Monday, May 25, 2009

Tiny Garden

I got my garden going!

It's a "square foot" garden because it's tiny and anal retentive.

It took me about an hour Saturday morning to build the box out of 2 8-foot 2X12s (cut in half at the store) and 12 screws. I tried to fill it with dirt I'd gotten off of freecycle, but the dirt was mostly rocks and bark and hardly any dirt. I had to breakdown and BUY DIRT. That is sad. The lawn is made of clay and would have taken ages and even more money to get the soil into shape so I build the 4foot square box and bought dirt.
There is about a cubic foot of chicken poo in it from a friend's chicken coop. That should help. By next year I'll have some compost and when it's time to put in the tomatoes, I'll use the worm poo for fertilizer.

Anyway, it's cute (I'm on dial up and will post photos when I have a better connection).
There are 16 1-foot squares, each planted with a maximum density of a crop or two.
The north side of the box backs up against the clothesline so I don't have to build tomato cages or anything for climbing vines. I'll run strings from the clothesline crossbar (it's made of small iron i-beams) for the climbers which are all planted in that north row.

Here's what went in:
WAY TOO MANY radishes. I'm planting those around the edges of the squares with a tomato or pepper going in the middle. The radishes will be done in 3 weeks making room for the tomato or pepper roots as it gets bigger.

Two squares of lettuce.
A square of kale.
2 squares of onions, 16 onion sets each (32 total onions...I hope).
Room for 4 toms and 2 peppers with 12 radishes around each...see, too many radishes.
2 squares of bush beans with 9 plants max per square.
1 square of marigolds (to keep the bugs off)
2 squares of carrots (purple carrots) with 16 per square.

There will be some herbs in a pot.

The raspberries are coming up very well in the spot that used to be the landlord's junk pile (now there are 3 smaller junk piles sorted by type of junk...wire and flashing, bits of siding, and wood). The raspberries were creeping over from the other side of the fence where the neighbors have a garden. They were blocked by the junk pile (the raspberries, not the neighbors). There are about a dozen new canes coming up already. Very exciting. Hope I get enough for a batch of jam.

It only took about a total of 2 hours this morning to fill the box with dirt (from bags) and get stuff planted.
Since I am anal retentive, I have the garden sketched on graph paper with a list of plants, a dot where each seed is planted, and a table showing when it should sprout and when it should be ready to harvest.

The square foot gardening book recommends watering from a bucket with a cup to avoid wasting tons of water. And it says it's best to cover the new seedlings with mini-greenhouses (1 foot square) while they are sprouting and beginning to grow. The first bit was easy. I have a bucket and a cup.
I have not yet built the mini-greenhouses. I did however have left over shrink-plastic that had been covering the drafty back door of the trailer. Two pieces (as I'd saved the one from last year thinking "that isn't even ripped. It will be useful for something.") of used door-plastic are held over the wood garden box with a few bits of scrap wood from the wood-junk pile. It looked very tidy until I got to the scrap wood bits. But, it's windy an I had to weight the plastic down with something.

I'll get the little greenhouses built one of these days.
They look like handy little things so should be worth the incredible effort to build.
Here's how you do it: Buy welded wire fencing with 4 by 6 inch openings. Cut into 4 foot lengths 1 foot wide. Make 6 inch legs on each side by removing a row of cross wires if necessary. Bend so that there is a little gazebo type structure one foot by one foot at the top, with one foot high sides (two of these are open) and 6 inch wire legs that will stick in the dirt.
these can support bushy plants like the bush beans. Cover with plastic, hold with clothespins or binder clips, and voila...tiny greenhouse for one square foot of garden. Cover with cheese cloth or other meshy-material and voila...a bit of shade and bug protection.

I'd also like to make the card board mulch mats for the next planting. You cut a square of cardboard, 1 foot on a side. Make 1inch or so holes where each seed will be planted (seeds go into a square in groups of 1, 2, 4, 9, or 16). These go down on the dirt before planting. Plant through the holes, water. And enjoy the lovely weedfree garden with dirt that doesn't immediately dry out. I think thin cardboard would work well for this and break down in the compost heap over the winter after harvest.

Time to go enjoy Memorial Day now.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm Not a Doctor! I'm An Anthropologist

OK, because there are like 2 people I don't know reading this, let me just be CLEAR that I in no way advocate putting gelled alcohol ("purell") or boric acid IN YOUR EYE. Also, don't ignore pink eye.

I had no idea about these folk remedies.

That in mind, AND keeping in mind that I'm not advocating actually DOING any of these, what other folk remedies do we all use?

Here are some of MINE that I do not recommend for anyone else:

Digestion issues: digestive enzymes, ginger tea, ginger, candied ginger, mint tea, chamomile tea, any tea

Headache: just ignore it. It will go away.
Sinus headache: wrap your head, straight around the forehead, with an ace bandage. It gives a little back pressure and really helps (not so tight you cut off the blood to your scalp). Neti pot, homeopathic allergy drops.

Itchy eyes (allergies or dehydrated or too much sun/glare): Wash with cool distilled, or at least filtered, water in an eye cup, lie down with a cool cloth on them.

Allergies: homeopathic allergy drops, neti pot, nettle tea, licorice root tea, AVOID DAIRY. Sleep with a humidifier on or some laundry hanging in the room to keep the lungs and sinuses from totally drying out. It is VERY VERY dry here, like 15% humidity in the summer. In Iowa this was not necessary as the summer air could not possibly hold anymore moisture.

Cold: airborne and a toxic mix herbal tea that tastes so bad it must be good for me. The usual ingredients in this witch's brew include: licorice root, dandelion root, goldenseal, nettle, calendula, chamomile, slippery elm and whatever else sounds yucky and therefore healing. Also, I run a humidifier while I sleep to avoid getting all dried out.

Fever: wrap up and go with it and drink lots of water. I think taking anti-fever meds makes it last longer.

Itchy bug bit: scratch it open and apply rubbing alcohol. Sure it stings, but it also quits itching for a bit.

Bee sting: mud or baking soda paste on it (ooo...maybe I should mix those). Also, don't you hate it when someone gets a bee or wasp sting and acts like they are going to die? I'm not talking about people with a real allergy. Regular people who get a bump and whine and whine and whine. Jesus. Half of Afghanistan is missing a limb thanks to us or the Russians or someone else. It's just a sting!

Any cold, flu, infection: AVOID SUGAR. Even honey and fruit sugars. The natural health encyclopedia says to keep total sugars under 45g per day when sick with any bacteria or virus. I checked this with Aunt Sara Lynn (Hi Sara) and she said indeedy that is a good idea. Sara is a nurse.

Also, I almost never take anything that dries the sinuses. I'll just end up with a sinus infection because it will stop the draining. As gross as the draining is, if it stops then things get thick and stuck and infected. I think that's how I got the last sinus infection. I caved in and took alka seltzer cold so I could get some sleep (because I didn't want to be too sleepy to work...hate wasting time-off on illness). Two days later I've got infected sinuses. DAMN!

So, if the readers would like to contribute their non-advocated home remedies, that would be awesome.

Monday, May 18, 2009

No Pink Eye!!

Well, so far so good. (knock on wood).
I have no pink eye. But the other aftermath of the sinus infection, the first in years...damn kids. Is pretty gross. I won't share.

And I also see that Pam commented that she really DOES put purell around her eye to avoid it. I did think of putting peroxide in my eye but thought better of it. I challenge Pam to put up a video of this procedure of hers but I in no way endorse it! (not just because putting gelled rubbing alcohol in your eye can't be good, but also because it comes in a plastic bottle).

Speaking of that. I'm a bit pissed at the makers of my usual Kombucha. They changed from the glass bottle with metal lid, to a glass bottle with a plastic lid. I may have to quit buying it but it really helps my gut issues...and it's something to drink other than water water water.
With the metal lid the only plastic was the lid liner and that "don't put arsenic in me" plastic wrapper we have to put on everything with a lid no. Jeez. Are there really so many people going around putting poison in stuff? Really? Since Kombucha is a fermented product already, I can't imagine it's a problem if someone breaks the seal so it's probably not that.

We are a nation of fraidy-cats.

Anyway, the plastic lid. It was the one treat I had where I thought I was really not doing much damage to the planet (never mind the jet flights to concerts...we're talking about minutiae today, not the big picture). Now, it has a plastic lid.

This also makes the bottle less useful for refilling as the plastic lids are not as durable. I was using them for dish soap, vinegars, whatever at the bulk section of the co-op. The metal lids were virtually indestructable but the plastic ones not so much.

I'm going to end up with everything in a mason jar. Oh well.

I know you can make kombucha at home, but you need to order a starter kit that no doubt comes in a giant plastic bag!
I'm sick of it.

Speaking of that. I got the 5lbs of shea butter I ordered. It is a LOT of lotion. I need to start repackaging it and maybe keep some in the fridge or a cooler area in the trailer. They say it doesn't go rancid, but I'm sure being in a hot trailer over summer will test that theory. There is plastic packaging involved, but much less than if I kept getting it in 8oz tins. I'll just refill the tins and some jars I have already.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Alternate Medicine...Hmmm

That news story about the kid who is refusing chemo (something I may well do myself if I had cancer) and finding out that he didn't know how to read...interesting.
ANYWAY, as most who've seen me in the past few years know, I'm big on the avoiding mainstream western medicine when possible.

It wasn't possible anymore with the gallbladder. It was suck it out through a tube, or spend much time in the ER. No more avoiding.

But, as for the asthma and allergies I've always had. That I'm sticking to alternatives. Avoiding dairy and using homeopathy (which is a fairly old European traditional system, not just any old herb you happen to make into tea) along with nettle tea has done much more than that cocktail of allergy and asthma meds they tried to put me on in high school. As has avoiding second hand smoke (a pretty constant presence in my childhood) and other general environmental issues.

I'm at what is hopefully the end of a sinus infection that I've been treating the same way I treat a cold or the flu: Less than 30g of sugars per day including fruit sugars; echinacea and goldenseal tea (nasty stuff so it must be good), neti pot, vitamin C, and buckets of herbal tea and steamy showers. I seem to be doing better and only missed a half day of work. I didn't get much done the other days but that could be a separate issue. My boss had the same thing and he's been sick and out for almost the entire week. Of course, he's a guy and well....they are weak in general. I hate to waste days off on illness.

A friend just told me about how she avoided pink eye in Africa during her Peace Corps days. She said pink eye was common in the villages where she worked in Cape Verde and antibiotics were not. So, as soon as her eyes started to get that telltale itch, she would boil a wash cloth and as soon as it had cooled enough to touch, she put it over her eyes and left it there until it was cool. She said she did this 4 times on the day she noticed the itching and never got pink eye. El Kid had pink eye and my eyes were itchy and goobery from the sinus issue this morning so I'm trying it. At the very least, it's ice to take about 20 minutes out every few hours to just lie back with a cloth on my eyes and just leave it. Quite nice.
My sister claims she put purell around the edge of her eye when she thought she was getting pink eye but I'm not sure about the truth or wisdom of that.

I asked my Aunt Sara (Hi Sara!), a nurse, about sugar and infections and she said that indeed sugar will feed an infection and that is one reason diabetics have tough infections to cure. So much sugar in the blood sometimes.

I also just read that most people who get sinus infections in the maxillae (cheek bone sinuses) after a cold had an underlying dental infection! Makes me wonder. I don't think I did. I've always had sinus issues so I'm hoping it's just poor drainage, not dental infection.

Ok, enough of the grossness. Hope not too many people are getting hit by this spring's second round of cold/flu, whether swine or not, and that all avoid dairy (milk makes mucus...that is the most important thing I learned in highschool biology) and sugar if they do get ill.

On a more amusing note. I've spent the day chatting on the phone (Hi Chris) and watching (or listening when the cloth was on my eyes) to Wallace and Grommet videos. They are hysterical. I think they are more like the cartoons of my youth than these stupid baby versions of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck that pass as cartoons these days. These have an actual plot and are not pandering to children. Also, the animation is exquisite claymation. I highly recommend the Wallace and Grommet movies as well as the "Creature Comforts" series by the same folks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I know...I know...

It's been too long.
But I was sick and busy. Today I got to work to find out it's closed so I'm taking a little wee bit of time to catch up before I go home to bed (cold...bad cold).

So, I bought cheapo plane ticket and I'm going to see Miss Loretta Lynn! WOOHOO!

I don't remember winning anything cool in my past. I might have won a turkey at the Jack and Jill grocery store when I was a wee tot, but that might have been Sher.

(note: the preoccupation with the word "wee" today may be due to my excessive consumption of tea)

The concert is June 10th and I'm flying in that day and back on Saturday. The ticket is cheaper and I don't want to overburden Jonny who is probably already sick of me from the last trip.

Still, I'm very excited. Jonny's cool, he's bringing friends and we're seeing Loretta. What could be better?

I've been assured by Laurie (Hi Laurie!) that LL's drunk-butt son will open for him and that if I go stand by the bus he'll hit on me. Perhaps I could have a very short career as a b-list groupie! It's not quite Bebe Beuhl, but what can I do? I'm starting late and I don't look that good. Also, not going to happen because EEEEW!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Son of a BISCUIT!

So, at the Spinal Tap concert that was really an evening with Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest...I text the jumbotron and win 4 free tickets to another concert at that venue.

So, I ask if Jonny can have the tickets (my friend in Denver) and they say "sure".
SO, today I get it sorted out and pick a show with Jonny's help.
AND he gets 4 free tickets to LORETTA LYNN!!!

SON OF A BISCUIT!!! I want to go so bad I can taste it.
And a plane ticket is only 200$...sooooo......
I would be a bad person, but christ I want to go.
Screw the environmental issues of that much plane travel. This is LORETTA LYNN we're talking about.

Also, I can't remember ever winning something this cool. EVER.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Vacation Day...I don't even know anymore...

I'm so tired and confused. I was going to go see Greg Palast and Mike Farrell today at a green festival in Denver, but I'm too f'ing tired. My eyes are just about swollen shut from allergies and tiredicity. So, we're just going out for lunch and too some thrift stores and hanging. I can't take in any more new information or learn anymore important messages (there WERE some at the sand dunes and the alligator farm...really). Then, yesterday, it all got to be too much. In a good way.

Anyway. Where did I leave you? It was with gibbons, right?

So that was Wednesday.

Thursday we lazed around Jonny's place until he had to go to class. I saw an art show on campus and read his Miranda July book (not for the faint of heart or the prudish of disposition) while he was in class. Then we took off for the "Ores and Mines B&B". It was great. We were a bit late (that will be a theme you'll notice in our vacation). It won "Most Rustic B&B/Inn" at some point. The owners, John and Donna, are great. We were the only guests so they let us upgrade to a sweet suite! Each room has it's own gas or propane powered stove (looks like a wood stove, runs off a thermostat). The suite had one room with a couch, chair, two queen beds, desks, dressers, secretary with china in the other half, and on and one. Then a small room with another queen bed. And ANOTHER room with a table and chairs and off that room was the bathroom (natural stone shower which was cool and scary) and a door out onto a private patio with a view of the lake. We were over 11,000 feet in altitude and I thought I was fine until I tried to walk up a small rise. Oh well.

We had picked up some thai noodle salads and nuts and dried cranberries and desserts at an organic market on the way and had those for dinner in their dining/game room. We listened to the juke box (quarters provided for free) which seemed to play the records at 29 rather than 33 1/3. It helped Jonny mellow out. sort of like time moved more slowly here.

We played shuffle board (we sucked) on their long shuffleboard table along one wall. John and Donna popped in and out to make sure we were OK. I spotted a copy of "amateur wrestling" magazine and thought that someone must have left it there in the past. Nope. It was from April 19, 2009! Turns out John is a fan and one of their boys is a coach! He knew all about the Cael Sanderson debacle and had seen him wrestle in high school.

We headed down stairs for a photography session before bed. Yes, sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? It's not like you think. Jonny has had photo series and individual photos in art shows around the greater Denver area and has won major awards. He was packing TONS of stuff which I didn't really understand since I had come down here for a week with one small backpack which is usually my field pack. I asked "what the hell?" and he said, "well, there's 7 cameras, the bag of wigs, the crocs (for a series he's working on called "croc whore"), and the costumes..."

Ah. I see.

Here is a sample. These are Jonny's so don't copy them or I will personally kick your ass.
From the Ores and Mines:
Note the rusticity! That couch is original! Not restored. has real applique'd deer and scenery. The chair matches. The lamps were just there. Jonny brought the shirts and those are my jammy pants I got at Goodwill a while back (with the original tags still on them so they weren't gross).
After we got up in the morning, John (the B&B guy) served us an amazing breakfast of french toast, eggs, strawberries and other berries and juice and coffee and an apple turnover thingy that he'd just made and I know there was more. We weren't hungry again until about 7pm.
We headed out (after loading Jonny's considerable baggage) and went to the Colorado 'Gator Farm. I'm not kidding. Here is a picture to prove it:

That's me and my jowls holding a 4 year old alligator that someone had kept in a small tank and underfed to keep small then finally admitted that they couldn't handle. So, like 150 other alligators and many lizards, tortoises, snakes, turtles, a caiman and much more at the 'Gator farm, they dumped on the farm. Idiots. The 'Gator bit of the farm is actually an off-shoot of their original purpose as a tilapia farm (a type of tropical fish related to the "oscars" that people keep in their fish tanks at home). They needed some way to get rid of the tilapia carcass waste after fileting out the fish for sale. So they got some alligators to eat it. It worked well, but then the 'gator bit started to grow. I wasn't delighted with the part where some idiot frat boy types paid the extra fee to handle a large alligator. It did seem that the alligator needed to be handled anyway to treat a cut on it's upper tail, but I'm not sure it needed to be man handled by a guy screaming "this is SO COOL" while his idiot friends took pictures and Jonny and I took ironic pictures of the whole thing (ultimately making us as assholey as the aging fratboys but you can't not take a photo of a scene like that). That photo hasn't been processed by Jonny yet and is larger than the blogspot will let me post. Someday.
I also had mixed feelings because this gator farm is not a wealthy place and they probably need the money that letting idiots handle gators brings in to pay for keeping other people's abandoned pets. the over all effect is a bit of the bayou in Colorado. Here are a few things we learned about the place:
it is fed by hotsprings or a hot well really, so the tropical fish and gators are comfortable all winter. The 'gators are allowed to roam about more than in the Denver Zoo and I liked that. The pallets, tires and wire fence enclosing them are not as pretty as the materials used at the zoo, but probably no more toxic. At the 'gator farm there are live fish in the ponds so the 'gators can hunt them or chase them if they want. They are also together with other gators. Cats, peacocks, and other critters run in and out of the pens (judging by the cats' tails...not always fast enough). That HAS to be more interesting than the life of a zoo 'gator.
There were also ostriches and a yak! I don't know the story of the yak. It was a baby and didn't look all that happy. He was in with some emus. The water runs in a stream through each pen so they always have water. There is shade for everyone too.
Water runs through the fish tanks first, only a few of which appear to be open for viewing. These people are trying to run a business! Then, it's pumped up into a hydroponic system over the tanks and cleaned by the roots (which take up many of the fish poop nutrients) and run back into the fish, then out into the streams through the various pens and alligator ponds. Anyway, I think that's how it works. So the water is used a few times before it goes down what they call "two mile creek" and allowed to soak back into the ground. This supposedly puts it back in the aquifer. I'm sure there is evaporation out of the large holding pond and at various other points in the system, but better than many would have done.
This is the only place other than the zoo where all the signs were correctly spelled and the apostrophes used properly. Interesting. Everyone was well educated about the alligators. Some people appear to live onsite in mobile estates not unlike my own.
OK, next we went to the Sand Dunes national monument. Amazing!!
Water carries sand west and it blows back east on monstrous winds and makes huge dunes. Looks like the sahara! The water flows in a "surge flow" which is fascinating. Just google it. It was really cool, but we don't have pictures processed yet. We waded in the water, sank in the sand, and just enjoyed the afternoon there.
Then, on to the La Plaza de los Leones in Walsenburg, Co. Fantastic B&B totally different from the other. There are rooms above and old store front in this small town in southern Colorado. We again ended up with a suite, some of which is visible in the mirror of this photo:
The owner, Marty, is a hoot and has actually been through north Idaho back when she sold advertising.
Breakfast here was fun. There was a note on the coffee maker instructing the first person to pour in the water. A fridge had milk and juice, there was cereal and some store bought muffins. Perfectly satisfactory! It's right downtown and there were many fun trading posts and stores that we had no time to go in. We had supper that night at the Iron Horse. Good Italian food and interesting locals to look at.
That was Friday.

Saturday, yesterday, was overwhelming too. We left Walsenburg, a bit late, and headed to Arriba, Colorado to Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum. Wow! Here is a photo:
It's small but has 10s of thousands of items crammed in there. Blogspot won't let me post any more photos than I've already got in here and I need one for the next thing...
Grampa Jerry is a character, as one might expect, and the museum is amazing in so many ways. And, Jonny will be punished for photographing me from the back.
The Wonder View Tower in Genoa, Colorado. It is a hand constructed tower touted as the highest point between Denver and New York City. It was a tourist spot from the 1930s and is now just STUFFED with things:
Yes, a two headed calf over jars of things like preserved lizards and another double head. Wow.
The owner of this is Jerry Chubbuck, locater of a mammoth (tusks on display in this facility) and one of the main buffalo kill sites in North America. That was 40+ years ago and he didn't talk about it much. There were 20 or 30 rooms, plus the multi story tower which is a stack of rooms, all stuffed with ...stuff.
You pay a dollar to get in and then Jerry will give your dollar back if you correctly guess 10 obscure items in a row. I got cow-stomach magnate, caponizing kit, bloodletting knives, and golfball stamper. Jonny got "quarter pounder" (a quarter and a tiny hammer glued to a block of wood). I guessed "mouse glasses" for something that turned out to be rooster glasses (I'm not kidding!) but Jerry would not give me partial credit. Neither of us got the walrus penis bone. But we were both holding one when we were told what it is. Another Jerry who is a character...
After that we'd pretty well had it. We headed in to Denver and met up with Jonny's friends at a Derby de Mayo party that was pretty much over. They celebrate the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo all in one. The door prize was a car!!! An old Probe that was being donated to charity. It will still be donated.
Now we may had out to some thrift and lunch, then hopefully meet up with my cousin before I get on the plane and get home at midnight. I won't be worth much at work tomorrow.