Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blogging Again...

For months now I've been telling myself, "Today, I will blog!"  Until today, all those proclamations have been fibs.  It came down to the conclusion that unless I started typing, I was now the author of yet another defunct blog littering the either get to blogging, or hit that delete button.

Unfortunately the topic that got me going again isn't funny, informative, or snarky.

A week ago most of the country had never really heard of Joplin, Missouri...except maybe in the "Route 66" song.  But now the town has catapulted to the forefront of headlines after getting sucker-punched with the now up-graded F-5 tornado.  While this horrendous disaster is worthy of anyone's attention, it's particularly at the forefront of my thoughts because for me, Joplin will always be home turf.

I grew up in a little po-dunk farming community about a 30 minute drive from Joplin. However, Joplin is the hub of the Missouri/Kansas/Oklahoma/Arkansas area dubbed "The Four States."  Since I was small, this is where we went to do a majority of our shopping. Joplin is where I got my braces (that office is now leveled), where in high school I drove with friends to go to the mall and cruise Main Street, where I played softball, attended country music concerts, and even took a few college courses.

For two years as an adult, it's where I lived and worked, and where I still have friends and family.  Needless to say, recent disastrous events have been a real kick in the gut.

Family and friends luckily all weathered the storm with only minor damage, though a few acquaintances weren't that lucky, and lost homes.  And tragically, the number of people who lost their lives is still rising.  We're just now hearing a lot of stories of tragedy, loss, but also true heroism.

Secondary to the horrible loss of life is the loss of property.  I've stared slack-jawed at photographs and videos of the damage, trying to comprehend how places I've shopped hundreds of times could be reduced to splinters and twisted metal, and how such easily-recognized areas can now appear as stark and alien as a different planet.

I've been told it's impossible to comprehend, but here are some before/after photos:

Joplin Devastation - Before and After

Of course, my disbelief from afar is nothing compared to those living through it.  I've had to resist the nearly uncontrollable urge to head north and lend a hand to my fellow Four-Staters.  The attitude of neighbors helping neighbors is still a defining trait of the area. However, family have informed me that things are still too crazy for charging in, and it's best to stay put for the time-being.  They've assured me I'll get my chance to help, as Joplin will be needing help for months.

In the meantime, there are plenty of reputable organizations taking donations.  If anyone has a few extra dollars they'd like to give, this is one community that is going to need it. Especially over the next few weeks and months, when the headlines read something else, and the rest of the country has turned their attention to the latest big thing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Garden - Step One

Well, now that I think about it...step one was probably the dirt.

Garden - Next Step.  Maybe that's more accurate.

It's still only February, which is usually my least favorite month.  Still, it's a very important month for garden prep, especially when one is starting a raised-bed garden from scratch.  So here goes...

Last year's gardening was kind of a bust.  Our Epic Move and House Redo and Deployment Preparation sprawled all over spring, summer, and fall, making gardening all but impossible.  As a result, my own heirloom seed collection is pretty pitiful, and I found myself ordering out of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog again.  Eventually, though, I hope to have my collection beefed up to the point that in future years I don't have to order seeds, or I can order just for fun to try out some wacky variety.


My seeds arrived in less than a week, and I had them out of the mailing envelope in about .05 seconds, then chose a south(ish) facing window, put up a set of plastic shelves, and planted tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant in some Jiffy seed-starting trays.  More purist-minded gardeners may run from these trays, but I find them to be clean and easy to deal with, and you can get them as well as the little peat-pod refill things just about anywhere.

With the seeds started and our recent days taking a surprising turn to short-sleeved warmth, I've been outdoors preparing my garden beds.  During construction of my last raised-bed garden, I built my garden beds with rough-cut cedar boards, which I'd gotten free from a guy in town who no longer wanted them.  Unfortunately, what I saved in actual money, I paid for in labor.  The boards were all different lengths, widths, and thicknesses...sometimes within the same board.  They eventually made very good beds, after a LOT of blood, sweat, and tears.  And bad words.  But hey, they were free.

However, though cedar is "rot resistant", it is not "rot proof." I found that after two garden seasons some of the boards were a little worse for wear and in need of replacement, had the Army seen fit to let us be as planned.

Anyway, now that I've left those beds behind and I'm starting all over, I bit the bullet and bought my boards new.  Now that I'm buying my boards, I'm going for time-saving, practically indestructible pressure-treated boards.

For those with concerns over using pressure-treated lumber for garden beds, I stumbled on a blog that I feel puts the issue to bed:  Using Treated Lumber

It's a little pricey - I'm using three 2x12x8' boards per bed (one of course cut in half for the ends), ending up with what I feel is the optimum 4' x 8' garden bed, all attached with 3" deck screws.  At about $12 bucks a pop for a board, it adds up quick.  The nice thing, though, is that most lumber yards will not only cut the boards you need cut, but load them, too.  Once you get them home, they slap together very quickly.  A person could save a little money by choosing 2x10's or 2x8's, but I wanted the extra height.

This plan is also much cheaper than buying cedar, as well as being much cheaper than replacing rotted boards every year.  I've also tried to spread out the expenses over the winter - I purchased the dirt last month, and at my current rate of buying the boards for one bed per week, it's not such an all-at-once financial shellacking.

My eventual goal is eight beds, but I'll be happy if I get four built this year.  Happier if I get six.

And a side note - it was much faster loading the dirt into the beds with a tractor and front-end loader.  I'm now downgraded to a shovel.  I keep reminding myself that my farming ancestors didn't have tractors, either.

Things to remember when totally building new beds:  1)  Remember to leave enough room to get a lawnmower between beds.  2)  When telling the guy in the dump truck where to dump the dirt, be sure to know EXACTLY where the beds are going to go first.  (I ended up slightly changing my location, and as you can see, the dirt pile is now slightly in the way.)

I try not to think about how many vegetables I could've already bought with the money spent on this new garden, and remind myself that these are expenses I will not be repeating next year.  

Did you hear that, Army?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cinderella Ate What?

A couple of days ago while while drinking my morning coffee, I was perusing the news channels and this headline caught my eye, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter."  Of course that made me pause. The host was interviewing Peggy Orenstein, the author of the book with that title, which explores the hyper-feminizing of today's daughters.

Holy cow...I can't believe I'm not the only person to have this thought.  I don't have any kids, so maybe I'm not totally qualified to weigh in on this issue...which the woman on the other end of the debate called a "non-issue."  But it has seemed to me in recent years that little girls are being pinked, sparkled, and princessed to death.  Upon the Christmas Season arrival of our kid's bikes at the bike shop, I remarked to one of my co-workers about my belief in the "overgenderification" of our kids.  This after I'd assembled a little girl's shimmery pink bike with purple accents, glitter, flowers, a basket with a plastic flower on the front, and pink tassels.

I have these same thoughts when I see glittered baby-doll t-shirts with such slogans as "Princess" and "Spoiled."  While I don't usually ride in the front seat the feminist bandwagon, I am pretty sensitive when it comes to female equality.  I simply can't see how a young woman can learn to have confidence in her own talents and abilities while wearing tight sweatpants with "Daddy's Best Asset" splashed across her behind.  (I'm NOT making that up).  It seems the clothes and toys shoved at girls today send more of a message of "weaker sex entitlement" and "this is what boys like", than of being strong and self-reliant.

Last summer the hubby and I stayed with a divorced friend of his, who's tween daughter's room also doubled as the guest room.  Upon entry, guests are assaulted with pink walls, a pink comforter, pink fuzzy pillows, a white dresser with flowers, and a large sparkly wall-hanging proclaiming "PRINCESS."

I don't remember my childhood toys being so overly gender-oritented.  Granted, I've never been accused of being overly girly.  As a young girl I constantly frustrated my mother with my tomboy tendencies.  I liked to fish and play in the dirt.  Heck, as an adult I like to fish and play in the dirt - some things don't change.

I have nothing against girly girls who want the pink room.  I just wonder how many girls actually want the pink over-feminized room, and how many think that's what they're supposed to choose. Or, how many parents choose it for them, whether they're trying to ensure their daughter's femininity, or they just think it's cute.  Again, as a non-parent, I can't say.

But regardless, I have a nagging feeling that even here, more than a decade into the 21st century, that women's equality and societal image is actually going backward.

I think, even though I don't have a daughter (I don't think two female dogs count), that I'll check this book out and see what Ms. Orenstein has to say.  I think it'll be interesting.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Garden 2011

May I present...*drumroll* NEW garden.

Ok, it's not so impressive right now.  Obviously I have a mountain of work to do, building beds and getting the dirt actually into them, as well as all the other tasks that come with having a garden - planting, mulching, weeding, canning...  But it's a start.

I have to say there are some days when motivation comes and goes.  Just like last year when I was asking myself, "Didn't I just do this?" when it came to packing, driving a truck and trailer loaded with our stuff, painting walls and unpacking boxes.  I'm now asking myself the same question, remembering the hours spent building beds and hauling dirt just a couple of years ago at our new "permanent" home.  But, it's the memory of the satisfaction I felt when I had a garden to be proud of that keeps me going. Perhaps this year I won't go quite as all-out all at one time, and will start with just a few beds, with room to expand.

Life would likely be much easier if I didn't have a garden.  Most people seem to think I'm a little nuts, manufacturing more work when I already have plenty to keep me busy.  It's even been suggested to "wait 'til your husband gets home."  (Obviously that person doesn't know me very well).  However, I seem to be afflicted with some kind of instinctive and irresistible urge to plant and grow things.

And if you think that's bad, it gets worse - I'm working on plans for my new chicken coop.

Oh yes, there will be chickens. 

(In case you're wondering, the bees went to live at my in-laws).

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Deployment Bubbles

My apologies for having fallen off the blogging wagon, but the good news is that I'm climbing back on.

I'm now well into The Deployment, and still trying to figure out my routine.  I've discovered that having your spouse deployed is kind of like living in a bubble - life goes on as normal outside the bubble, but in your own personal deployment bubble, time seems to move slower.  I'm still functioning just fine, keeping busy and living life, yet time in the bubble seems to drag, as I wait for my life to resume it's normal pace when said spouse returns.  It's a strange sensation.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Adventures in E-Reading

Christmas is now well behind us, but I'm still very excited about one of my gifts.  Like seemingly bazillions of other avid readers, I was ecstatic to see that Santa brought me an Amazon Kindle.

While it took a while to warm up to the idea of doing the bulk of my reading on this wonder of technology, I have since been happily gulping down books left and right.  But, just recently, I heard someone mention the ability to "check out" books from the library with an e-reader, which got my attention in a hurry.  I very excitedly hopped on the internet and went straight to our library's website, ready to start downloading.

However, my hopes were cruelly dashed when I read the disclaimer, "Our ebooks are not compatible with the Amazon Kindle."  This prompted an internet search, where I discovered this atrocity wasn't just a fluke of my library, but all library ebooks.  I nearly sobbed with the unfairness of it all.

Who would've thought that the most popular e-reader wouldn't be compatible with digital library books?  I probably should've done better research.

At first I was hit with the sense that Amazon is taking the Apple road - "nanny nanny boo boo...we make a good product but you can only use our stuff!"  (As I sit here typing on my much-loved Mac).  I'm guessing that if Amazon hasn't already started work on this issue, they soon will.  If they don't, the Kindle will likely fall off it's Most Popular pedestal, with readers enjoying free library books on their Sony E-Readers and B&N Nooks.

In the meantime, while I wait for a solution, I'm sill enjoying the books I've purchased on my Kindle.  I guess I'll have to be content with checking out library books the old-fashioned way.  I'd be most interested to see what other Kindle owners have to say about this issue.