Why don’t you just relax?

I went to the hospital yesterday. No, no, don’t be alarmed. I go at least twice a month.

My doctor prescribed me 8 Femara pills to take on the 3rd day of my cycle, and once you get into the 8, 9, 10 range, I have to go get a vaginal ultrasound to make sure that the ovaries are not being overstimulated or releasing more than one egg at a time. (Ha! More than one egg. Pfft, evidence so far indicates that is not a problem.) The ultrasound has to be done as soon as you have identified the sign of ovulation has happened. The sign of ovulation is when your mucous dries up; most people have about a week of mucous, getting more and more of it until it is egg white consistency, stretchy, and abundant. The next day, you are totally dry. That means that the day before the dry day, you probably, maybe, ovulated.

In me, I have a problem with producing mucous. I make myself drink at least 3 quarts of water every day. I fill up my large insulated thermos and 2 quart mason jars with water every morning at work, and by the end of the day, they have to be gone. Yes, I know water in quart mason jars looks like moonshine. No, I don’t have moonshine on my desk at work. Yes, I’ve tasted moonshine. No, I didn’t like it. (p.s., could you please come up with something original? I’ve only heard “moonshine?” probably 25 times since starting this. kthnx)

I have started taking Vitex and Evening Primrose Oil, which are supposed to help with that problem. The EPO can only be taken in the first part of my cycle, before ovulation, but the Vitex can be taken throughout.

So, back to the day that is dry. That means, yesterday was probably your Peak day. But, for me, I don’t know that yet. Because of my patchy and slight mucous, maybe I’ll get some later that day? Maybe not. Can’t tell yet. So, wait another day, and if dry two days in a row, then 2 days ago was the Peak day.

Ok, so patchy mucous and shifting days of ovulation. I’m not using the calendar method here, I’m measuring and observing. My peak day could be anywhere from day 14 to 17 after ovulation. It used to be day 25-30 after ovulation. Dieting and everything else I do has shrunk that down to about normal. But it is ever shifting. That means, of course, scheduled intercourse. It sucks. Hate to break it to you. Here, let me give you some homework. You have to have sex next Thursday, Saturday, and then the Monday and Wednesday after that. Nope, don’t care if you are tired after work. Nope, don’t care if you got home late. Nope, don’t care if your kid is crying. Nope, don’t care if you and your husband had an argument. Nope, don’t care if one of you tripped in a hole (hey, that happens a lot around here) and hurt yourself. Sorry. Get it done. Then, add in that maybe when you thought that the mucous was as good as it was going to get, and then you have a dry day, but then you have another day of mucous. So, tack on next Thursday and next Friday as well. You have a chance to get pregnant on days P+1, +2 and +3 (slight on days 2 and 3), so, maybe for good measure, Saturday would be necessary. There, you’ve just scheduled 7 nights of sex in 10 days.

I know, I know. That sounds awesome. My husband must be ecstatic. Let me tell you bob, maybe the first couple months is that way. Now, do that every month for 3 years in a row. I’ve also heard that an egg only survives for about 24 hours before it can’t be fertilized anymore, and that sperm relies on mucous to survive in the womb. That way, if the sperm is there and the egg is released, the egg can be fertilized if the sperm is still viable. But…lack of mucous is a problem. Maybe we should just try to do it for 7 days in a row.

Well, anyway, you think you’ve ovulated. So, you have to schedule the ultrasound, but I’m only by a hospital 3 days a week. Luckily they radiology department has been great at taking a phone call in the morning and scheduling me for sometime during the lunch hour. The radiologist is not in to read it in the afternoon. I watch the screen and the tech tells me what is there, but I have misinterpreted what she says badly before, and completely lost it, emotionally, until the phone call comes in the next day and I feel like a dumb ass for reacting that way.

Apparently, it is ok for one ovary to produce an egg every month, and the other to sit there like a a lazy bum. My left ovary has done the job for 4 months in a row now. I always thought it rotated duty every month, but my doctor says that is ok.

Then, on day P + 3, or what you think is P + 3, I start injections. HCG shots under the skin, which I do, and Progesterone in the upper hip area (top of the ass cheek, to be precise) in the muscle, which DH does for me. We do these on days P + 3, P + 5, P + 7 and P + 9. On day P + 7, I have to get a blood test to see what my progesterone and estrodial levels are. I haven’t seen a pattern yet. My highest progesterone has been up to 42, my lowest 10 or 11. This month was 22.

Yesterday, when getting my blood tested, the oh so helpful lady at the hospital told me “why don’t you just relax? I’ve heard so many people say they stopped stressing about having a baby and it happened for them.” SMH. Do people really think that is helpful? Really? Does this same tech say to cancer patients to just relax? Does this same person say to someone with a swollen and bursting appendix to just relax?

This is a real physical problem, lady. This isn’t in my head. If all I do is pinpoint the exact day of peak fertility and just have sex on that one night, I still have 9 actions I have to take during the month at specific times in order to have a chance of getting pregnant. Nine! Femara, identify peak and have sex, stop taking EPO, 4 days of shots, blood test, ultrasound. Let alone the handful of pills I take every night. And drinking enough water. And watching my diet. And charting, forgot about that. Those things are daily, so I can’t count those in the “specific actions” count.

Sigh. Relax and maybe I’ll be surprised. Ha! Here’s the thing about that. If I DO get pregnant and am not keeping track of things, maybe I won’t know early enough. I have to take progesterone to help support my pregnancies or I might lose them. Even waiting a week or so before starting the injections could cause me to miscarry. So, even if I could relax and forget everything and not chart when I ovulated and not figure out when my period should start, if I forget for a week or more after that, well, I could end up losing another baby.

I don’t think intentionally losing track of things is in my cards.

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Seed starting in newspaper pots

I started starting my seeds in my newspaper pots today. I’d say I’m maybe a few weeks late, but since I don’t plan to transplant anything until the middle to end of May, I’ll be ok.

First, a bit on what to start your seeds in. I’ve had good luck with Miracle Gro potting soil with Moisture Control. It is available at my local stores and it really wicks the moisture up to the plants. Since I am going to be bottom watering, that is important.

I had some left over from last year, so the first thing I had to do was moisten it up. It was bone dry, and some of it was in chunks.
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It is surprising how much water it will soak up and still not be sopping wet. I simply transferred to my biggest pot and added water. Using my sauerkraut technique (squeeze the heck out of it), I got the water to incorporate into the dry material and eventually got it to clump up when I squeezed it, but not be soupy. This is the consistency I like.
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I like to plant into pots big enough that I won’t have to transplant them. I don’t have time to fuss with it, so I just figure that I will transplant them into the ground before they get root bound. To make my holding trays, I take a pizza box and reinforce it with duct tape as necessary.
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I then slip it into a large garbage bag. The point of this is that the cardboard will not get wet, so make sure the garbage bag doesn’t have any holes. Also, it needs to be large enough to cover the entire pizza box, including up the sides. “Watering from the bottom” means that you will eventually fill the plastic covered pizza box with water and let the newspaper and potting mix bring the water up to the roots of the plant, so it must be able to hold water and it needs to go all the way up the side of the box so it won’t spill over. One of the garbage bags tonight was big enough for the whole box to fit in, but the other one wasn’t, so I cut it so that the box wasn’t inside the plastic, but the plastic instead was just on top of it. It’ll work fine.

Then, fill the pots with the damp soil and pack down slightly. I fill all of them first, and then worry about what I am going to plant in each of them. I was able to fit 6 in each column, and I got 12 across, so this one pizza box holds 72 pots. They will help hold each other up, and the funny thing is, that when I just put the empty pots in, I could only got 5 across, but when I got the soil packed in and I was able to push them up against each other, I was able to get 6.
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I then started to plant. Cabbage and broccoli were first up. They should have been started earlier, but no use crying over that. I planted 18 broccoli plants, and 36 cabbages, 18 from Gurney’s and 18 from Jackie Clay. I put two seeds in each pot, and when they get going for a few weeks or so, I will see which one is growing best in each pot, and carefully cut the other one away. That way, each pot will only have one plant to support.

The last thing I planted in this flat is some Jimson Weed (some? Ha. 18 of them). This is a flower that my husband’s Grandma has in her yard, and it is just beautiful and so fragrant. The flowers bloom towards evening, so it is perfect for me. I don’t go out in the yard before work or church, and Saturdays are a big house chore day for me, so I don’t ever get out to the garden until afternoon/evening time. They have large, showy, white, tube like flowers and a lot of dark green foliage. The plants themselves get very large. Grandma C gave me some of the seeds last year from her plant, and so I’ve been holding on to them since then. I didn’t know how many will actually germinate, so I planted 2 or 3 per pot. This plant is said to thrive in dry conditions, so how perfect is that in this dry, droughty season? This is a picture from a few years ago in her yard. The picture quality is awful, but I hope you can tell how large and showy the flowers are!
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So, why am I planting flowers? It’s vegetable planting time, yo. Well, because. My best friend has the most awesome yard I’ve seen. She gardens for vegetables, has started an orchard behind her house, and the front of her house keeps getting deeper and deeper flower beds. I bet she has a 6 foot deep bed of flowers in front of the house, and it just looks so great! She buys bulbs and flowers when they are spent and at a deep discount, plants them, and they come up the next year, and every year after. She gets delayed beauty, but for cheap. I saw it a few years ago, and I’ll admit. I was jealous. But then I decided, hey, why be jealous, be inspired instead! So, since then, I’ve started thinking about adding flowers to my yard.

I started out by putting newspaper down on the grass on the north side of our house, wetting it down, and then putting deep straw on top of that. I did that a year and a half ago in the fall, and I just let it go over the winter. Then, last spring, I dug in it, and it was very loose soil and almost all of the grass and weeds were gone. Grandma C brought over some bulbs for some early small white flowers, and we planted those last year, and I got some geraniums from work last year in a hanging pot. I split those up, got 3 plants out of the it, and planted those as well. I was planning on starting more flowers, but I just never got around to it. I tried planting the Jimson Weed out there, but I didn’t get any to come up. I think it was too dry to germinate, and I do awful watering when they are seeds. I then added more newspapers and more straw and left it for the rest of the year, until now. Now, it is basically bare ground, but on the north side of the house so it isn’t baked and cracked like the rest of the ground is. Covering it again is on the list.

So that was some long winded background to the question of why am I starting flowers now when the vegetables need to get in. The answer is, if I don’t start them now, I might not ever get them started. I plan on starting some flowers in each flat I start, just to make sure that I don’t wait until everything else is done, because by then, I might be too busy and put it off too long.

I ran out of potting soil before I got the second flat filled. This pizza box only holds 5 in each column, and I ran out right when I finished the 8th row, a little over half way to filling this flat. I planted 15 Kale, 15 Celery (both from Gurney’s) and the rest in daisies. As an aside: Holy moley, celery seed is small. I basically dusted those in: took a pinch, sprinkled it over each pot, and then kind of poked them into the soil. I’ve never planted celery before, so we’ll see if they take.

I only have one heating pad, so I just put it under the first flat, and once those have germinated and are poking up, I’ll shift it so that I am heating another section of the boxes. I got this from Gurney’s a few years ago.
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Finally, last thing I do is put plastic wrap over the top of the flats. The seeds need to be damp, but not soaking, so I won’t water any more until they have poked up over the soil. I put plastic over the top so that the moisture won’t evaporate, put it on the heating pad, and let them be.
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Now, I just need to get more potting soil, and spend some more time making pots. I’ve got okra, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers to start for sure, more flowers, and if I have time/space, I’ll put in some cucumbers, and both winter and summer squashes. Might as well start everything now, before the hubbub of late May gets here.

I don’t need to set up my lights just yet. The seeds need to sprout and get 1/2″ or so tall before they need any lights. DH is telling me he is going to weld up some light holders for me, and we’ll see how that goes. I might have to apply some interesting engineering to the problem if he doesn’t get it done. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and all that.

Am I a creative?

Once again, Erica at NWEdible.com has prodded me to think. Usually that is thinking about a cooking technique or garden facts or something, but this time, it is the art of a creative person working in the 9-5 world. By the way, who works 9-5? Every job I’ve ever had was 8-5. Or, I guess, 8-6 at Hawker. I only read the article because she is my favorite blogger, so everything she writes is worth a courtesy glance, even if it doesn’t apply to me. But guess what: I am a creative. I never knew that before.

First, read her article: 4 work problems of creative people and how to solve them

Oh my. I have never known that I am a creative. I am a math geek. A computer programmer. All left sided brain. Logic and reason control my work days.

Yet. Higher math is actually creative. Theoretical algebra, which I got a Master’s in because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet, is creative. It isn’t rote memorization, and it isn’t step by step. It is beautiful and mind expanding and it is creative in its own way. Theorems and axioms are the lincoln logs that allow you to build something entirely new, or at least follow in the footsteps of the great thinkers of the past.

Programming also is creative. Sometimes you have to just sit there and think. Let it paint a canvass in your head before you can type it out. I admit, as the only programmer in my company, and self taught, I don’t do waterfalls, I don’t check code in and out, and I could probably do a better job of planning out all the steps instead of just diving in. I can sometimes type and make really good progress for a couple hours in a row. Then, I have to take a break – usually by looking at the internet. I can’t start another project. What I have been working on has to percolate for a while. It has to bounce against all the fragments and half finished ideas and find a way to work together, and then, suddenly, I must flip back to my work screen and out the code comes pouring out again.

If I am doing something the easy way and not the right way, I start taking more and more breaks. Like a lot. I can’t get myself to type anymore. Eventually, I have to say to myself, usually in my head, but sometimes out loud “Fine.” It might mean ripping out a lot of code I have already done, but it will be right and it is the right thing to do.

I work full time coding for my employer, but only 3 days a week at the office and then 2 days a week at home. I get so much done at home. No commute, complete quite, no office jibber jabber and sometimes I’ll be coding and look up and it is 5:30 and I have worked 30 minutes past quitting time.

I am the only one in the company that they allow to do this. No other person gets to work at home consistently 2 days a week. I don’t think anyone else has even asked to do this. It “helps” that I live an hour away. That was a good introduction and sell to let me, but honestly, my work ethic and lack of wanting to do housework (ha! People ask me, don’t you get tempted to do laundry or dishes or something instead of working? Not even a little.) has made it a perfect fit. If they take it away from me, the day they tell me I have to go in all 5 days is the day I look for something else.

I have a flipbook of projects that need to be done. I have to write it down or get an email about it or something, or else I will concentrate on remembering it and won’t get anything else done.

You are right about the bank not caring that you are a creative. We farm and my husband and I are trying to buy (too much) farm ground that has been in the family for 7 generations (my son is the 7th). It is not possible for me to quit and pay the bills and make the land payment. It is barely possible with my job. Luckily I love my job and fit in well. My previous job, at a union-dominated aircraft company was hell for me. No quarter was given. I lived 3 hours away, drove down Monday morning, stayed overnight in a rented room until Thursday night and then came home. Did that for the first year of our marriage (the CIO had told me to talk to him after I got married he would work with me to set a schedule. After I got back from my honeymoon, I brought it up and he had an incredulous look on his face and said “I never said that!”). Worked 10 hour days. Everything was so scripted and regimented and people who were great coders/workers were lumped in with the dead weight and everyone was treated exactly the same. I hated it. The best thing that ever happened to me was being laid off from that awful company.

I think this might explain why either my house looks awesome (because I do my exact specified chores every night) or attains shithole status (I skipped a few days, so I might as well take 2 weeks off). I diet like a banshee, do really well for months at a time, then eat a cookie, which turns into 5, so I might as well have a couple dark beers and some popcorn, hey, how about some thick pieces of raisin bread? Ice cream? Sure. I look up a month later and I have taken great big giant steps backwards. The garden looks great but the backyard is awful. I take on projects and follow through with them, but the other things I don’t even see. I am focused on the things that are important, and if they are not important to me, I literally don’t think to do them unless they are on a list somewhere.

This article opened my eyes to something I have never seen before. I knit, I can, I garden, I sew, I read (a lot), I do a lot of things that would be considered creative, but I am a math geek. Therefore I can’t be creative, can I? I guess I can be.

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Homemade Sauerkraut

So I read Erica’s post at nwedible.com today about a braised cabbage recipe I can convert to Whole 30 by replacing the cream with chicken broth, and so I have had cabbage on the brain. And then, when I went past the grocery store by work, they had a sign out that said cabbage was on sale for $0.33 per pound. I didn’t want to stop, so I went past, vowing to grab some on Friday when I was back in town. Once past, and down the road, I realized we were out of some fruits and nuts at home, so I stopped at the grocery store in the town north of us. They had cabbages on sale for $0.25 / lb. It was a sign, I tell ya. So I picked up what ended up being about 16 lbs of cabbage. Total cost: $4.03.

Making sauerkraut is so easy. Cut/shred, salt, keep the cabbage below the liquid, wait 6 weeks until the fermentation is done. Really, that is it. I keep the air out and haven’t had to deal with any Kahm yeast since doing that, but some people don’t and they seem to do just fine scraping that yeast off. I figure, might as well let the air pressure out a few times during that 6 weeks and not have to scrape anything.

First, I cut the cores out and then started slicing them into large chunks. That’s a lot of cabbage.
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I ended up keeping one whole cabbage for tomorrow for the braised cabbage, so I’m krauting about 8 1/2 lbs. (An aside: my sister got me this kitchen scale for Christmas a few years ago, and it is so helpful! Get one.)
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I use approximately 2 tsp salt per pound of cabbage. I measured out 17 tsp of salt and put it in a white bowl. The picture was underwhelming. I’m sure you can do that without a picture. I use canning salt as it is pure salt and very fine, so it will dissolve and do its work quickly. I put a few handfuls of cabbage into the gallon jar, and then pour some of the salt in, and then squeeze the crap out of it in the jar. You are trying to draw the water out of the cabbage to make the brine needed to allow fermentation instead of rotting, so squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.
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Keep going until the jar is almost full. The fermentation process might make the brine bubble up over the top, so I try to leave a bit of space.
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I then take a plastic lid and cut along the radius.
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This allows you to fold it into a cone, and once you get it down past the lip of the jar, it will open up, and you can push the cabbage down and let the brine come up over the lid.
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Finally, put a lid on it. I can’t find my lid for the gallon jar. Either Boobock put it in his toy box or I threw it away. So, I used some plastic wrap and duct tape. I put a small canning jar in first and filled it with brine to help keep the cabbage down under the brine. And then I taped it up. I know. It’s redneck. Deal with it. After this picture, I realized that I could use a canning jar lid/ring on the half gallon jar, so I took off the tape/plastic wrap and used those. I’ll just need to burp it periodically, and to do that, just slightly unscrew the lid until the air escapes and then quickly shut it again.
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It needs to sit for at least 6 weeks. I put the end date on the front and marked that it would be 6 weeks on that day. I will try not to open it at all for those 6 weeks. If something happens, and it gets exposed to air, it is ok. I’ll just recover it. But keeping it out of the air, I think, really helps with keeping mold/kahm yeast out.

Once done, I transfer it to pint jars and put in the fridge. I have some left from when I did this in July and it is still perfect. I’ve heard it can be held in the fridge for years. I put it in pints because again, when exposed to air, it gets exposed to mold. So instead of a very large jar being opened and closed periodically with the risk of mold ruining all of it, I would rather open a small jar and eat it all in a reasonable amount of time, and keep the rest of them sealed in the fridge. DH likes to heat it and put it on hotdogs. That kills the probiotics that the fermenting produces, but it is still cabbage, still a vegetable, and still good for you. I like it raw, or on top of hamburgers or scrambled eggs (not cooked). Boobock loves it raw, as well. He’ll eat 1/2 a cup at a time if we let him, and will even request it sometimes if we don’t have it out for supper.

And so, now we wait for the new stuff. As spring starts up and we start eating more grilled food, the kraut seems to come out more. Hopefully we will finish the last of the jars in the fridge right when this stuff is done.

Edited to add, 3/12/2015: Well, the process is starting to work. I didn’t see any bubbles, but the brine spilled over the top to the counter, which means it is working.

Note to self: Put it in a casserole dish next time!

Mittens for Boobock

It took me a while, but I finally got the mittens done for Boobock. I got the first one done, put down my needles, and just stopped knitting for a while. The other day we got some snow and I couldn’t find the water proof gloves for him to wear so I pulled out one done knitted mitten and he used a cloth one on the other. Time to get down to it, Mom.

This pattern I found at Bev’s Country Cottage. I added a 3 stitch iCord to connect them. (I did the iCord first, the knitted both mittens, then connected them.)

There was a lot more going on with this pattern than with my first project…putting stitches on holder needles, increases, what “work even” means, using markers, etc. I didn’t like how when I did the increases it left big holes between the thumb and the rest of the mitten, so when I was stitching everything together, I brought that together as well. I also cut the yarn too close when I finished stitching things together, so I had to unstitch some of it tie it off and add another strand to tie the last cuff. Lessons learned.

Keeping track of stitches was difficult for me. I had to write down every step and check each row off as I was going. The paper looks a bit worse for wear, but it got me through these two mittens as least:
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I had some places where it said “work even for 14 rows”. In this case, the pattern was “knit one row, purl the next”. So, I wrote down 14 rows, so I could put a check by each one, like this:
1K
2P
3K
4P

14P

That was helpful, and I will do it again like this as I get into more difficult patterns.

2 Needle KNIT MITTENS FOR KIDS (pattern by Bev Qualheim-copyright 1998, 2014)
Sizes: 6-8 (9-10)
2 oz 4 ply yarn
2 stitch holders and sewing needle.
Knitting needles size 8
CUFF: Cast on 28 sts. Work in ribbing of k1, p1 for 12 rows.
HAND: Row 1: inc 1 st in each of first 2 sts, k across, inc 1 st in each of last 2 sts – 32 sts.
Row 2and All even rows: P
Row 3: K 15, place marker on needle, inc in each of the next 2 sts, place a marker on needle, k 15.
Row 5: K 15, sl marker, inc in next st, k2, inc in next st, sl marker, k 15. Continue to increase 1 st after first marker and before 2nd marker every k row until there are 12 sts between markers.
Row 12: P 16; sl sts to a holder, removing marker; p 10 (thumb); sl remaining 16 sts to another holder.
THUMB: Work even for 6 (8) rows. K 2 tog across next row. Break yarn; leave end for sewing. Run yarn through remaining sts, draw up tightly and fasten. Sew thumb seam.
TOP: Join yarn at beg of 2nd holder, p to end of row. Work even on 32 sts for 14 (16) rows.
SHAPE TOP: Row 1: (k 2 tog, k2) 8 times.
Row 2: P
Row 3: (k2 tog, k1) 8 times.
Row 4: P
Row 5: K 2 tog across. Break yarn; run through remaining sts and fasten.
Make a 2nd mitten in the same manner.
Sew up seams. I often use a hair brush to brush the inside of each mitten and make them softer.

And here is the result:
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Oh, wait, no, that was the mess of yarn that occurred when I tried to reroll the yarn up into a ball I could pull from the middle. After I was done with the mittens, it took DH and I about an hour to untangle that mess.

Here are the real results:
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A happy kid.

And two mittens.
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Making newspaper seed pots

Seed orders are in (at least the first two rounds), which means, it is about seed starting time. I like to start in the middle of March, which means a few weeks to get things prepared. The seeds have yet to be delivered, but hey, let’s get started on the pots anyway.

I have tried different ways to start seeds. I have bought peat pots, little circles of peat that go into styrofoam, which then the styrofoam floats so the peat doesn’t get waterlogged, dixie cups, etc. All of these have the problem of: you have to buy them. They are also a little hard to get the correct water amount to the plants. I want to be able to water from the bottom and let the wicking action of the soil bring water up to the roots while they are inside. The newspaper gets soaked this way, but it is strong enough to hold on for the 6-8 weeks I need them too. I also don’t want to disturb any roots when I plant them, so I don’t want to have to take them out of the pot they were growing in. And, they cannot be root bound.

The answer: newspaper seed pots. Water from the bottom and you can control how wet the soil gets. Plant them out (after hardening off) without doing anything other than tearing any newspaper off that reaches above the soil line so it doesn’t wick moisture away into the atmosphere, and tear off the small bottom circle of newspaper at the bottom. No roots are disturbed this way. And, the roots will grow through the newspaper when in the ground and the newspaper will disintegrate by the end of the growing season. (We just pulled some spent tomato plants from the garden last week, and there was no trace of newspaper around the roots. My brother commented on how mom’s tomato plants didn’t have nice, big, expansive roots like mine did. She bought hers from the store, and they were in peat pots.) These are large enough for my purposes that I don’t usually have to transplant to bigger pots later on, either.

Also: you don’t have to buy a tool to make the seed pots. I’ve found a way to use newspaper and regular tape left over from wrapping Christmas presents.

First, the newspaper. Black and white, color, it doesn’t matter. All the ink is safe to use. I had a pile of the smaller newspapers around, but fortuitously, the smaller ones are exactly half the size of the regular sized ones, so one more cut on the regularly sized ones will get you down to the smaller size, and you can follow along from there.

I use clear scotch tape. It disintegrates in the ground with no trace.

Then, all you need is a form. I use a soy sauce bottle. It seems to be the perfect size. And scissors.
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One thing to remember: this is not fine furniture. You are creating pots to hold dirt and will be gone in 6 months, never to be seen again. Don’t get too hung up on what they look like. If they can hold dirt and can stand up with a little help with their friends, they are fine.

I will be putting these in a pizza box inserted inside a plastic garbage sack. I’m just making the pots now, but that is where they will eventually end up, so they might as well go in there.

So you take your newspaper and fold it in half. Hey look, that’s my cousin on the front page!
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Make sure the edges line up.
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Cut down the fold:
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Fold in half the other direction and cut down the fold. You should have sizes about like this:
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I use two sheets at a time. When you get done cutting, half of them will have two sheets still connected by a fold, and half of them will be completely cut apart. Use the folded ones as is, and use two of them if they are cut apart completely.

Grab your soy sauce bottle and wrap the newspaper around it. It is up to you to decide how tall to make it, but you need to be able to completely fold and close off the bottom, so take that into account. This “Good Housekeeping” icon makes a good measuring line. For the folded ones, I put the folded side on the measuring line. The free ones, it doesn’t matter. Put one piece of tape on this seam.
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Turn the bottle upside down and rest it on the table. We are going to fold the bottom. Find the seam, and push the seam across the bottom of the bottle.
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On the right side of that fold, push in again across the bottom of the bottle.
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Then, on the left side of the original fold, push in again across the bottom of the bottle:
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One more fold.
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And then, one piece of tape secures this. I fold it specifically this way so the tape both holds the fold down and tapes together the seam on the side.
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Slide it off the bottle, and you are ready for your next one. I did all these (64 of them) in about 45 minutes last night, watching TV with DH. And now they are just waiting to be filled with potting soil and planted.
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Don’t forget to wash your hands!
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It heals what ails ya

DH has been feeling pretty under the weather for the past couple of weeks with a head cold and stuffy sinuses, and I had a late meeting tonight after work…so it was a perfect night for some homemade chicken soup. Oh yes, a fast meal ready in, oh, I’d say 20 minutes.

Of course, I did most of the prep for this meal weeks ago. I had bought 4 2 lb packages of chicken quarters when they were on sale for $.98 / lb, boiled all of them and canned up the meat and broth. Cooking and canning the meat – PRESSURE CANNER ONLY!!! – took a Saturday afternoon (ended up with 6 pints canned and 1 pint we ate that night), and then Sunday, after church, I scraped off the chicken fat that congealed at the top of the pot (it was in the fridge all night) and then canned 14 pints of broth. And then made schmaltz out of the chicken fat. No waste here!

Last time I bought carrots and celery, I bought two packages of each, peeled all the carrots, washed the celery, and then used my food processor to cut all the carrots and celery into rings. Those went into ziploc bags, with 1 cup carrots and 1 cup celery in each bag, and into the freezer.
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So, making dinner tonight was just a matter of chopping up an onion. Used the schmaltz to sauté the onion in a sauce pan, then added the carrots and celery. I would have added garlic, but I was out. I let that sauté a while, and then just dumped in 1 pint of broth, then measured out 1 pint of water, added the pint of chicken, and salt and pepper (quite a bit of salt and pepper, actually. More than a few shakes). That’s it! I brought it up to a boil and let it lightly boil for about 10 minutes, and supper was ready. Whole40*, even.

DH ate a few bites and said, “Oh, that’s good. I am feeling much better!” I agree.
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Homemade Chicken Soup
1 chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1 pint home canned broth
1 pint water
1 pint home canned chicken
salt / pepper

Sauté onion, carrots and celery. When fragrant, add broth, water and canned chicken. Boil 10 minutes.

*I’m doing a Whole 30 for Lent, so I’ve been calling it a Whole 40.

Plastic white stars and shiny crescent moons

As I make the rounds of my favorite blogs, I see mention of different herbs, essential oils, magic green smoothies and other witches’ brews that can help with infertility problems. I’ve asked before, how does this or that interact with these medications I’m taking? Does it enhance or negate the effects of Metformin or d-Chiro Inositol? Does it enhance or negate the effects of Femara/Progesterone/HCG at strategic points of my cycle? Does it help or hurt PCOS? Do you take them all month? The 2 to 2.5 to 3 weeks (depends on the month) before ovulation? Only after ovulation? What exactly should be done here?

Inevitably, the answer is “ask your doctor.” Like a doctor will prescribe you essential oils or herbs, or even know what the interaction will be. I’ve been told to find a Naturopath. Looked for one, and found one 5 hours away. Not practical.

While browsing around amazon the other day to buy some Pre-Seed (yet another tool in the toolkit that isn’t sold anywhere within an hour of me), the “also bought” section showed some pre-conception tea. It is a mix of herbs, red rasberry leaf, red clover, nettle, alfalfa, chamomile, oatstraw, peppermint and dandelion leaf, and I thought I would try it. Since starting yet another Whole 40 (you know, for Lent), I can’t really drink anything other than water. Caffeine is a no-no, juice is a no-no, awesome, dark, full-bodied beer is a no-no, pretty much herbal teas and water are it.

It shipped out, and the same questions came over me. What if this month we actually succeeded? Should I start drinking it yet, or wait until the 2ww is over? Will it mess up my blood results? Is it going to taste awful?

I don’t know yet. I decided to wait.

But I did get the package, and in it, along with the loose leaf tea, came this:
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“This baby dust is Special and is being sent to you hoping it will help your fondest dreams come true.”

Dafuq is that? I know, it is something cute little 20 somethings who decide they want a baby, come off the pill, wait 3 months, try some hippy yuppy crap, and conceive in the next cycle find totes adorbs.

If only I’d known. If only I had realized the power of plastic white stars. Of silver and blue shiny crescents. Of glitter. BABY stamped out of blue and pink. Why, these past 7 years would have been totally different! We would have had to move into bigger accommodations twice over to handle all the babies spewing out of my vagina. 8 shots a month, half of them in oil which leave giant welts on your ass…and that’s just in the trying stage? Why no! The glitter is specially formulated to provide all you need in the hormonal department! A vaginal ultrasound every month to make sure that your ovaries aren’t being overstimulated by the high doses of Femara? Nope again. The twinkle off the stars will peer deep into your abdominal cavity and make sure only one egg is released at a time.

Ugh. I know it was intended as a nice gesture. It just utterly failed in this house.

Seed orders in!

This year, I have decided to cut down on varieties and some of the vegetables that “have” to go into modern gardens and fall back to what we will really eat. When I think of last year’s garden and what things we definitely need more of, green beans top the list. I canned 25 pints of green beans last year, and each load out of the canner only lasted about 2 weeks. Then strawberries (only one bowl made it to the house…Boobock ate the rest out in the garden), sweet potatoes, potatoes, and large tomatoes (for salsa, crushed tomatoes, etc). Definitely need less zucchini/yellow squash, winter squash and cherry tomatoes (omg, what was I thinking planting 6 of these?) No kohlrabi, radishes, or dill. Fewer eggplant, though still need some. Same amounts of okra, beets, cilantro, onions, though all yellow onions instead of yellow, white and red onions. 2 jalapeños and the rest the giant sweet peppers I found through Gurney’s, instead of three or four different varieties of sweet peppers.

Last year I ordered everything from Gurney’s, except I ordered one winter squash from Jackie Clay, and traded some seeds with a blogger in Florida. I was counting on using those seeds again…but I can’t find them anywhere! dun-dun-dun. I swore I put them in the refrigerator, but nope, can’t find them.

I waited for Gurney’s to put out a good deal. Usually they put out “buy $50 save $25″ or “buy $100 save $50″, etc, but I missed that sale. I waited for another sale, and today, I got an email about a one day, 50% off sale.

I was able to capitalize on that sale by having my list ready. I listed everything I want to plant this year and categorized it by who I wanted to buy it from, either Gurney’s, Jackie Clay, the local greenhouse, or from neighbors (yay neighbors!)

I also talked to my mom and asked her what seeds she needed. We can share the seeds and split the costs.

I decided to get the following from Jackie Clay, at seedtreasures.com:

  1. Provider Bush Green Beans (x2)
  2. Detroit Dark Red Beets
  3. Goliath Broccoli
  4. Late Flat Dutch Cabbage
  5. Homemade Pickles Cucumbers
  6. Bill Bean Tomatoes
  7. Alpine Tomatoes
  8. Box Car Willie Tomatoes
  9. Hopi Pale Gray Squash

She sells seeds for $2.50 a pack and then $3.00 shipping, no matter how many you order. There is no order form…so I wrote it out longhand and sent a check.

From Gurney’s, I got this:

  1. Purple Pod Pole Beans (x2)
  2. Improved Golden Wax Beans (x2)
  3. Black Magic Kale
  4. Buttercrunch Lettuce
  5. Waltham Butternut Squash
  6. Stonehead Hybrid Cabbage
  7. Cilantro
  8. Early Sprint Burpless Hybrid Slicing Cucumber
  9. Eclipse Hybrid Eggplant
  10. Gurney’s Gumbo Hybrid Okra
  11. Yellow Ebenezer Onion Sets (x6)
  12. Double Delight Hybrid Sweet Peppers
  13. Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Pea
  14. Vegetable Spaghetti Winter Squash
  15. Winter Squash Primevera Hybrid (spaghetti squash)
  16. Golden Rave Tomatoes
  17. Multipik Hybrid Summer Squash
  18. Black Magic Zucchini Summer Squash
  19. Gurney’s Primo Jalapeño Hybrid Hot Pepper

The cantaloupe was $6.99 a pack (!) so we decided to get that locally, and then also, I am going to get sweet corn, strawberries and sweet potatoes at the local greenhouse.

And finally, I asked on the local buy/sell/trade facebook page if anyone had horseradish they would be willing to dig up, and had someone say they could share with me. (An aside: I told my dad that I was going to put horseradish in, and he said “If your Grandpa Ernie was here today, he would kiss you!” Grandpa loved hot, spicy things, and I am so glad my dad told me that…) I will try to get the roots in the next couple of weeks so I can plant them soon.

I was also offered some seed potatoes from my dad’s cousin, and I will certainly take those as well.

All told, I have spent about $100 on seeds. Which may sound like a lot, but, let’s consider it first of all a 6 month hobby, and second, let’s consider the food output from all these seeds, and third, let’s consider that some of these seed prices will be cut in half when I share with my mom, so yeah, out of pocket it is kind of steep, but long term worth it.

Now to find a place to start the seeds, since my previous years’ spot is now taken over by two toy boxes…

Update: Of course that can’t be the entire list. Before I got the envelope sent off to Jackie Clay, DH requested I grow carrots. So…add Kuroda carrots to the above list from seedtreasures.com

I’m sure I’ll order more from Gurney’s as well. Just waiting for another sale…

No, you can’t get GMO seeds for your garden

Spring is getting closer, so of course bloggers the country over are planning their gardens. People on this diet or that debate relative safety/goodness of different foods, and if it will help you lose weight or strip your innards of good bacteria, poison you, or kill you. Tin foil hat people think it is a conspiracy between giant corporations and the government to control you. What is it? Anything you want to rail against.

Those things have a common overlap: anti-GMOness in all forms, explicitly and completely. Never mind that most people writing about GMOs don’t know what it is, what it does, and how it has an effect on your body. (And they can’t know what the effect will be…there are many different kinds of GMOs and they all do different things to the plants, and if they do in fact have an effect on your body, the effect of each will be different.)

I have read quite a few blogs that say to make sure you buy your seeds for your garden from specific seed houses so that you won’t inadvertently get GMO seed from “any other (bad) seed house!!!” that the blogger isn’t affiliated with. That is complete and utter bunk. Bullshit, if I can be brutally honest.

Let me tell you, Monsanto is very proud of their GMO technology. Very proud. They are so in control of their patents and seeds that when you buy field crop seeds that are Roundup Ready, you have to sign an agreement that you won’t keep the resultant crop, and you won’t sell it yourself for someone else to plant. The dealer you bought it from has to report to Monsanto your name, address, Monsanto ID (which you had to apply for before buying), quantity, date, invoice number, salesman name, and if you return it, they have to account for that too. For some products, you even have to give them the GPS coordinates of the field you are planting (!) Monsanto isn’t interested in giving their technology away. They are interested in making money off of their innovations, and sneaking it in somewhere to a gardener’s broccoli seeds doesn’t bring the dollars in.

Speaking of GMO broccoli…um, there isn’t any. Here is the complete list of GMO plants:
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Argentine Canola (Brassica napus)
Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.)
Creeping Bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera)
Eggplant (Solanum melongena)
Flax (Linum usitatissumum L.)
Maize (Zea mays L.)
Melon (Cucumis melo)
Papaya (Carica papaya)
Petunia (Petunia hybrida)
Plum (Prunus domestica)
Polish canola (Brassica rapa)
Poplar (Populus sp.)
Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.)
Rice (Oryza sativa L.)
Rose (Rosa hybrida)
Soybean (Glycine max L.)
Squash (Cucurbita pepo)
Sugar Beet (Beta vulgaris)
Sugarcane (Saccharum sp)
Sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum)
Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.)
Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum)
Wheat (Triticum aestivum)

“Ah ha!” you triumphantly say. Beans, Eggplant, Melon, Plum, Potato, Squash, Beets, Sweet Peppers, Corn and Tomatoes grow in my garden! Yes, grasshopper, but look at the links. Beans = only available in Brazil. Eggplant = Bangladesh. Sweet Peppers = China.

These have authorization to be grown in the U.S.: Melon, Plum, Squash, Tomato, Potato. So, I challenge you: Find me some of those to plant. Find some so I can put them in my garden – especially a squash plant that repels squash bugs. You won’t be able to, because none of them are commercially available. There is literally no GMO seed available to plant for those 5 types for the home gardener.

Corn is another matter. BT corn and Roundup Ready corn is available, mostly field corn, but some sweet corn is now commercially available. I’ve been looking just to see if I could even buy some for my home garden, and came across this:

Stewardship Requirements
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency requires that Seminis® Performance Series™ sweet corn only be purchased by growers signing a grower license that contractually obligates compliance with the Insect Resistance Management (IRM) program and does not allow the sale of seed to small roadside or home growers.

Just as I thought…you have to sign an agreement with Monsanto. And it isn’t available to home growers.

Another side rant. There is no GMO wheat available to plant in the U.S. either. There just isn’t. It was approved for the U.S., but Monsanto stopped development on it. So if someone says they are avoiding wheat because of the chance of GMO contamination, well, they are idiots.

So why? Why is this such a common theme on garden blogs? Seed sellers? Health nuts? Because it is good marketing for the seed sellers. Like labeling bottled water “gluten free”. I think that most people don’t know what GMO means, how it is tested, and what is actually available as seed to put in the ground, and they are scared. So they buy the hype and look down their noses at rubes who don’t worry about it.