30 June 2007

"Dead" Tomatoes

Fortunately I decided to ignore the tomatoes I'd killed a few weeks ago. They seem, to have forgiven me after all!

The one on the left has several little tomato babies and the one on the right is just covered in sweet little yellow tomato flowers.
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The garden, June 30

It's really gotten thick in there...

(Yes, I am aware that this isn't as interesting to anyone else as it is to me - -I want a record to compare to next year.)
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25 June 2007

OK, now this is funny!

Zero Boss is rate G -- but Chez Smiffy is rated NC 17. I'm amused.

Online Dating

23 June 2007


Funny thing.

A couple of people recently have referred to gardening as "my hobby". Oddly enough, given my current obsession, I don't see gardening as a hobby. I see gardening as one more way I take care of my family, sort of like an extension of cooking. I am enjoying it, but it isn't satisfying in the same way my "real" hobby is.

I am a paper crafter - I make greeting cards and I scrapbook. When I spend an hour cutting and pasting and stamping and painting, I am refreshed, calm, and content with the world. An hour in the garden is satisfying in it own way - but that would be in the same way housework is satisfying -- I am perhaps satisfied with my accomplishment, but my hands are dirty and I am tired and I smell bad. I am no calmer than before, as a rule. (That may change as I get better at this whole thing -- but my hands will still be dirty and I will still often smell bad.)

On the other hand -- we have *FIVE* zucchini in the garden -- and several are almost eating size!!! I could have sworn they weren't there when I discovered the first tomato ... and I looked! How did they go from not there to eating size in a day?!?!?

22 June 2007

An old essay I came across...

I wrote this back in 1999 -- came across it this morning and thought you might be amused.

Blaming it all on Karma
by Misti Anslin Delaney (1999)

The Samhain morning murder of Ronnie Raub has a lot of people in our community thinking and talking. How, we wonder, could this happen in "our little family", the community of pagans who we prefer to think of as "good" people and "like us".

Domestic violence and murder go against everything that most of us believe. Nonetheless, Paul Raub - who considers himself a witch - beat his wife, Ronnie, pretty regularly, according to police reports, and now it seems he may have killed her.

Unfortunately, we in our little pagan community are just humans, and as humans we have the usual range of strengths and flaws. We'd like to think we have the inside track on wisdom, kindness, and truth. But really, we have only one of many paths to those ideals and it guides us only as well as we're ready to be guided, just as the better known religions guide their followers only as well as those followers are ready to be guided. The wise will find the essence of truth and beauty in any path, and the unenlightened can corrupt even the most wise and beautiful of faiths and philosophies.

A long time ago, a non-witchy friend asked me how anything bad could possibly happen to witches, since we know how to use magic and we can call on our powerful Goddesses and Gods. This friend knew me in a time when everything that could go wrong in my life seemed to be intent on going wrong. (It was my first Saturn return -- what can I say?) She was questioning the usefulness of my religion in light of the way my life was going at the time. I was poor, unemployed with no job skills, and the single mother of two rambunctious young boys. At some points I was technically homeless, though thanks to very, very dear people who went far beyond the call of the duty of friendship, I was never literally on the streets. I did cry along with my babies as they cried themselves to sleep from hunger on far too many occasions, when my friends didn't know the situation.

Another friend of mine, a witch, lost custody of her children to the vicious man who killed two of their children "in utero" by beating her. She found herself wondering why The Goddess had turned her back and wasn't answering her pleas to bring her children safely home.

So, why do bad things happen to good witches?

Well, why do bad things happen to anyone? People have been asking ourselves that since we first had the words to ask. That question may well be the whole reason we invented religions in the first place. And we've never found a deity or a way of life that would protect us completely - perhaps because, as Edith Hamilton once said "Man was not made for safe havens".

Some people try to blame every tragedy on karma: "I wonder what she did to deserve that?"

That attitude always annoys me. Whenever anything horrible happens to someone in our community, whether it's Ronnie's murder or the loss of custody of our children, or just a string of really bad luck, at least one person is bound to wonder aloud what the victim did to deserve it.

That's not so very different from the attitude people have long taken toward rape victims. What was she wearing, where was she, and what was she doing to invite this kind of treatment? Although it's far from extinct, this attitude is changing toward rape victims and I think it's high time we reexamined it in the rest of our thinking about tragedy.

Why doesn't being a witch, one who knows how to shape reality, one who can call on the might of our powerful Gods and Goddesses, always save us from life's tragedies? Why don't the Goddess, our loving Mother, and the God, our strong, protective Father, protect us from the fateful "bumps and bruises and broken limbs" of this world?

I'm convinced that, in part, it's because we're not here to live a safe little life in swaddling clothes. We're here to learn and to grow beyond what we arrive here as, and sometimes the learning is tough.

Just as a good mother lets her infant son take the occasional tumble as he's learning to walk and lets her young daughter take a chance on falling when she's learning to ride a two-wheeler, our Cosmic Mother lets us experience life fully, even with all its difficulty and pain. The experiences that what we survive make us who we are. Challenges toughen us to face greater challenges. Challenges that kill us also teach our greater self something... and death isn't final; it may be a major cosmic bruise, but we know we'll be back to go on learning.

Sometimes we go through hard times because we're being taught what we'll need to know to accomplish the task we're here for. The greatest of teachers and counselors are often forged in the "fire" of tragedy.

Sometimes, as in major weather disasters, we're caught up because we got in the way when the needful was happening. From the cosmic point of view, it's not a disaster, but a readjustment. Yes, a few lives were lost - but in the grand scale they mean less than the overall balance. When the rivers flood, they bring nutrients back to the land; if we've been foolish enough to make our homes in the flood plane, then that's just how it is. When a hurricane, tornado, or forest fire comes through, it tears up and destroys old growth to make room for the new. The cosmos we live in is much grander than our frail little human brains can encompass. (That's why Deities present themselves to us in the limited forms in which we know them!) There are forces at work in our world that we can only barely perceive. There is no more evil or malice in storms, floods, and fires than there was when I destroyed my toddler son's "finger painting in shades of food" on the dining room table. He was heart broken, but it needed to be done. That he didn't understand about germs and the basic necessity of cleanliness didn't make me evil or the destruction of his art malicious.

Sometimes we go through hard times simply because we got in the way of someone else's lessons at the wrong time.

Blaming the victim, though, even if he or she provably has a karmic debt, is never productive and is always cruel. I think it's a defense mechanism we use to convince ourselves that we needn't fear being victimized. We, you see, are "good" people. We've never earned the kind of karmic debt that would cause something like that to happen in our lives, so we're safe.

I have news for you.

You just don't know, can't know, exactly what your entry in the Akashic record looks like. None of us knows for certain about anything prior to this life. And for that matter, we aren't always aware of exactly what we've done and all of its results in this lifetime. Where karma is concerned, the only place we can make a functional difference is here and now. Maybe we racked up a lot of karmic debt in another lifetime, maybe we racked up a lot of karmic credit. Either way, we can neither know for certain, nor do anything to change it in the short term. From this moment forward, though, we can live with awareness. We can tip the scales for later in the direction of credits. But that won't protect us from all life's growing pains.

And bad things do happen to good, pure people all the time. Life's like that.

Our magick lets us shape reality, but this isn't Bewitched - magick takes time and planning and hard work in the real world. Sometimes things happen too fast for us to do more than hang on tight. Our magick, too, is always subject to the influence of other wills.

Sometimes it obviously works, and sometimes the results are subtler and to all appearances didn't work or didn't work out the way we'd planned.

The strength of our religion, beyond our deities and our spells, lies in its ability to give us a broader view in which to understand the events in our lives. That's one of the main premises I use in my counseling. Perspective can make all the difference in how well we cope. How we interpret things makes the difference in how we see our options. How we see our options make the difference in how we react and in how quickly we learn.

As I said before, sometimes the greatest of teachers and counselors are forged in the "fire" of tragedy. So how do they survive and thrive and come out stronger where others are broken? They allow themselves to be transformed by the experience—they use the joy and humour of our way of worship to conquer the bitterness. They use their knowledge of the accumulation of many lifetimes of lessons in the growth of the human soul to get some perspective on their situation. And they know, deep within their hearts that without some bitterness, the sweetness of life would be meaningless. They refuse to be conquered by self pity and they ground and center and go on, either in this lifetime or the next.

Ronnie found herself in an abusive relationship. Why?

We can't know. Did Ronnie somehow deserve to be killed? Did Ronnie Raub, at some karmic level, deserve all that she experienced? No, I doubt very seriously that she did. Or did she stumble into someone else's cosmic lesson? It's not our place to say. What was she supposed to learn from her killer's betrayal? I don't know. I don't think it's any of my business. Perhaps it was the payment of a karmic debt, perhaps it was a life's lesson about learning to have the strength to leave an unacceptable situation, whatever the cost - whatever the situation arose from, Ronnie did a brave and dangerous thing. She determined to remove herself and her children from a violent relationship. That would seem to have resulted in her death ... as is far too often the case in abusive relationships. (The most dangerous time for an abused woman is after she makes the decision to leave and within the first year after she leaves. That's when most abusive partners kill their victims.)

If it was her lesson, does that mean that Paul ought to get off, even if it was he who killed her? Absolutely not! We can't know what path Ronnie was walking, and we can't know what path Paul walks. But murder has consequences and a part of a murderer's path is surely to suffer the consequences of his or her acts.

But I firmly believe that Ronnie will be back, stronger than ever, to be an even greater teacher than she was in this lifetime. Her strength and compassion were obvious to all who knew her, and to many who knew only of her.

So maybe one life's lesson that we should all be tackling is to stop blaming karma for everything that happens. We need to take responsibility for our actions, to accept what life assigns us and deal with it well (whether it's a major lesson or just the way life gets sometimes), and to take proper action to help those around us when they deserve it, rather than judging them.

I grew up Catholic, and one of the few things I still find of value from that faith is the prayer of Saint Francis (paraphrased):

Give me the strength to change the things I can,
The serenity to accept what I cannot change,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

It seems to me a valid prayer in any religion.

We have produce!!!

I have just spotted our very first baby tomato!!!!

It's on one of the potted tomatoes -- the one that *didn't* get half drowned. It surprises me, because I thought tomatoes didn't set fruit when it got as hot as it's been this week. Oh well, I have much to learn yet.

I haven't checked out in the garden, yet. I don't want to wade through the wet grass in my office clothes this morning. I'll check tonight -- and by then I hope the camera will have fresh batteries.

Drat: foiled again!

*sigh* I was doing well with my exercise program until last Thursday.

On Thursday, I woke up with such awful planta fasciitis that it was hard to walk to the bathroom. It cleared up by the time I got to the bathroom, of course, as PF does. But then, every time I sat down, I stood up to more pain.

*sigh* Wisdom is better than bravery, so I skipped my walk on Thursday. Friday it felt a little better -- I was still sore when I first stretched our my fascia (that band of tissue that connects your heel to your toes along the bottom of the foot.) after sitting or sleeping, but it abated pretty quickly, so I walked two of my three circuits and then stopped when it started to really hurt.

This week, it has started to hurt pretty consistently as I started into my second circuit. I've decided that if I push through the pain, I am more likely to hurt myself and far less likely to make the long haul with my walking habit, so I've been stopping at the end of the second circuit.

So this week's total is more like 7.5 miles. Oh well. That's a whole lot better than the 0 miles I was walking in May. ;) And this isn't *really* about walking a specific number of miles, it's about starting a habit I can live with for 20 or 30 or 40 years! (Yes, I like to think I might still be here and walking in my late 80s and beyond.)

19 June 2007

And six days later...

The garden is really going gang buster now! Most of the zucchini and butternut squash have flowers, some of the tomatoes do - -and I am starting to have hope of getting a crop. This all still seems moderately miraculous to me. Back at Ostara, I poured a few seeds from a packet into some peat pellets. Now, the tiny baby plants I half-expected not to spout have ambitions of taking over first the garden patch and then the world!

I had a bit of a scare this week, though. I was watering my garden when the biggest tomato plants fell over! Well, I scoured the net for information about what I might be doing wrong -- nothing. But every definition I found of "tomato" mentioned it being "weak stemmed". Duh! *That's* what tomato cages are for!!

So much more I wanted to say, but now I'm late for work...

More later!

15 June 2007

Cow poop soup and other adventures

Jack, at four, is a super-hero.

Most kids are, I know. It's great fun! I had forgotten just how joyous this age really is. (I wonder -- can anyone who doesn't work with children year after year keep track of the joys of each age?)

Jack can run faster, jump higher, tumble further than he ever could before -- his body is his new favorite toy! He has dragged his all-terrain tricycle off the porch and rides it all over the lawn - - a feat that would have been much too hard last autumn. He doesn't slide down his slide -- he climbs up the slide, jumps from ladder, uses it as a high beam, and swoops on his tummy down the slide.

At four, our gentle angle has also developed quite a sense of humour. He loves to hear the story "jack and the beanstalk" -- and his favorite part is when the ogres wife interrupts the ogres rant with "fe fie foe fiddle-sticks!" He laughs so hard we have to stop for a moment so he can catch his breath! (And we always have to read that part again!)

Last night, I was getting the late harvest plants into their containers. I had brewed some manure "tea" to use as a transplant food, and Jack was helping me. Now, manure tea at four days is quite an impressive scent, and at one point jack asked me what that was. I explained to him that it was food for the plants. He wanted, being Jack, to know what kind of food was it and do the plants like it. I told him it was a manure "soup" and they like it a lot.

"What's manure?"

"Cow poop".

"Cow poop soup?" incredulously

And so we talked for much of the rest of the evening about "cow poop soup". Jack has decided that he doesn't eat soup -- I gather he doesn't trust what I might put in his soup.

Lately we've noticed that Jack *loves* rules! That is so weird. He will do (or not do) anything as long as we make a rule about it.

One example: one of his educational computer games doesn't run on his computer. His computer is simply too old. So, if I am at work, he gets one hour to play with it on my computer per day. However, he is not allowed to leave my desktop covered with cookie crumbs nor is he allowed to leave my computer on when he's done. Every so often he forgets -- and occaionally I get the impression that he didn't exactly "forget" -- because I will mention to him that he forgot to turn off my computer and he smiles at me and says "No Pet Playground for me tomorrow!" in a most cheerful voice. And then he doesn't complain and as far as I know, he also doesn't ask.

Strange child. Sweet -- but strange.

Edited to add: I notice a lot of hits to this page from a search on "manure soup" -- and I'll bet most of you came looking for a recipe or information on how to use manure tea. First warning -- if you do this right, it smells really awful!

First the "recipe" -- for reference, I use a recycled 30-pound cat litter bucket for steeping and a one-pound coffee can for measuring.

Add one can of ground alfalfa and two cans of manure to bucket of water. Stir up well with a stick, cover (or you'll get bugs), and set in the sun for at least three days.

Next the method: After this tea has fermented for at least three days, stir it up well again and pour it by the can-full around the base of the plants to be fed. About one can per plant in the ground or a half a can per plant in my container garden. That's it. I do this once a week or so.

You can add the sludge to the compost or you can put it around fruit trees and berry bushes and then water well.

13 June 2007


I have been craving exercise for several years now. I have made sporadic attempts to work some in to my daily routine, but the problem has been...time. There never seems to be any.

For a while, I was attending a gym of sorts. I liked the Contours workout a lot -- but the really obnoxious weight loss message screamed in my face the entire time I was there. I hated that! And Rod and Jack started to feel really neglected after six months of my working out for an hour after work, three days a week. We don't get that much time together as it is and that extra hour was a lot. So, I quit.

And just as I was getting into a walking routine each summer, fall and cold would set in and I'd give up. *sigh*

My mother has been walking for 45 minutes every morning for something like 30 years. I have known that -- but until recently I wasn't aware of just how much that habit has done for her. When she came to visit last year, I saw her ahead of us at the airport and tried hard to catch up. I was amazed as I chased her across the airport that there was just no way I could catch her until she stopped! (And I don't think of myself as especially out of shape -- I leave many of my friends 'in the dust" when we walk together.)

This year when she came to visit, I was again impressed with Mom's non-stop energy and I was determined to start a routine that I could continue so *I* can have that level of vitality 20 years from now.

When Mom left, I took a good look at my life and figured out that my best bet for walking was to take time at work. For the last several weeks, I have been walking at lunchtime. My employer, conveniently, has a half-mile track laid out in the parking lots, so I am able to get in a good long walk safely.

Now a part of the problem with sticking to a walking routine has always been boredom...walking alone is boring unless I am walking to a destination and there are things to see as I walk. Walking with someone means that when they poop out, I lose a lot of my own incentive.

Another ongoing frustration has been my inability to find time to read. I *love* to read! But there simply hasn't been time since Jack was born. (It doesn't help that Rod sees me picking up a book as a sign of desperate boredom, and being a gallant soul, he always comes to my rescue and comes to chat with me as soon as I pick up a book. Once i give up and put the book down, we wanders off, his job here done.

So...I have been walking this nice flat track every day and reading! Hurrah!! I have finished two books and am starting on a third -- my densest reading rate since Jack was born! And I am up to a little over 10 miles per week for several weeks now...

Happily, there is an "indoor track", so I can probably transfer my walking circuit indoors when the weather is rainy or cold -- though that's a quarter mile and there3 will be more foot traffic of people coming and going for meetings so reading won't be as easy...

I really hope I can stick with it this time -- and I think that getting a chance to read may be just the incentive I was looking for! ;)

12 June 2007

As the garden grows...

This is the garden this evening.

And ten days ago ...

I guess it's still growing! Yay!
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10 June 2007

Me, feeding my plants ...

The dead tomato is pretty evident. :(

and my goodness, I am looking middle aged today. But that's OK. I *am* middle-aged.

And we're off to buy a "new" antique china cabinet. I'm pretty excited because it means unpacking dishes I've missed for over a year!

Oh, and my eggplant? Turns out they're sunflowers. Silly me.
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My family...

I suspect that everyone reading us has seen this before...but I wanted to bring it over from As Jack Grows.

Our family...

03 June 2007

The garden ...

I am a tomato murderer.

*sigh* This learning to garden thing is very sobering.

I managed to kill three of my biggest, best tomato plants through stupidity. That's so disappointing.

Dana, our friend, came out and watched me potting the plants several weeks ago. An experienced gardener, she said "You know drainage is very important, right?"

" Oh", says I.

I was careful to assure that the drainage holes were there in the next couple of planters and then got so deeply into the potting rhythm that I forgot again.

Long story, short, I drowned a whole bunch of plants. Some were able to drink fast enough to keep it from becoming a big problem until I figured it out (gotta love squash) and some were hurt, but have pulled through.

Rod and I went out in heavy rain last weekend to make sure there were drainage holes in all the pots after it became quite clear that the tomatoes had wet feet -- at the time it looked like everyone was going to be OK...but by this weekend it was clearly not so.

My big paste tomato plant and two of my other tomatoes didn't make it. :( They were the biggest and strongest -- the plants that I was proudest of.

I am so bummed that it's hard to go out there. I do -- after all, the rest of the garden is fine and needs food and water.


I'll get used to it. Right?

01 June 2007

Where have we been?


The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley. -R Burns

I had every intention of posting to this blog often -- especially since it it laid out in a way that makes brief posts work. And ever since I started it, I have had a hard time getting to my computer at all!

Jack has been waking up with me at 6:30 when I go out to check on the garden. Jack has been staying up all evening -- often way past my bed time. And the garden is taking up most of my free time.

Did I remember to mention that I am exploring gardening this year? I am. Last year, Rod had a go. He decided that while the work isn't unreasonable, he just doesn't find the planning and hovering interesting enough to persevere. That means, if I want the benefits of a garden, it's going to be up to me. Rod is willing to help with the heavy work, but the planning and hovering are up to me.

Since I am fiercely interested in nutrition, high-nutrition/high brix gardening was the obvious choice. What fascinates me is that I am actually enjoying it. Me. The kid who could never stand to have her hands dirty! I still have to wash my hands immediately, but getting in amongst it is turning out to be a lot more fun than I could ever have imagined.

So far we have eggplant, zucchini, butternut squash, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and of course, lots of tomatoes. Jack is also trying to grow strawberries -- but unless we find away to keep the birds out, we're not going to get much joy from them or from the blueberries we planted last year.

The plants are mostly looking pretty happy. I think. They are green and getting bigger. That means they're happy right? They haven't actually said anything... ;) I have made a few semi-fatal mistakes and am learning quite a bit about gardening, but I won't get my hopes up for a great harvest just yet. We have a small garden plot, plus a table of potted vegetables to improve the odds of us getting *some* before th bnnies do. but of course, the table doesn't discourage the birds at all.

On the indoors front, Jack is now on severely restricted screen time. When Rod was so ill for the last year, he simply had no energy to do other things with Jack, so he and Jack sat for hours, back to back, playing on their computers. Jack seems to have lost the knack for entertaining himself in any other way and has started to try to refuse to get off the computer to come to dinner, to play with friends, or to go to bed. He spends the time he isn't on the computer talking about the computer or whining. Ugh. My idea of a nightmare.

But Rod went off his blood pressure medications several weeks ago and is feeling much better! He is able to move around comfortably, the pain is mostly gone. Once he got a good look at Jack's behavior without the veil of pain over his eyes, he agreed that this was completely unacceptable. So Jack gets two hours a day of screen time -- one hour on one game and one hour on the other, but never without at least one hour between them. The time is going to shrink over time, but he was doing this for 6 to 9 hours some days, so this is a dramatic change. He's still pouting and whining, but he is a good kid and he turns off the computer promptly and while he looks extremely sad, he doesn't actually argue.

And now, of course, I am late for work! But I'll try to get back here tomorrow morniong for a short report! (This short report thing is a whole new way of thinking abouit blogging. It may take a while to get the hang of it. Thanks for your patience.)