Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day 2011!

Ever since grade school when we were given tiny Dixie cups filled with dirt and a handful of seeds, I've loved to watch something so tiny spring to life and grow.  I don't plant tomatoes or peppers out in the garden until the end of May, so I usually don't start my seeds much more than a month ahead of time.  Over eager seeders usually end up with leggy plants that don't perform any better in the garden.

I've had this plant stand built many years ago.  It's a simple A frame with plywood shelves with regular shop lights on chains that can be moved as the plant grow.  There are three levels, and it holds about 10 flats. I have a heating mat to to help get the tomatoes and peppers germinated. I use jiffy pots in the trays; they are easy to use and you can pop the whole thing in the garden when it's time to plant.

One of the tricks that I use to help the seedlings develop into sturdy plants is to run a small fan to gently blow across the seedlings once they've developed a true set of leaves.  It helps prevent damping off, a sad fungal affliction that causes the seedlings to wilt and keel over. 

I recently purchased this counter top compost bucket with a charcoal lid insert. Egg shells, coffee grounds, and all fruit and veggie scraps go in here before moving to their new outdoor composter (from Sam's Club - $40) that I just got set-up this week:

But I am most excited about my new 12' x 3' cold frame right outside my office. 

Inside Cold Frame
I'll be able to start spring greens much earlier now,  harden off my inside flats without constantly moving them in and out of the garage,  plus extend the fall season probably until Thanksgiving.

My next projects include emptying my basement dehumidifier into a watering can instead of putting it down the drain, and installing a rain barrel to collect the water from the downspout.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hello, Goodbye

Cold Frame - Almost
Raise your hand if you thought this was the longest, darkest, coldest, snowiest, most depressing winter you could remember in a long time.  Now think about how much less fun it would have been if you went bald, lost your appetite, and basically felt like shit on a stick for the duration.

I'd like to say "Hello Spring, Goodbye Winter', but it just keeps hanging on.  Enough, already.  I'd also like to say that post chemo, I slept off the the usual post period, then suddenly awoke like a hibernating bear, hungry and ready to go.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite go that way.  My appetite has been replaced with a crapetite (you wouldn't believe what I've subsisted on), and the accumulated fatigue can knock me out at any time, like a cranky toddler. 

The good news is that I passed my heart echo test with flying colors.  The bad news is that I can barely do anything without having to take a break to catch my breath. It's both physically and mentally exhausting at this point.

Jake eating corn on the cob last summer
I did have to say goodbye to my oldest and favorite cat, Jake.  At nearly sixteen, he was showing plenty of signs of aging.  He had lost weight, had thyroid problems, and failing kidneys.  He'd always been a great lap cat, but when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, he seemed to sense it, and he rarely left my lap, and he started sleeping practically on my pillow.

He held on through chemo, but was not doing so well the night before my last one, and I took him to the vet expecting the worst.  She said he needed fluids and an enema.  I left him overnight and picked him up after chemo.  While I gutted out the last round, he got worse as the days passed, and I knew it was time. It's just not the same around here without him.

Hellebore aka Lenten Rose
I'm slowly spring cleaning from the top to bottom of the house.  Every time I hit a tag sale in the neighborhood and see a house full of junk housed in rooms stuck in a time warp, like the brightly colored, shag carpeted place a few blocks away, it spurs me into action. I predict a really big yard sale next month. 

Also discovering all of the home repairs that are in my future - leaking roof, crumbling front stoop, crack in the basement foundation, and finally why it's so cold in the kitchen - apparently the duct in the crawl space is disconnected, as discovered by the guy who replaced my gas meter. 

I'm looking forward to my new 12' by 3' cold frame located right outside my office.  As you can see, there was a little problem with measurement in the last frame.  Oops. I can probably start enough plants in there for the entire neighborhood.

Green and Pink Hellebore
I said hello to these beautiful Hellebores.  They are one of the first spring bloomers.  I've long admired them, but they are usually hard to find and very expensive, and I feel fortunate to have found some at a reasonable price. 

My daily trek for radiation treatments technically begins today.  I've been measured and tatooed, and survived the dry run. 

I also forgot until yesterday that I was due for a new driver's license.  Fortunately, you are permitted to wear a scarf for the photo.  I was kind of surprised, that all things considered, it turned out pretty good.