Making Headway

Today I worked quite hard on writing chores, and also on starting to sort through some of my homeschooling resources that I can now get rid of. It would be so great to free up some space in some of my bookcases. To make room for more books . . .

Lucy and Tanner ran some errands today as they begin gearing up for school to begin. And my husband’s job just keeps getting more and more stressful. I hpe it gets better once school actually starts.

And Jasper finally felt well enough to haul his “new” anvil out to his forge area, in hopes of being able to do some blacksmithing this weekend.

 

The Disappointing Garden

Yesterday (Sunday) we all stayed home because of Jasper’s cold. I watched an online service and we got quite a bit of housework done. I made a big dinner, only to have Spencer and Jade cancel. And Sammy was too busy with school. So there are lots of leftovers!

We had a video chat with Flynn and Tiffany and Paisley, and Paisley was very active! Lina arrived there yesterday evening and has now met her niece.

Since Jasper was sick and couldn’t go to his usual Sunday night activity, the three of us watched a movie together and I got some knitting done.

So I believe I mentioned that I might give a progress report on my garden. Here it is, in winner/loser format.

Winner: Mint. I have 4 kinds of mint planted in one large container and they’re doing very well and have provided me with many cups of tea.

1 mint

Loser: Tomatoes. I have 4 tomato plants which I have pampered, watered and fertilized faithfully. One of them has given me maybe 7 tomatoes. The rest, nothing. Yet I hear my neighbors have more tomatoes than they know what to do with!

2 tomatoes

Winner: Nasturtiums. I planted nasturtiums in the spring and they have bloomed and bloomed. Flowers and leaves give a nice bite to salads.

3 nasturtium

Winner: Pole Beans. Here you see my “bean harp” which has been pretty well covered with beans. They haven’t been super productive, but enough for us to enjoy some beans from time to time.

4 bean harp

Winner: Impatiens, especially the two on the north end of the main garden bed. So pretty.

5 impatiens

WINNER WINNER WINNER: Okra. This is my okra forest, now over 6 feet tall. Some of the leaves are nearly two feet across!

6 okra,

And here is a closeup of some developing pods.

6b okra closeup

I only have 8 plants but they produce enough for us to have okra with supper twice a week. Next year I will plant more! I want enough to pickle.

Losers: Bell peppers, parsley, squash. Actually, the parsley is okay. It just hasn’t really taken off like it has for me in the past. The pepper plants have flowered but never produced any peppers. The yellow squash and zucchini have FAILED in every possible way. Who fails at growing summer squash? Me, apparently.

7 peppers, parsley, squash

Winner: Cucumbers. I just don’t have any right now. My two cucumber plants produced like crazy right up until they succumbed to powdery mildew. I’ve got two replacement plants growing but they’re still quite small.

Winner: Asparagus. At least I hope it’s a winner. We’ll find out next spring. Meanwhile, it’s looked very healthy all summer.

8 asparagus

Winner: Lemon thyme, Greek oregano, chives. Almost completely care free.

9 thyme, oregano, chives

Winner: New Zealand spinach. It took a LONG time to establish itself, but is finally doing well and providing greens to add to salads or stir fries. Considering what a chore it was to get it going, I’ll probably see if Jasper can build a cold frame for it so I can keep it through the winter (it’s a perennial).

10 New Zealand spinach

Having taken all those photos yesterday, today I ripped up my useless squash plants so I can focus on building up the soil in that spot for a few weeks before I plant fall seeds there.  Still holding out hope for another few tomatoes . . .

Here’s a shot from the front steps showing most of the garden:

11 garden

Parting Shot:

12 lizard

Look who I found hanging out on an okra leaf.

Precursors of Autumn

The light is already changing. I can see it in the early mornings and in the afternoons. It means that regardless of whatever else might happen, autumn will eventually arrive! (Not for a long time yet here in Texas.)

Today one of my primary goals was to plan my fall garden. Maybe next week I’ll give you a full report on the garden in its current state, but let’s just say it’s been a bit of a disappointment in spite of all the effort I’ve put into it. Yet I want to plant a bunch of stuff in the fall because so many great veggies won’t grow in the summer heat here.

So I spent some time going over my charts and planting tables and figuring out what I’m going to grow and where. Then, when I went out to water and care for my garden, I planted my first fall seeds—cauliflower. I had planned to start them indoors, but apparently they often don’t transplant well, so I planted them directly into a vacant spot in my garden. Now to wait and see if they germinate. I am still waiting for some more seeds, many of which will be started indoors and kept here until temperatures cool a little. Although I have plenty of experience with gardening, I’ve never attempted a fall garden before, so we’ll see how it goes.

I also did some sorting and putting away of things that have been lying about for an embarrassingly long time. And I made a big ol’ sponge cake (using a dozen eggs!) that will be the basis of tomorrow’s dessert for the family. I feel like they could use a little bit of a special dessert this weekend as it’s been a rough week.

Mercy drove home from Colorado today and arrived safely. Early tomorrow morning, Lina will be leaving to go to Colorado herself, so she can meet little Paisley before school starts.

My hardworking husband had to work all day today out in the heat. He does not have enough employees to do everything that needs to be done on campus before the students arrive, so he spent five hours mowing grass this morning before going to his regular landscape job that we thought would be over by now (the house didn’t sell after all).

And Jasper has come down with a cold, which means that in today’s paranoid climate, none of us will be going to church tomorrow . . .

 

 

Wet

Well, here we are at the end of another month, with no indication that August will be any better than the months which preceded it. Yet there is still so much to be grateful for, and I remind myself of that every day.

Today my grocery-shopping trip to Aldi took place in the rain. Lots of rain. Every drop of rain in the summer here feels like a gift. Not to mention the fact that nature waters my garden for me!

The rain finally slacked off and my friend Robin came over for tea. It’s been a while since she was able to come two weeks in a row, so that was quite a treat.

I’ve been very slowly sorting and putting away some of my mom’s things that I brought back from Tennessee. It’s quite time consuming to incorporate her sewing notions into my own rather formidable stash. And of course, some things I will pass on to my daughters.

I made pizza for the men tonight. I still have to make two different pizzas, because we are trying a dairy-free diet for Jasper which means using the “fake” cheese on his pizza. He appreciates the effort, though, because otherwise he wouldn’t get pizza at all.

 

Wile E. Coyote Would Be Proud

Yesterday afternoon, one of my homeschool mom acquaintances alerted me to the fact that there was an anvil for sale at an estate sale that began this morning. Jasper, as you know, has been saving and looking for an anvil for at least the last two years. We have scoured scrap metal places and antique stores, because new anvils are well out of his reach financially. Everywhere we go, we hear the same thing: “We do get anvils in sometimes, but they always sell within hours of being put up for sale.”

So I showed Jasper the photo of this anvil, and we decided to go for it. I got through my sauna and shower earlier than usual this morning, and then we set off for the north side of town. Jasper thought we were leaving too early. I told him that even though we’d get there half an hour before the sale started, there’d be a line—and there was. I do not understand this culture—the people who make a hobby of going to estate sales and who all know each other. Many of the people in line before us knew each other from who knows how many previous estate sales.

Anyway, we waited patiently in line with our masks on until the appointed time. I knew we’d have to find the anvil ASAP if we were to have any hope of getting it—and we still had no idea what the asking price was. As we walked in, we heard the guy running the sale tell the price to someone else who was interested in the anvil. I had brought some extra money to chip in in case Jasper didn’t have quite enough—and he didn’t. But with what I had brought I thought we could do it.

We found the anvil very quickly in the garage, and Jasper was able to lift it and carry it to the front room where the sales table was. It is heavy! Then we learned, somewhat to our dismay, that the price did not include sales tax. Once that had been added, it pretty much cleaned us both out—but the anvil was ours. I think we were the first people to buy anything at that sale. It was literally like a minute after the doors opened.

Jasper got his exercise carrying his “new” anvil out to the car, and we drove home in triumph, both of us more than ready for a cup of tea when we arrived. Whew! It has been a long, long wait. SO glad we can stop looking for anvils now! We weighed the anvil when we got home and it is 101 pounds. So, not as heavy as some, but heavy enough for him to use for a while. He knew he needed one that was at least 100 pounds.

Later on today my new phone arrived. So far I hate it. I couldn’t activate it online because it wasn’t listed as an option. And it has a different kind of charging cable and is too big. I guess I will have to physically go to the store and get help with it. I wish the old one would just magically start working properly again!

Parting Shot:

7-29-2020 Jasper with anvil

A man and his anvil. I’m not sure what caused that dark shadow, but Jasper was not willing to lift the anvil again for another try!

A Couple of Milestones

Today is Mercy and Daniel’s second anniversary! Two years ago we were all exhausted but happy after the wedding. Today we’re just happy! They are a devoted couple and so happy together. Unfortunately they aren’t in the same place today—Mercy is in Colorado visiting her siblings, and Daniel has stayed home in Plano. I’m sure they will celebrate when Mercy returns this weekend.

IMG_1099

Also today, Lucy and Tanner announced their engagement on Facebook, which means I’m allowed to share it here. We have known for a few days, but were sworn to silence until they announced it publicly. At this point they are hoping for a December 2021 wedding, after Lucy graduates from university. We are happy for them and will celebrate I’m sure after they return from Alaska on August 12.

3-29-20 Tanner & Lucy with painting

Meanwhile, I had an assignment for Jasper today. You see, while we were on our trip, Spencer came to the house to pick up his mail and you know what he saw? A rat. In our house. I had already put bait out because we had seen one outside a couple of months ago. But apparently this rat is too smart to eat poisoned bait.

Since our return, we have been able to ascertain that the rodent is getting into the house through the kids’ bathroom. We’re not sure how. But clearly, this is not okay. So today I had Jasper make a rat trap based on some we’ve seen on YouTube:

7-28-20 rat trap

It is set up in the bathroom and we are hoping to drown that no-good varmint as soon as possible.

While Jasper was working on that, I spent much of the day preparing for our Zoom writers’ meeting tonight. As I mentioned yesterday, I had not succeeded in finding a speaker so I had to come up with something on my own. In fact I went so far as to turn it into a PowerPoint presentation, which is something I haven’t done for a few years.

I think it worked out all right. My new webcam came in time and displays my face in disturbingly honest detail. I kind of wish I was still able to use the lower-quality one on my laptop!

 

 

Malfunctions

You know why I didn’t post on Saturday night? Because I sliced a chunk off the end of my ring finger on my right hand while I was slicing cucumbers on my mandoline, and I could not stop the bleeding and my finger had this huge bandage on it and I was not patient enough to type without using that one finger.

That same evening, I had a scheduled Zoom meeting with my dad and brothers, and I couldn’t get my webcam to work. So yesterday, I enlisted Flynn’s help and what we discovered is that my laptop webcam is dead. We both agreed that it would not be cost effective to get it repaired, so guess who’s had to order an external webcam? I borrowed Jasper’s last night for our family Zoom call, but tomorrow I’m hosting two Zoom meetings and I’m really hoping the new camera comes in time!

And finally, my phone has become increasingly quirky over the last several months and during our trip there were several very inconvenient glitches with it, so I have bowed to the inevitable and ordered a new phone. It’s been eligible for replacement for almost two  years, but I hate having to switch phones. Really, really hate it. Yet here we are. And the new one will be almost an inch longer than the old one, which means the pretty bag I made for it won’t work anymore, and that irritates me too. Why do phones have to be so huge? Talk about first world problems!

Lucy and Tanner have had a disappointment also. The camp they’re working at had to cancel the last two weeks of camp because a couple of last week’s campers had Covid-like symptoms by the end of the week. So I guess this week and next week will be practical work weeks for the staff. I feel so bad for all those kids who were looking forward to camp and have now been disappointed.

Then this afternoon when I went to the gym for my walk, I found out it is closed for the next two weeks. Now they do this every year for maintenance, but this year there was no warning at all. And I can’t walk around Walmart like I have done in the past, because there’s no way I’m walking fast enough and long enough for it to count as exercise while wearing a mask.

This leaves me with a difficult choice. Take a two-week break from walking or . . . . walk first thing in the morning, before it gets too hot. Now I did exercise early in the morning for many years when my kids were little and I had to leave and return before my husband left for work at 6:45. The reason I stopped doing it as soon as I could was that it doesn’t work for me. Sure, I can get up early and walk or swim or whatever. But then I can’t get anything done for the rest of the morning because I am just too tired and sleepy. So, morning naps might be a thing for the next couple of weeks if I decide to go that route.

The third option would be to clear off my exercise bike and actually use it . . . hmmm.

My main focus on the day was working on what to say to my writers’ group tomorrow. It’s like I was hoping some other speaker would magically appear, but no—it’s just going to be me. So I have worked hard on gathering information from different sources and trying to turn it all into something coherent.

And yes, it still hurts to type!

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Fine Pen

Just a quick update tonight—and a review. Yesterday Jasper and I enjoyed our monthly outing to Jefferson. He is always on the lookout for an anvil! He didn’t find one, but he did find a couple other things he couldn’t live without.

Today my friend Robin came over for a visit so I had to postpone my grocery shopping until tomorrow.

The summer is slipping away much too fast!

Now to my review. When I was in Tennessee, I had to go into an office supply store in search of a calligraphy pen—which I did not find. However, I did find a type of pen that I had to try. Here is what it looks like:

7-24-20 Pentel Energel

It’s a Pentel Energel Needle Tip pen, and do you see the width? 0.3 mm! Most of the time, the finest pen I can find is a 0.5 mm. There are many times when I prefer the 0.25 or 0.3 width but they are very hard to find. And I love a needle tip, dating back to my college days when I used to write everything in India ink with a Rapidograph needle tip fountain pen.

So I now have this pen in blue and black, and it does also come in red, green, and purple. I have been using mine for a couple of weeks now, and couldn’t be happier with them, so I thought I’d pass the recommendation along for those of you who may also like a very fine pen.

My research into this pen did turn up one warning, however. Be SURE to get pens that are made in Japan. These pens are manufactured both in Japan and Mexico, and apparently the Mexican ones lose their structural integrity rather quickly. Both colors I have are Japanese made and seem to be of high quality—which is great because I’ve already used them a lot. They’re especially nice for writing in a calendar or planner.

 

Blogging May Be Patchy

Sorry for yesterday’s silence, but there may be more between now and the end of the month. I am trying very hard to catch up on my writing, which means this writing may not always get done every day. I’ve already written another entry for today, which will be going up shortly. After that it’s anyone’s guess . . .

Quote of the Day

Jasper when I drove him to Dollar General this afternoon: “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes unless I have to fight a squirrel or something.”

Someone Else

Yesterday we were up early (although not nearly as early as Jon and Sheryl, who had a plane to catch).  We were on the road by 9:00 and headed south to Georgia. It was a beautiful drive. For possibly the first time ever, we arrived at our hotel a few minutes before the normal check-in time.

I had booked and paid for this hotel stay several weeks ago. I now believe the glowing reviews I read must have been several years old. The room seemed rather tired and dingy, and there is no seating other than the beds and the one desk chair. However, we brought our stuff in and then drove over to my mother-in-law’s house for the evening.

We stayed rather late before returning to the hotel. This morning, as I was getting dressed, I happened to catch a glimpse of the bottom of my feet (a part of my anatomy I almost never glimpse). My feet were black:

7-16-18-black-feet-1

I had been going barefoot in our uncarpeted room and had made several nocturnal visits to the bathroom, and this was the result. No wonder the room seemed dingy to us! I scrubbed my feet with disinfectant wipes until they were as clean as I could get them. I knew I was going to have to buy something with which to wipe down the floor because that was just gross.

But meanwhile, we went back to my mother-in-law’s house and I left the men there while I continued on to the suburb where my friend Ruth and her family now live. I was able to spend most of the day with her and her two young daughters, O (aged 4) and B (aged 2).

We had quite a day. Paintings were painted. Pictures were colored. We played several nonstandard versions of mancala, and also a game called “Go Away Monster.” O, who is very outgoing and extroverted, talked almost nonstop. B took longer to feel up to talking in my presence. She struggled with remembering my name, so instead she called me “Someone Else.” As in, “can Someone Else play a game with me?” It was so adorable.

Ruth and I did get a chance to visit a little with each other while the girls napped! As always, I left full of admiration for Ruth and for any mom of young children who is still sane. By the time I left, both girls had really warmed to me and were sad to say goodnight at bedtime. I love that I got to be there long enough to get a feel for what Ruth’s days are like.

I had a bit of an adventure getting back to my mother-in-law’s place. Jasper had rejoined the group after spending part of the afternoon with his buddy, our former neighbor Josiah.

Walter borrowed his mom’s Swiffer mop and we returned to the hotel room determined to make it cleaner. Walter mopped it thoroughly (scrubbing as he went) three times and by the third time the pad wasn’t getting quite as dirty. And yes, the photo of my feet is probably going in my review.

Parting Shot:

7-16-20-brielle-and-ruth

Little B helping her mom cook supper. She plays with the spice jars and has personified each one. Garlic is her alter ego and Basil is the mom. I love it.