Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

What with my daughter’s impending third birthday and accompanying Sad Thoughts About Her Birth (which apparently I will never ever ever get over BAH), and the delightful meal pairing of Sleep Issues, I am feeling rather cranky this morning. Here are the current top aggravators:

— Despite producing many many flowers, my tomato plant has only to this point produced one (1) actual tomato. What is the deal?


— Today I have to return to the car dealership for a second-in-three-weeks visit that will cost an amount with t0o many zeroes. At least I am prepared for what this session will cost. The last time I was there – for an OIL CHANGE – I ended up sitting in the waiting room for FIVE HOURS.


— Due to SOMEONE’S cruel and thoughtless munching on my plants, I have become all too familiar with the smell of Anti-Deer-&-Rabbit spray. I’m sure (I’m not sure; I didn’t look) that the spray is made of something horrendous like badger urine or whatever, so I’m not SURPRISED that it makes me wish my face were pressed up against a sweaty pubescent skunk. But it’s pretty awful, and there’s no way to spray the stuff without smelling it. I’ve tried various methods, like holding my breath (works for maybe 30 seconds which is a sight shorter than the time it takes to circle my yard; induces lightheadedness) or breathing only through my mouth (but then I can TASTE the horrendous smell, which is either worse or just as bad) but nothing works. It just STINKS.


And then the spray nozzle DRIPPED and it did so ON MY HAND.


And then it turns out that a CARDINAL, and NOT a deer nor a rabbit is picking at my zucchini, so perhaps I didn’t even need the stupid spray in the first place.

AND THEN I spotted THIS, out in the middle of my yard. Sending the finger right back at you, Mother Deer. Sheesh. We are not running a drop-in daycare service for unguents over here, LADY.


That white thing the fawns are cozying up to? It’s the remains of a T-ball, broken by an over-zealous at-bat by me or my husband.


— Summer, with all its glory, means two things I HATE: 1. flies, in my house, and 2. near-constant STUFF on my floors: grass and dirt and rocks and other detritus of Having Fun Outdoors.



— I found not one but TWO chips in my favorite blue serving plate. It’s the exact same blue as the ring in my everyday dishes, and it’s perfect for serving grilled zucchini or a pair of pork tenderloins or many other delicious things, and it stands out so nicely among my other serving dishes, which are mostly plain white. But now: two big chips that show the pottery beneath the blue glaze. And, to make matters worse, now I see that TWO of my everyday dinner plates have chips in them. WHO is being so ROUGH with my dishes?! Me, probably, which just makes me feel crankier.



— Speaking of serving dishes and being cranky: My husband is not as gifted as I am in the realm of Sizing Things Up. So I got out a serving dish the other night for the grilled mushrooms and onions, and – since he was the one grilling them, and watching them shrink – I asked him whether he thought they would fit in the dish. He looked at me like I was utterly CRAZY; I may as well have asked if an ELEPHANT riding a BLUE WHALE would fit into that dish. So I put it away and got a larger dish. Are you surprised to learn that the mushrooms and onions barely filled the bottom third of the larger dish? I was, even though I should know after nearly 15 years of Tupperware containers half-filled with leftovers not to trust him on this subject.



— Recently I learned that my husband does something COMPLETELY NONSENSICAL. We were seasoning fish fillets for the grill, and I was doing the seasoning and he was doing the turning-of-the-fish, and I oiled the One Side, and then sprinkled salt on each fillet. And then he had me TURN THE FISH OVER so I could salt the other side, BEFORE PEPPERING the first side. How ridiculous is that? You salt and pepper at the SAME TIME. Is our marriage in PERIL?



— Any time I try to write outside of normal working hours, hours in which my child is at daycare, my child is suddenly and irresistibly attracted to my lap, and her hands are suddenly and irresistibly attracted to my keyboard. She perhaps is less child than cat. Very very adorable and (in this particular instance) very very annoying.



— There is little more frustrating than asking someone for advice with a problem, and having them make a suggestion that does not work for you, and telling them it doesn’t work for Reasons, and then having them make that suggestion repeatedly. And yet I am having difficulty NOT asking this person, who is having difficulty NOT giving me the advice I reject, so around and around we go in a resentful circle.


What’s driving you around Grump Corner this morning?

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The green beans that I mentioned awhile back – oh, I guess it was in my last post even though that was more than a month ago – have all died. They flourished in the little seed starter tray, but I kept having to put off transferring them to the planters outside because it was so cold and rainy.

When I finally had a sunny weekend, only SOME of the seedlings transferred; the zucchini and a few cilantro plants are doing okay. But the green beans keeled over pretty much immediately. No beanstalk for Carla. Oh well. She didn’t seem too broken up about it.

Zucchini! My last zucchini was super prolific so I am expecting Great Things.

Zucchini! My last zucchini was super prolific so I am expecting Great Things.

The plants I bought Already Started from Home Depot are thriving though. I got a jalapeno, a green bell pepper, a tomato, and a strawberry. Plants. Not, like, a single fruit of each of the previous. Poorly structured sentence.

The little flowers are hiding in the center, but they are there!

The little tomato flowers are hiding in the center, but they are there!

I am rapidly hitting my strawberry saturation point, so maybe I need to back off until this little guy starts producing fruit.

I am rapidly hitting my strawberry saturation point, so maybe I need to back off until this little guy starts producing fruit.

I don't know why I took a weird close up of the jalapeño, but what can you do.

I don’t know why I took a weird close up of the jalapeño, but what can you do.

I can't wait for all the bell peppers to start growing!

I can’t wait for all the bell peppers to start growing because they are one of my favorite foods. Truly. They might be on my Desert Island food list, alongside tacos and margaritas and chicken paprikas.

The one thing that’s perplexing me is this weird little… multi-pot that I got on a whim. It’s so pretty and when I found it, I pictured little tufts of fresh herbs growing from every opening.

Pretty! But I have not figured out how to make it work.

Pretty! But I have not figured out how to make it work.

But it’s hard to water, and the soil sort of… sinks down from the top. It’s also hard to get even sun on each side, even though it’s sitting in a window that gets full sun for many hours of the day. So the mint and basil are doing okay (although I seem to have over-trimmed the basil and under-trimmed the mint; I attribute that to the fact that I actually eat basil and do not eat mint; a purchase rather half-assedly thought through, I suppose), and the cilantro I’ve planted seems to be growing, if skinnily. But I am not sure if the pot is poorly designed or if we can attribute the mediocre results to user error.

Another photo that perhaps shows the pot better. I never claimed to be a good photographer.

Another photo that perhaps shows the pot better. I never claimed to be a good photographer. Also the giant plant to the upper right is my poor misshapen jade plant, which lives – survives against all reason, really – in its own pot.

Well! If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out!

The last time I really got gung ho about gardening was the summer before Carla was born. I grew everything from seed and oh how they flourished! I had bell peppers and tomatoes and zucchini galore. I had rosemary and thyme – my god, the thyme! – and basil and cilantro and lemon balm. (I have no idea what one DOES with lemon balm; it just sounded so lovely.) And the strawberries were so prolific I could never eat enough of them. And these were just from little back-porch containers!

At some point late in the summer, early that fall, we had a horrible storm with gale-force winds and driving rain and most of my beautiful garden was blown over. I was in hysterics. (Part of me wants to soothe myself by saying, hey, you were either newly pregnant or trying to be pregnant at that time so your hormones were a little on edge and oh also you’d just started a new job, either of which is stressful and combined are Very Stressful, and part of me wants to say HEY, it’s totally okay to become Deeply Attached to living things that you grew from tiny seeds!) It was DEVASTATING to lose all those plants. So, remembering that, this year I am approaching things with a more laissez-faire attitude. Should disaster befall my plants, oh well. (And don’t think I haven’t noticed the white spots on the pepper plants. Perhaps they are not long for this world.) If it’s early enough in the season, I will just skip on over to Home Depot and replace them. If it’s too late, I will go to the grocery store and buy whatever vegetable I desire.

We have moved past the “perhaps it will snow” stage of spring (I think), and right into eighty-degree sunshine, and today I noticed some little budlings (technical term) on the pepper plants and a couple of just-about-to-bloom flowers on the tomato. I am SO EXCITED. Not just because I love Creating Fruit, but because it will be so cool to see Carla’s reaction.

Right now, she mainly likes to peek at them, and – imitating me – tell her father that the bean stalks didn’t make it, but the zucchini looks good. And then she goes over to the strawberry plant and says, in my voice I’m sure, “And the strawberry plant is really doing well.”

Won’t she be delighted to learn that the strawberry plant will, someday in June, produce Actual Strawberries that she can eat? I think she’s going to lose her mind with happiness.

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  • I recently had an epiphany: While I really enjoy being active – walking, even on a treadmill – I really dislike exercising. I’m fine if the exercise is inherent in the activity, but I don’t like to purposefully encourage sweating and ragged breathing. Eh. Know thyself, right?
  • Carla is starting to lose the last remaining baby vernacular. She can now say “computer” correctly, rather than calling it a “com-POO-tuh” like a tiny Austrian. I am holding on very tightly to “lellow” instead of “yellow” and “collection” instead of “reflection.”
  • My in-laws donated a Crate and Barrel outdoor loveseat to us. It’s teak and sturdy and fits neatly on our back porch. But there’s no cushion and I cannot for the life of me find a cushion for it. The sizing is weird – leave it to Crate and Barrel to have custom sizes, right? – so none of the standard bench or loveseat cushions at Home Depot or Target or Bed Bath & Beyond will fit. Then I looked at Crate and Barrel for a replacement – they were having a sale – and the appropriate cushion would cost $500. On sale. I know we all have different categories of things we are willing to spend serious money on, and it turns out that an outdoor loveseat cushion is not one of mine.
  • I have made a career change, and I am LOVING it. I feel like I should acknowledge it here, but I don’t want to go into detail right now. So. That’s all.
  • My niece’s first birthday is next month, and I have no idea what to get her. Her parents always get Carla fun educational toys, so I suspect they might enjoy getting one of those… but they also live in a tiny apartment and I don’t want to send them anything that requires too much space. Clothes are out: not only does my niece get ALL of Carla’s hand-me-downs, but she also has the same grandmother that Carla does, which means she gets her own beautiful collection of clothing.
  • I just finished the third (and so far final) Cormoran Strike book by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). I found all of them thoroughly enjoyable, but now I’m looking for the Next Great Mystery Series to start. I like Sue Grafton and Tana French and Kate Atkinson and Sophie Hannah. But I haven’t really found any other series that have the kind of writing and characters and types of crimes that I like.
  • So in the meantime, I have finally begun A Little Life, because I’ve heard it’s a life-changing work of fiction. But I’m very apprehensive about it, because I’ve heard that it’s devastating.
  • We have lived in this house for nearly five years, and we are FINALLY getting to finish the office. We’ve re-organized the furniture and gotten rid of a bunch of junk and now just need to clean out the closet (old computers and cellphones dating back to COLLEGE and assorted other tangentially-office-related detritus) and put up artwork. We’re keeping an eye out for coupons at Michael’s, so we can finally frame my husband’s degrees, and we’ll hang those as well (my mom framed my college degree; I don’t think I ever got a physical diploma from my grad school, seeing as I absconded to Europe instead of attending my graduation ceremony).
  • Speaking of junk: we had inherited three mattresses and two bedframes from my in-laws that we finally got rid of. Alongside a massive, defunct television set, a DVD player, and some other piece of stereo equipment that is no longer compatible with modern TVs. I felt TERRIBLE sending these things off to the junk guy, but our local Goodwill had no interest and I am not holding a garage sale.
  • Carla and I planted a bunch of seeds last week. We used one of those big seed starter kits and I let her pick out a bunch of vegetable seeds. We had fun poking holes in the seed starter stuff and dropping in a seed at a time. (I was stunned when I asked her what she wanted to plant next and she said “cilantro” because I don’t recall teaching her what cilantro is.) Most of the veggies are already sprouting (which seems a little creepy to me – it’s been A WEEK) and Carla is So Excited. The first sprouts that appeared were the green beans we planted, and so she is CONVINCED that we are growing a beanstalk to rival Jack’s. I keep trying to manage her expectations but…
  • This seems worth remarking on: I had been saving, on my DVR, the final episode of House since it aired in 2012. I never watched it, because I don’t like things ending. (We still have the Parks & Rec finale, unwatched, on the DVR as well.) But we were running out of space on the DVR (wonder why?) so I finally deleted it. If I haven’t watched it in four years, it is unlikely I ever will.

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Some short thoughts for you today, Internet. I know, brevity is unusual for me. Don’t worry – I made up for it in quantity.


  • A cardinal’s call sounds like a gun in a really girly video game.


  • I have heard that acupuncture is really good for anxiety, but I get anxious just THINKING about acupuncture.


  • The worst thing about Fourth of July is the surrounding 4-to-6 week period of random fire-crackering at all hours of the day and night. I do not enjoy playing the game of Fire Cracker or Gun Shot? with my husband when we’re snapped out of sleep at two in the morning, fearing for our lives.


  • The best – inexpensive – red wine I’ve had in a long while is the 2010 Michael David Petite Petit Sirah. You’re welcome.


  • Sometimes I like to sit in my backyard in my bikini (and shorts) and catch the rays. The neighbor whose backyard touches ours has a 22-year-old daughter, home from college, who also likes to sunbathe in her bikini. So my flabby abs and I stay inside a lot.


  • Trader Joe’s microwavable jasmine/basmati rice has changed my life.


  • I miss Jill Zarin. And that crazypants Kelly. I do not miss Simon.


  • Come to think of it, I miss Paris Geller too.


  • There is nothing more exciting than growing actual fruit on actual plants that you actually planted. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to protect them from the neighborhood wildlife. This is not your personal produce section, DEER/CHIPMUNKS/SQUIRRELS/BUNNIES/BIRDS.


  • What kind of creature is leaving giant poops in my yard?


  • Standing with the fridge door open, looking at a cold can of delicious Diet Coke, imagining that crisp, bubbly elixir of happiness trickling down my throat, and contemplating a night of staring at my ceiling fan while my heart whirs frantically and my brain cycles endlessly through my to-do list is not fun. There is no good option here, folks.


  • The other day, I saw two cars with personalized license plates. One said One Soul and the other said Fun Knee. What?


  • Why is “exercise more frequently” the solution for so many things and “nachos with a brownie chaser” is the solution for nothing?


  • I never thought I’d see this day, but alas: we have run out of bay leaves.


  • Tom Selleck as Richard from Friends. Indiana Jones-era Harrison Ford. Bruce Willis any day, any time.


  • Fresh strawberries always look so delectable in the store, but by the time I get around to washing them, they are soft and discolored and possibly moldy. (See also: grapes, blueberries, artichokes.)


  • I probably go outside in my pajamas more often than I should.


  • My couch loses approximately ten zagillion feathers each day. I’m pretty sure the feather supply is infinite, but if it turns out I’m wrong, what do I do? Just… throw out the couch? Which will at that point, obviously, be just a pile of empty fabric rectangles.


  • I’m not boycotting them or anything, but I haven’t had an Oreo in about two years. I could really go for an Oreo right now.


  • The only book I’ve read – all the way through – since March is 50 Shades of Grey. Make of that what you will.




What are you thinking about today, Internet?

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Internet, I have been lax in my blog responsibilities these days.  Things have been going on – things that take up a lot of my brain space. Things that I cannot discuss via blog. Good things. (But not the thing that you are thinking.)

I have missed you and I have missed blogging and I have a whole HEAP of blog posts for your reading pleasure. (Or your eye-rolling pleasure, I’m cool with it either way.) Of course, I have to WRITE the posts, but I am going to TRY.

Anyway, I would like to fill you in on the drama that I’ve been experiencing over the past few months.

Drama that has caused me great angst. Drama that culminated, yesterday, in an act of vengeance so vindictive, so strategic, so MEAN that I am still upset.

But, because I am a fair person, I want to give you the background before I reveal how horribly I was wronged. That way, you can judge for yourself if the retaliation I endured was merited.

A couple of months ago, my husband and I went to The Home Depot. It’s our favorite store. And it was spring, and I was in the mood to Grow Things.

So I bought lots of things: pots, baby tomatoes and bell peppers and strawberries and a variety of herbs (none of which survived – NONE). I also bought a bunch of seed packets and some of those seed-starter things. And soil – copious amounts of soil. Some insecticidal soap. Some garden implements and garden gloves.  Stuff to make the soil hold water. Stuff to make the plants grow better. A SPRINKLER. All sorts of goodies.

We also bought two hanging baskets of lovely yellow pansies.

I don’t seem to have a photo of our house with the pansies, so I have included a highly accurate artist’s rendering below.

I feel compelled to admit to you that this drawing is a lie.

Our front door is not orange. It’s black. And it has a white screen door between it and the outside.

It’s ugly, is what I’m saying.

And I so very much want to have a bright, happy door.

Someday, Internet. Someday.

Also, I don’t know why the roof is red. That’s ridiculous. My roof is… black? Brown? Brack?

Anyway, I would like you to know that the pansies normally look like this:


But one day, I went outside to water them…

And they looked strange.

As though, all together, each pansy had decided to leap from the side of the basket.

And, being tethered to the basket by their roots, they remained frozen, mid leap.

Like so:


I was… perplexed.

What would prompt them to jump ship?

Perhaps they simply needed water, I thought.

So I pulled them from their hooks.

And what should I find inside…?


Yes, Internet. That is a NEST.

A BIRD had made a NEST inside my pansies!

Admittedly, it was kind of adorable.

But Internet. I cannot have birds just making themselves at home inside my FLOWER POTS.

After all, I spent money on those flowers.

And I am not going to WATER A BIRD’S NEST while trying to keep the flowers alive, you know?

So I carefully pulled the bird’s nest out of the flower pot and threw it away.

It was so delicate, Internet. Lovingly embroidered with hair (uuuuuuhhhhhhhh hair *shudder*) and grass and a piece of soft brown yarn.

I watered the pansies, restoring them to their cheerful glory, and figured that was the end of it.

Certainly, even a bird stupid enough to build a nest inside a flower pot wouldn’t build ANOTHER nest in that same pot, right? I mean, clearly the flower pot is inhospitable to nests! But to be on the safe side, I hung the bird’s nest basket on a different hook.

The next day, I hurried outside to check on my pansies.

Two sparrows flew away from my front porch in a very suspicious manner. They landed in the big maple tree in my front yard and looked at me worriedly.

There was ANOTHER NEST in the flower pot. The same flower pot from which I’d pulled their original nest. The flower pot that was now on the right-hand hook instead of the left-hand hook.


I removed the nest, watered the flowers, and went inside.  The sparrows chirped at me from the maple.

The next day, I set my jaw and headed outside.

Again, the panicked – and ominous – flap of sparrow wings.

I yanked down the pansy basket and looked inside.


I saw a half-hearted nest – just a few strands of grass this time…




These idiots had left their OFFSPRING in the same spot where TWO PREVIOUS NESTS had been demolished!

I am a cold and heartless and horrible person. So I gently lifted the little egg from the flower pot and put it in my garbage can.

I felt TERRIBLE about it, believe me!

But Internet! Birds are messy and destructive and I didn’t want to watch two sparrows raise a family in a flower pot that would have grown increasingly DEAD.

That night, I went to The Home Depot and bought some green plastic stakes that you use to anchor mesh into the ground around your strawberry plants (foreshadowing!). They were about three inches long and one end was pointy – but not DANGEROUS – and the other end was a flat circle.

My plan was to put the stakes in the flower pots, so that the pointy end pointed up, making it uncomfortable (but again, NOT DANGEROUS) for the birds to land and/or nest in the flower pots.

So I went outside the next morning to install my rudimentary Bird Begone device…

And there was ANOTHER EGG.


No nest this time.

Poor birds were so desperate to get the egg part out of the way, they stopped even caring about the nest.

Which, if you think about it, makes them pretty unfit parents, right?

I mean, what kind of parents build a home in a place that can be easily destroyed… And then, after it’s destroyed, build another home in THE EXACT SAME LOCATION… And then have babies there… And then when their baby DISAPPEARS, along with their THIRD HOME, they just have another one?

Clearly not ready for babies, is what I’m thinking. (I, um, disposed of the egg again.)

Anyway, that was it. I installed the plastic stakes, which seemed to do the trick. No more nests. No more eggs.

The sparrows hung out on the front side of our house for a while.

I was afraid they would dive bomb me… using any means necessary, if you know what I mean. But they kept their distance.

(Now I know they were PLOTTING.)

Eventually, they moved around the back of house. There’s a sliding door from our kitchen to our porch, and the door has an electric awning above it. The sparrows built a nest in the awning mechanism.

When my dad visited a few weeks later, he pulled down the nest. (No eggs or babies, THANK GOD.)

But they just built a new one.

My husband and I resigned ourselves to the mess below the nest – feathers, sticks, grass, and bird goo – and the NOISE (scratching, feather ruffling, constant, un-ending chirping), and, of course, the hysterical frenzy of flapping whenever we dared to set foot onto our porch.

But we felt that we’d reached some sort of equilibrium with the sparrows. That we didn’t necessarily like each other, but we were willing to share the world for a time.

But the cease fire didn’t last, Internet.

Oh no. They were bound and determined to get me where it hurt.

But that’s a sad, sad story for another day.

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