and just wanted to make a comment. sigh

But it did make me realize that i hadn't checked my blog in ages, so i had a look. And saw some spam comments so wanted to sign in and delete those.

So here we are, three or so hours later, having perused some of my old entries and others' blogs I used to read and enjoy. A few are still at it, which i am glad to see. And i may join the ranks once again. We shall see.

Monday, February 8, 2016

no forwarding address update

I went through my address book and found another email address for my friend. One she had used very briefly when she had ISP issues, so I sent her the card that way.

She picked it up and emailed me back. So, connexion re-established. Yes, we both got busy. And then her laptop died, then her phone, and she couldn't recover all the contact information.

I'm glad I listened to that inner voice telling me to send the card, and that I followed through.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

no forwarding address

Back in the earliest days of my Internet experience, I joined an online discussion group and was a member there until this year. Over that time, I came to meet many people online, and some have become close friends. Really, chat room and discussion boards can be an introvert's paradise, can they not?

Anyhow, one woman I met was across the Pond. In an earlier generation, we would have been penpals. The beauty of discussion boards was that time zones didn't matter. If you made a comment in the wee hours of my time, I'd see it at some point, and could respond to you.

We exchanged email addresses and a lively correspondence ensued. On all kinds of topics, and we sent incredibly long emails to one another. In short, friendship flourished.

We ended up meeting in real life, too, when she and her family crossed the Pond for a holiday. We got along as well in real life as we did in the online one.

We went on a vacation across the Pond and visited them while we were in the UK. They had to cross over the Pond a time after that because of business for him, so she came along, and we visited.

And then, bit by bit, real life seemed to take up more and more time. Less time for long emails, but we'd send little notes at least. Then fewer little notes until none at all.

I had been thinking about her a lot recently, and wondered how she and her family were doing. And today's her birthday, so I thought I'd send an ecard and wish her a happy birthday, hoping all is well.

I sent it, and I received an answer saying that the card could not be delivered. I must have typed in the wrong address, would i please try again.

This is where snail-mail wins out, because in that world, the card would have been forwarded, had the move happened recently. In this one, she's simply disappeared from my view in Cyberspace.

I realize these things happen, people grow apart or become involved in something else and it's not necessarily vindictive, just that the season of actively knowing someone passes.

All the same, happy birthday to a wonderful woman who once referred to me as "me old china." Back at ya, sweetie.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I'll miss this place, though

I headed to a local Agway store that's closing, as after 40-some odd years, the owner's retiring. I have two other places that are closer to me where I usually go when I need something in the hardware or gardening line, and they can usually provide me with what I need. For the times they can't, I've gone to the Agway.

When I first went there several years ago, they had two black kittens. Rescues from someplace, and they posted a sign asking customers to be careful not to let the kittens out. The kittens were cute, black, and fuzzy.

They're quite handsome lads now, fully grown, long black fur. Zack and Jack. They clearly own the store and like being pet. There's also a yellow lab who's often in attendance, whose name I don't know, and who is also welcoming.

I've gone there two other times since the retirement sale started and found a couple things that I can use now or will use next spring and summer in the garden. At my last visit, a teenaged boy was my cashier, and I quipped, "You look a little young to retire."

He smiled and said, "I work four jobs, so when this one's done, I'll pick up hours at one of the others." Then he paused and said in a wistful tone, "I'll miss this place, though."

A pregnant pause ensued. The owner was saying hello to everyone who walked in, and knew nearly everyone's names. Other employees were helping customers by opening the door, helping to carry heavy items to their cars, or checking in back for an extra whatsit as only one was on the shelf, and the customer needed two.

I looked at the cashier, and his eyes nearly watered. Mine nearly did, too.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Technically advanced, i'm not, but i do what i can

I see the picture I posted in my last entry did not publish. I saw it on Facebook and thought it worth sharing, but they might have some special something or other that prohibits me from sharing it. It was a picture of the Statue of Liberty sitting at the base of the Eiffel Tower, tears flowing down her face while she lay some roses on the ground.

Many states here in the US have decided to close their borders to the Syrian refugees. It's been a pivotal discussion point for many, and there is no middle of the road on this topic, apparently. Otherwise logical, maybe even somewhat mild mannered folks are speaking up with vehemence, both for and against.

We've seen this before in the US, where we say give us your tired, your poor, and then in the next breath, we say the borders aren't open.

I don't think most of us really understand just how desperate one is when one has had to flee one's country with very close to nothing. Where we've seen friends, family members, communities slaughtered in front of our faces.

I just found out Gander in Newfoundland, Canada, is once again opening itself up to welcome those who need a place to land. For those of you who haven't ever heard of this community, I urge you to read, The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland, by Jim DeFede. You may want to have a hanky or two close by as you read it.

In a nutshell, after the attacks on 9/11, the US decided to close all airspace. Some folks were midair when it happened, and could not land in the US as originally planned. Thousands arrived in Gander, and the book chronicles some the events and some of the people who lived there and some who arrived with no place to go.

I live in one of those states where the Governor has decided NOT to allow Syrian refugees. Four generations ago, my people made their way across the Atlantic in hopes of a better life. They weren't refugees in a war-torn area, but they weren't anyone special, either. Just ordinary people looking for a new place to call home. I never knew why they emigrated, only that they did.

At my last location, a friend of mine who worked for the Department of Labor had a young man in her office one day. He couldn't speak much English; he could speak French and an African tongue that was unknown to my friend. She did know about ten words in French, and she worked out that this young man had seen the word "Labor," and figured he could get a job there.

Turns out this young man fled for his life, arrived in the US, in New York City, had a phone number he needed to call as that person would help him. This was back when there were pay phones and very few people had cell phones. The young man dialed the number, but it was disconnected.

He ended up making his way a couple hundred miles south and was staying at a homeless men's shelter. He wanted to find a job, and here he was in front of my friend.

This story really deserves an entry all to itself, but let me just say here that everyone who met this young man wanted to help him. And we helped as we could.

I've worked with new immigrants and refugees in various jobs I've had. Some of these people were living lives not unlike my own, when the political climate changed quickly, and they found themselves running for their lives. Some of these people who were now clearing away dishes or mopping floors had had servants to do such menial tasks in their old life. Others had always worked hard and what little they had was blown up or taken away.

Yes, I understand the risk that there can be posers in a group of refugees, who want to infiltrate and set up a terrorist network. Yes, we already have enough crazy people here, and we read about them in the news every day. But I think it's a risk worth taking. If it were my family, my friends, the refugees with whom I've worked, i'd want someone to help them if they could. So, who am I to do less?

What to do? Why this weighs so heavy on my heart, I cannot say. Perhaps it's because of the young man I met who was fleeing for his life and ended up in my friend's office. Perhaps it's because I lived in Paris for a school year and love her fiercely. Perhaps it's because it's my turn to pay it forward or back.

So, when I heard that Gander was welcoming the Syrian refugees, and because I live in a state where we probably won't have any arrive, I decided that if I can't welcome them to my state, I can help others who are. I googled Gander and found out the phone number for their municipal offices and called. I explained that I lived in the US in a state that was not far from Canada and was NOT welcoming the Syrian refugees. I heard that Gander was, and because of what they did after 9/11–and here my voice broke–I wanted to help in some way. I could send a check (or cheque, since we're talking Canada). Did they have a process set up for that yet? The woman said she wasn't sure, she'd check with the mayor's office (I had dialed a different department), and she'd get back to me. I gave her my phone number and email address, in case one way was more convenient for her than the other.

For those people whose people have been there for millennia, it probably doesn't make sense. For those of us where it's either been a personal experience or recent history, it perhaps strikes a different chord. I feel we must do what we can.