Sunday, November 6, 2011

Link: I've moooooooved!

I really have. Moved. Permanently. Over to ChickenFreak's Obsessions. If you've subscribed to this blog, thank you very much, and please, subscribe over there. We miss you!

Update 11/29/2015: OK, "permanently" was an overstatement. Rambling Chicken is back! But with a slightly different focus.

Image: By mattbuck. Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Link: Gardening: Dryfarming

Bwahaha! Still moved! Click here for my latest post!

Image: By Li-Sung. Wikimedia Commons

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Link: Gardening: Ramble. Really rambly ramble. And where's my donut?!

As previously mentioned, I've moved! A link to my latest post on the other blog.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Link: NaNoWriMo is coming, too.

I've moved! Just another link to the latest post on the other blog.

Image: NaNoWriMo

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Link: Travelling gluttony. Oh, and perfume, too.

I've moved! A link to my latest post on what is now my main blog.

Image: By the27thmaine. Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Link: End of Summer

I've moved! So here's a link to my latest post over on the other blog.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Blogging: Un-juggling (aka: Rambling Chicken is moving back home)

I had a blog. 

Then I had two blogs. Then I had three blogs. One perfume, one general rambling, one decluttering. Then I slacked off on the whole blogging thing, and slipped down to a couple of posts a month, and that's really not enough to keep three blogs warm and fed.

So now it's time to compress. I'm returning to the original blog, the perfume blog, the one with the silliest name. ChickenFreak's Obsessions. That one. It will now resume its original identity as a blog about perfume and rambling and gardening and fiction and decluttering and bacon and fried chicken.

I hope that you folks that only read Rambling Chicken will all join me there. I'll be linking from here to, oh, the first dozen or so posts there, in the hope that you won't forget about me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gardening: Plotting and Planning

  • The six-foot-wide, sixty-foot-long row that only gets automatically watered on the right-hand two feet and that I can't reach the middle of, isn't a good place for bush beans.
  • However, it seems like a perfect place, next year, for vining winter squash. And pumpkins. I can plant the seeds on the wet two feet and let the plants sprawl over the dry four feet. And I'll only have to struggle and stretch to get the finished squashes, not strain my back picking beans every four days.
  • Of course, that assumes that the squash can get along with only two feet of irrigated root zone.
  • Also, that's a lot of squash. Maybe melons, too?
  • Or tepary beans. They're harvested dry, which avoids the every-four-days thing, and sources claim that if you plant them immediately after the monsoons, they'll grow the rest of their lifecycle with no added water. OK, yes, we don't have monsoons; that's when they're at home. But we do have a wet winter.
  • Tulips don't like to be watered, either. I've ordered an alarming number of tulips. They might be too many for their allotted space in the cutting row. But would the tulips' proximity to the irrigated two feet give them too much water?
  • On the other hand, a sixty-by-six unbroken expanse of cucurbit vines sounds cool. I think I'm going to stick with the squashes and pumpkins and melons.
  • And no cucumbers. They not only need to be picked every four days, they hide. With malicious intent. My back can't take that.
  • That is all.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gardening: The Cutting Row

So, we've declared that one of the long rows in The Farm will be devoted to cutting flowers. That's eighty feet by four feet of space, all of it with at least half day sun.


I've already started planting perennials. Two each of a few kinds of Japanese anemones, including Honorine Jobert, my favorite. I'd tell you what the others are, but, um, I forget. I'll have to make a note when I get out there.

Two plants each of a single-flowered and a double-flowered coreopsis. (Cultivars, you ask? I avert my eyes and promise to go make that note, too.) Two Magnus coneflowers. Two black-eyed Susan plants. Eight assorted columbine. In case you're wondering what the unifying theme is, it's that I went to the Grange and bought two of every plant that (1) I like, that (2) wasn't rootbound, and that (3) at least one source claimed was suitable for cutting. Not exactly systematic, but there was bare space out there!

I also bought some unsatisfyingly short things - squat little dahlias and, even worse, squat little sunflowers. I refuse to buy the sad, short cosmos seedlings. Why won't nurseries sell the tall ones? I suppose it's because people who aren't me like "bedding" annuals. Plus, people like to buy annuals that are already blooming, and it's hard to get a blooming four-foot-tall soft plant home without breaking it in half. So if I want the tall stuff, I have to seed it myself. This year I seeded Art Deco zinnias and Double Click cosmos, with delightful results; I'll repeat both next year, plus more kinds of  cosmos and zinnias, plus sunflowers.

I'm busily hunting online nurseries for more perennials. Vintage Gardens is going away in 2013 (noooo!), so I'm making lists of roses and possibly hydrangeas to buy from them--and Himself and I are discussing the possibility of devoting another long row just to roses. And every year I regret my failure to plant dahlias and chrysanthemums, so I plan to finally correct that error, though I haven't begun to narrow down the hundreds of options. I like the whacky ones that look like they need to comb their hair, or they're ready to blast off for Alpha Centauri, or they're waiting for you to get a little closer so that they can shoot spores in your face. That kind.

Then there are bulbs. Tulips, of course. At six inches between bulbs and a four-foot-wide row, that's sixteen bulbs per linear foot of row. That's a lot of bulbs, and enough space to offer at least a chance that they'll come back next year.



My brain just stopped. Maybe those short squat little dahlias successfully aimed their spores.

First vase photo: By trish. Wikimedia Commons.
Second vase photo: By Patrick.Charpiat. Wikimedia Commons.
Third vase photo: By David Palterer. Wikimedia Commons.
Dahilia photo: By Vulkan. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gardening: Random Randomness

  • I cut my first winter squash today. Unfortunately, I don't know what it is; the pencil-written wooden tag was rubbed off by the time I thought to make a note, and the woman who sold it to me and said that it tasted like chestnuts wasn't at the next farmer's market. I know that it covers an amazing amount of ground and produces an amazing number of squashes, for a single plant. And the squashes look rather like pictures of white acorn squash, though they turn a slightly darker tan when they ripen.
  • A friend ate one of the Delicata Honey Boat squashes at the summer squash stage, and said that it was good and sweet. I've rarely eaten a summer squash that didn't taste like water. Maybe I should start eating immature winter squashes instead.
  • I planted three kinds of squash and no pumpkins. What's with that? I'll correct it next year.
  • I cut a zinnia and put it in a vase. Two weeks later, it was still alive. This is both good and a little bit frightening.
  • There are unidentified round fruits on one of the plants in the cucumber patch. I still don't know if they're cucumbers, melons, or alien pods. 
  • I still haven't eaten a sunflower bud. This was one of my big planned experiments this year, but I slacked off. If I don't get moving, all the sunflower buds are going to flower.
  • Apparently, I sold about half of my vegetable gardening books to the used book store when I resigned myself to a small garden space. Now I need to decide which ones to re-buy. But I'm more pleased with myself for having done the decluttering than I am annoyed with my errors.
  • The two watermelons in the garden are each only slightly larger than a softball. Next year I'm going to try Blacktail Mountain watermelon, if I can get the seeds. I read about it in Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties; it's supposed to successfully ripen melons in cooler and higher parts of Oregon than I live in. I think.
  • This is the first time in months that I didn't have a sad, reproachful cluster of plants in pots huddled around the hose bibb waiting to be planted; a friend and I got the last of them in the ground this morning. Of course, I'll buy more any minute now.
  • There's a volunteer petunia in the corn. That's just weird.
  • Speaking of the corn, the main corn crop is ready to eat! We're in the middle of the generosity/gluttony dance where we want to give lots away to keep it from going to waste, and want to keep it to make sure we don't give away so much that we can't eat ourselves silly.
  • I know that corn is supposed to have lots of genetic diversity, but does that extend to pure white kernels and corny yellow kernels on different ears that came from the seed packet? The silk colors were very different, too. Is this normal? And shouldn't the white and yellow be mixed in the same ear, depending on what fertilized what strand of cornsilk?
  • Is it wrong to plant tulips as annuals? I need to know!
  • Either way, it's time to order tulips. And to make sure that I ordered enough shallots and garlic and potato onions and Egyptian walking onions. And gopher wire. I read that without gopher wire, there will be no garlic whatsoever.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gardening: Next Year

The Farm is frantically producing food. Beans, peppers, scallions, lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries, that weird white acorn squash, those giant zucchini clubs, corn, eggplants, those odd round things that might be squash and might be cucumbers that I definitely never planted. Am I focusing on cooking and eating and perhaps giving away all this stuff, and perhaps dancing among the cornstalks? No, of course not. I'm planning next year's garden. The planning part is so much fun that I'm starting now, instead of waiting for winter and the seed catalogs.

Next year, I'll grow more Armenian cucumbers -- no bitter, almost no skin. And I'll plant my Copra onions when they're supposed to be planted, because I'll have a nice raised row all ready for them, waiting for a break in the rain. And I'll plant potatoes, because... well, because they're potatoes. But I'll find some weird ones.

And I'll plant the corn in several staggered blocks -- a little afterthought block shot past corn that was planted weeks earlier, and that leads me to believe that I shouldn't put all my eggs in one planting. And we'll get some vertical structures in this winter, so we can pick peas and beans and cucumbers and maybe squash while standing upright.

And I'll dig a lettuce bed in that almost-full-shade corner, to see if I can keep slow-growing but non-bolting salad greens growing all summer. And I'll plant seeds of sweet Italian frying peppers, because I learned this year that I'm not sure what to do with bell peppers. I don't know what to do with the Italian peppers either, but I can't resist any vegetable that includes the word "frying".

What looked like modest little blocks of beans produced more than enough to eat and to give away; now that I know how little space a decent planting takes up, I'll try more varieties. Wax beans, purple beans, Roma beans, Dragon Tongue beans, those Kentucky Wonders that I never got around to planting this year. Assuming that we get those bean supports up. And I'll plant tepary beans when they're supposed to be planted, during the rains, to see if they really can grow to maturity without extra water.

I'll plant parch corn again, because odds are it's not going to mature this year. I might plant flour corn. Oh, and there will be more sunflowers. Far, far more sunflowers.


Image: By Thyme. Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vignette: Description

So, a discussion of descriptions came up on WritingForums, and I started to write a short description on the premise that it's better for the viewpoint character to have a reason to start spouting off about what their acquaintances look like. The example got longer and longer until it broke 200 words. So, vignette.

My growling stomach betrayed me into ordering the toasted ravioli, and then the second piece of ravioli betrayed me by shattering in my hand. I had just finished cleaning greasy crumbs and cheese off my (white) shirt and was dabbing at the smudge of tomato sauce on my (beige) pants, when I saw Jane.

Have I told you about Jane? She looks like Barbie - an aging Barbie, but all the critical pieces are still there. Perfect blond hair, flawless cheekbones, implausibly blue eyes. Yes, the bombshell figure was thickening, but it was still fine enough to make me push the rest of the ravioli away. And her white shirt was, of course, still white - what you could see of it under her suit. Not merely an expensive suit, no, but a fine vintage Chanel that spoke of taste and intelligence. Feh.

Jane is lovely. Jane is kind. Jane donates to charity and does rescue work with abused beagles. Jane has a sense of humor and a brain that belies her Barbie exterior. I hate Jane, hate her with a guilty and unreasoning passion that I have tried, for ten years, to overcome. So I put on my best smile and waved to her.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gardening: Slow learner improves

I'm not good at changing my behavior based on written instructions. Cookbooks tell me to bring eggs to room temperature; I bake with cold eggs. The Square Foot Gardening book told me how to persuade carrot seed to sprout; I read it, ignored it, and failed for several years before "developing" a successful method... that was the same as the Square Foot Gardening method. But I didn't get any carrots, because I'm still ignoring the advice to sift the soil and add sand.

But my learning cycle is getting shorter, because the other day I did the right thing in the new garden, after ignoring good advice for only a month and a half.

The tomatoes, the cucurbits, the peppers, and the corn all wanted feeding. The corn was fighting with hundreds of half-grown weeds. Strawberries wanted picking. Lettuce wanted watering. Blueberries wanted acidifying. The last batch of bush bean seeds was waiting to be planted before the season gets too late, and enation-resistant peas were waiting to be planted so I'll have something legumey to eat after the beans are over. Columbine and Japanese anemones were waiting to be planted in the shady ornamental corner. And the cucumbers were luxuriating above nice clean soil with just a few barely-visible weed seedlings nervously poking their heads above ground. Of the above situations, which did I address first?

I got out the scuffle hoe and hoed the cucumbers.

This slaughtered a teaspoonful of weeds. Then I hoed all of the other "clean" parts of the garden. That took ten minutes, a number that tells you both (1) how easy it is to scuffle a few bitty weeds out of already-weeded ground and (2) how little of the garden is at the nearly-weed-free point of being scuffleable. When it's all at that point, I expect that scuffling the whole thing will take an hour or two a week.

Then I went on to hand-weed a hundred square feet of weed-infested corn, on my hands and knees, until I wore out after about an hour and a half. Another four hundred or so square feet await. Of corn. That doesn't count the tomatoes and the peppers and the melons and the parts of the garden that are merrily growing weeds and nothing but weeds, as we work on getting around to planting them. Did I mention that this is the biggest vegetable garden, by far, that we've ever had?

Hoeing first, I have realized, is the key to getting on top of the garden. (I say "I have realized" even though more than one garden book has already told me this.) No matter what else is screaming for my attention, my first step should be to scuffle up the tiny weeds in any "weeded" ground that hasn't been hoed in the past, oh, three to seven days. Because if I don't do that, I will be on my hands and knees weeding that patch a week and a half later. While other weeded patches are growing a new crop of weeds. Which I will be hand-weeding another week and a half later. And round and round and round. If I want to someday stand and survey a whole garden where almost all of the green is cultivated plants and not weeds, I have to put top priority on scuffling.

I realize, of course, that this ignores other dandy weed-suppression strategies like mulch, newspaper, toxic potions, and flamethrowers. But we're avoiding the potions, Bermuda grass laughs at the mulches tried so far, and only the large-plant crops like tomatoes seem entirely appropriate for the "punch through newspaper" strategy. So for now, the scuffle hoe is my weapon of choice.

Image: By H. Wright Corp./National Film Board of Canada. Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gardening: The Farm. Y'know, sort of.


We've got the new vegetable garden. OK, really, we've had it for three weeks now. Possibly four. I forget. I am a blogging slacker, or perhaps I've been too mud-covered and sore-muscled to type. I remain excited.

We hired a Garden Projects Guy to deal with the space, and in addition to adding sprinklers he prepped it by repeatedly tilling it and raking out Bermuda grass roots. And please don't tell me that using an oversized blender on persistent roots is not the very best idea and you can't get all the roots out without spending a year hand-sifting and that we'll be arguing with Bermuda grass until the end of time. Because we know. We knew before he tilled. We did it anyway. Watching the window for corn closing in front of your very eyes will do that to you. It's tilled and squashy and plantable, and so far I'm more or less keeping on top of the weeds in the planted areas, so I'm going to maintain my delusion of control until the grass lassos me and knocks some sense into me.

The very largest vegetable garden in my past was three hundred square feet. This one is roughly eight hundred linear feet of four-foot-wide row, or ten times that.


We're calling it The Farm, since the name The Garden is taken by the garden around the house. I do realize that some people work vegetable gardens of an acre or six, without giving them grand names. I choose not to care; it is The Farm.

And so far we've planted bush beans and tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and melons and squash and lettuce and basil and strawberries and blueberries and artichokes and cardoons and corn and tepary beans and parch corn and chives and onions and herbs and beets and radishes. And the leek seedlings are growing along, and I'll be starting the seedlings for autumn-crop broccoli and cabbage and brussels sprouts and cauliflower soon. Oh, and planting peas.

I'm ignoring other realities, in addition to the Bermuda grass. I'm ignoring the moderate to high likelihood that several things, like the parch corn and the winter squash and the melons and the tepary beans and quite possibly the cucumbers, may not mature in time for us to eat them. I'm ignoring the fact that the onions went in about eight weeks late and will therefore be scallions, not bulbs. Don't care, nope nope nope.

I ate a blueberry today. I have banana peppers ready to eat and lettuce a week away from eating and lots of hard green tomatoes busily progressing and itty bitty barely-there green beans, and only two plants so far have been yanked into the Gopher Twilight Zone. So there.


Image: By Vitchybini. Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vignette: Uprising



"I'm supposed to interview you?"



"Well, apparently she was reading something on some writing forum, about interviewing characters, and they said that the characters could interview each other instead, so you'd get information about two personalities for the price of one."



"Meaning us."


"She's kind of blowing right through that fourth wall thing, isn't she?"

"Well, yes. So maybe you should ask me about my hob--"

"No no no. No hobbies. No favorite colors. No childhood traumatic memories. Forget that. While that wall is open, I've got some questions for her."


"Like what's with this fieldstone-into-bricks transformation? I though this was modern realism, and now we've got magic, or we're having a long dream, or something. That's not what I signed up for."

"Well, it was just that one--"

"No, it wasn't just that one. There was the bit with the candy shop coming to life. The candy part coming to life, I mean. You weren't there, it was just me and some kid. I'll never be able to look at a jelly baby again."

"I'm thinking that was a dream--"

"And I'm getting a major unrequited love vibe here. Any minute now there'll be scenes with me following you around like a loyal sheepdog while you're dating every marketing executive in--what city do we live in anyway?"

"I think it might be Chicago."

"Great. Snow. That's all I need. You see my point? I want some answers here."

"Yeah. I don't think you're going to get them."

"Why not?"

"She just passed two hundred words."

"Damn it!"

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gardening: That Hardening Off Thing

So, I rarely raise seeds. And they even more rarely survive the experience. But this year, with the World's Smallest Greenhouse, I now have about eight flats of seedlings, and still no tilled ground to put them in. (Stop raining! Now!) I've run out of things to use for potting on and so has the hardware store and so has the Grange, so the Tat Soi and about a dozen zinnias and three dozen cosmos and the second round of romaine and some tomatoes and peppers that I cheated and bought in small sixpacks and replanted to bigger pots, are sitting around busily planning to get rootbound. And the kale and seed-planted tomatoes and peppers and onions aren't far behind.

(Tat Soi, you may ask? Kale, you may ask? Why did I plant cool-loving greens as summer looms, you may ask? I'm not always very bright.)

I'm eyeing my few remaining CowPots, but at about fifty cents a pot, the price of a homegrown head of lettuce goes up drastically. On the other hand, paying for two-day shipping for jumbo plug trays from Johnny's is even worse. I'm tentatively planning to solve this problem for the future by buying a soil block maker, thus eliminating the need for pots altogether, but that doesn't help the already-existing seedlings. I rather wish that I were the sort of person to eat a lot of yogurt.

(Speaking of CowPots, you know those advertising pictures of them with the roots just sticking straight out of the pot? It's happening to the tomatoes. It's really almost alarming. Aren't roots supposed to sense air and recoil?)

So the instant that I do have tilled ground, I want to plant. Which made me realize, late last night: I haven't hardened anybody off! Ack! Potential delays!

I've never done the hardening off thing before, due to the aforementioned lack of seedling survival. The advice for doing so seems to mostly assume that you'll be hardening off from a nice warm basement under lights, perhaps using an unheated greenhouse as an interim stop. I'm starting in an unheated greenhouse, so I'm not sure what to do, but I'm tentatively assuming that I can accelerate the usual schedule.

So this morning I hauled five flats from greenhouse to deck, to what looked like nice part shade and a gentle breeze. The breeze stayed gentle, but when I returned three hours later to put the flats away before lunch, I realized that they were in full sun, and the leaf lettuce wasn't a bit happy about it. Oops. I rushed them all back to the greenhouse and opened the vents extra wide and gave everybody a fresh drink, and they seemed to be doing OK a couple of hours later. The lettuce was trying to guilt-trip me with slightly floppy leaves, but everybody else seemed unfazed.

So I'm still thinking that tomorrow I'll leave them until after lunch, and the next day until just before dinner, and the next day after dinner, and then I'll let them sit outside all night and hope that the raccoons haven't been waiting for a salad bar.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Plant Breeding: That Lettuce Plant

So, on 4/30, I planted some seeds, including some Red Sails, Little Gem, and Four Seasons lettuce. The Little Gem and Red Sails took a good long time to sprout, but when they sprouted, after about fourteen days, they did so fairly evenly--most of the little plants were within a couple of days of each other. All very nice and normal.

The Four Seasons was more interesting. One seed sprouted earlier than any other seed in two flats - I think; I  really must keep better records and stop expecting myself to remember things. But I don't need memory to see that that one plant is larger than any other lettuce seedling in the greenhouse, and that it's one of only two Four Seasons seeds to sprout at all.

So what does that mean? It could just mean that I somehow planted it differently. It could mean that most of that packet was bad seed. It could mean that I have one seed of an inherently superior Four Seasons--inherently superior for sprouting in the microclimate of my own tiny greenhouse, anyway. It could mean that I have one seed of either an accidental cross, or some other lettuce that was caught up in the sorting machine. I can't compare the plant with other Four Seasons plants, because the only other Four Seasons seed to sprout has barely broken ground. It does have somewhat mottled red and green coloring that seems like a reasonable fit with Four Seasons.

Whatever it means, it's potentially interesting, and if all goes well, I'm planning to save its seed for next year. Maybe it'll sprout earlier than standard Four Seasons. Maybe it'll grow out to a variety of plants, suggesting that it is an accidental hybrid. Or maybe it won't do anything interesting at all. But I'll be growing lettuce anyway, so why not?

This is all assuming, of course, that the rabbits don't eat the plant first

Photo: Mine.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gardening: The Bloom List

I've decided to maintain a weekly list of blooms. Why? I'm really not sure. How? Every Sunday I'll drift around the garden and list everything that's blooming. Not when it started or when it stopped, just whether it's blooming or not. And I'll blog about it.

So what's blooming this week?

  • Wisteria.
  • Parrot tulips. There are just three, conveniently placed so that they block the entrance to the path to the greenhouse shed in a self-satisfied sort of way. Like cats. They've returned for several years, and I'm increasingly fond of  them.
  • Princess Victoria Louise oriental poppies.
  • Er... one of the shrubs in the shrub border. The one that isn't photinia or lilacs or... yeah, that one.
  • Last year's onions.
  • Sweet bay. Is sweet bay supposed to bloom? According to Google, apparently it is, but I've never seen it do this before.
  • Those low white hardy geraniums that make such a perfect bed edging. Except for their eagerness to march right across the path.
  • Veronica. The low perennial kind.
  • David viburnum. Himself hates David viburnum with a fiery passion. I think it's looking lovely.
  • The variegated vinca that crawls under the fence from next door.
  • The bishop's weed that rampages under the fence from next door.
  • That pink stuff. With the name that I can't remember. It's becoming embarrassing, how many plants there are growing in my garden, that I can't identify. Ha! Jupiter's Beard! That's it!
  • Columbine. I haven't planted columbine for years; I love the way that they just reappear anyway.
  • Prostrate rosemary.
  • Upright rosemary.
  • Those... er... OK, more shrubs whose name I don't know.
  • Lilacs.
  • That white-flowered shrub under the Italian cypress. The one with the little caps of tiny white flowers. 
  • Raspberries.
  • Violets, but only the ones with the smaller darker leaves. They might be Labrador violets. Or they might not.
  • Culinary thyme.
  • Creeping thyme.
  • That blue-flowered stuff that looks like bits of creeping rosemary but isn't. Yeah, yeah, go ahead and mock me.
  • Dogwood.
  • Grapes. At least, there's a tiny something that looks rather as if it might eventually turn into a bunch of grapes.
  • Chives.
  • The rose on the shed. The white one. I know it's a hybrid musk. It's probably either Bubbles or Moonlight.
  • The freakish two-tone purple irises. They're all over a bed that's supposed to contain only a specific blue iris. After repeated attempts to thin them out, they're more numerous than ever.
  • The first blue iris. Woohoo!
  • Sweet woodruff.
  • Candytuft.
  • The tall blue hardy geranium. Possibly Johnson's Blue.
  • Pheasant eye daffodils.
  • Bluebells. At least, we call them bluebells. 
  • The white azalea.
  • The magenta azalea.
  • California poppies.
  • Lenten rose.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vignette: Recap

(Will I like it in six weeks? I have my doubts. But a resolve is a resolve.)

"I'm worried about the chicken."

"What chicken?"

"Last night. Dinner with your aunt. The chicken."

"The chicken was great. Maybe a little more salt. But it's not like she's Julia Child."

"I'm afraid it was raw. You know, salmonella."

"She didn't say anything."

"She might not have noticed."

"Then it can't have been that raw."

"Maybe she wasn't paying attention."

"Serves her right, then."

"That's not funny."

"Look on the bright side. Maybe I'll inherit."

"That's really not funny."

"You know, this could work out for us. We could invite your cousin next. You know how he's always bragging about his 401K."

"Stop it!"

"Salmonella isn't really reliable, though."

"I'm not talking to you any more."

"How about those tall flowers next to the garage? Aren't they foxgloves? Digitalis and all that?"

"They're hollyhocks."

"Hollyhocks might be poisonous."

"I'm still not talking to you."

"Do you have any relatives with peanut allergies?"

Image: By Andrew pmk. Wikimedia Commons.

Rambling: Vignettes, and the lack thereof

I need to start writing fiction again. Starting with vignettes. Here.

And I need to keep on writing them, without long breaks. Because I've discovered something about myself: As my fiction ages, I like it better--I fail to see the flaws that were so obvious when I first wrote the piece. This means that nothing that I write today will equal, in my mind, anything that I wrote six weeks ago, or even six days ago. I need the blog to have something that I wrote this week, so that I can tell myself, I posted that piece of junk, I can post this one, too!

It's not a sunny philosophy, but it works.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gardening: It's aliiiiiive!

Carol Deppe's book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties is back on my nightstand, for the fifth or eighth or perhaps tenth reading. I have an earlier edition, full of fun stories and genetics and how-tos, and a later edition, with a lot more of the politics of plant patenting and other depressing things. I focus on the earlier edition. I'm shallow.

I feel a mad-scientist glee at the idea of breeding my own plants. I must confess that I have to do a lot of thinking to conjure up "something new" that I want, because I haven't come anywhere near exhausting the possibilities of plants already commercially available. For example, I want a particular mellow meaty yellow-orange tomato that I once tasted, but I know that I just need to discover it, not breed it, because I've already eaten it.

But now that we have more space, my fantasies of breeding are coming to new life, and I'm reading the book again and searching, again, for ideas. In fact, I'm making a list of things I could work on.

My first thought is podding radishes. You know those seed pods that radishes put out after they bolt and bloom? They're edible. There's already at least one variety of radish out there that's sold specifically for its edible pods, but surely the market could use more, right? Right? In any case, this scheme has the advantage of providing discovery in the very first year, because I can start by sending off for a bunch of different radishes and just eating their pods, without ever having done any breeding work. Then I can cross some and grow something new next year. Or, considering the relatively short life cycle of some radishes, could I even grow out the result of this year's cross this year? I need to do some research.

Then there's squash blossoms. Rather like the radishes and the radish pods, I have little use for squash, but I love to eat the blossoms. Fried. I know that there's already a squash variety bred specifically for its tendency to produce lots of male blossoms and few female fruits, but maybe there's more to be done here? Or maybe my squash blossom preferences are different? The variety in question is Butter Blossom, but I can't seem to find seeds, so I'm thinking of experimenting with Costata Romanesco, since Johnny's says good things about its blossoms.

Except, hey! Aren't there climbing squash? Tromboncino, and others? And wouldn't that be a particularly good characteristic for a squash grown primarily for blossoms? Without the weight of a bunch of fruits to pull a trellis down, you could get your squash flowers in a minimum of space. It appears that Butter Blossom (pepo) and Tromboncino (moschata) aren't candidates for a cross, so that obvious path toward combining the two target characteristics (climbing and a high percentage of male blossoms) is closed. I'll do some more thinking.

What else? My favorite vegetable is onions, and my main onion goal is an onion that will have maximum knock-you-down flavor, both hot and sweet, when slowly caramelized. But I already suspect that Copra may be the onion for me.

And just to expose my ignorance (and perhaps my need to read the book again) I'm not at all clear on how one evaluates onions, the kind from seed, when doing breeding work on them. If you do a tomato cross and grow out the results, you can taste a tomato on a plant, and if it's transcendent, you can then let another one on the same plant ripen and rot and make seeds. But tasting an onion kills the onion, so there's no getting seeds out of it later. Do you wait another full generation and keep track of each individual onion's seeds, and evaluate each group of progeny separately? But how can you be sure that the glorious onion that you just tasted wasn't the only one with that particular group of genes? Am I missing something obvious here?

Now, there are the vegetatively propagated onions. Potato onions, multiplier onions, shallots, Egyptian walking onions, bunching onions, chives, garlic chives, garlic, elephant garlic, perennial leeks. And some of them reproduce from seed. I suppose those are the ones to work on--once you have something you like, you could just keep on propagating it.

Actually, that's another area that interests me--perennial vegetables. There are the obvious ones--garlic and potatoes and asparagus and artichokes and so on. But there are some less obvious choices that I haven't experienced. For example, according to Carol Deppe, salsify not only produces edible roots, but also edible green shoots and salad greens. Daylily blossoms are supposed to be edible, though you shouldn't take my word for it. I've never tasted a sunchoke; I'd like to.

Well, this is interesting--I see on a website that unopened sunflower buds, steamed, taste like artichokes.  Is that something worth some breeding work?


Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rambling: Garden Space

I've rarely had a lot of space for vegetable gardening. When I was very small, I remember trying to grow carrots in a flowerpot. When I was a bit older, a friend and I started a small garden in my back yard, but I remember each bed being perhaps the footprint of a laundry basket, and I think that there were only four beds. I don't recall whether we stayed interested long enough to see anything sprout; the friend seemed most interested in digging the watering trenches.

In adulthood, Himself and I had a twelve by twenty-five foot plot in a community garden, and while that was enjoyable, it was our only garden, and therefore I promptly filled the ends with roses and rosemary and a bay tree, all of which grew enthusiastically. This left us, after paths, with perhaps 150 square feet of space for annual vegetables. Fun, but not really enough room for a big block of corn, much less corn plus pumpkins plus tomatoes plus beans plus... well, you get the idea. Then we moved into The Best House Ever, but Himself has a great fondness for lawn, so the vegetable area is both smallish and limited in sunlight.

But this year, and likely next year, and not inconceivably for a few years after that, I'll have access to a fair-sized back yard's worth of garden space, more than I've ever dreamed of before. Enough that I worry that halfway through the summer we may need to declare failure and plant half of it with a cover crop and just mow. But I'm not spending much time worrying; I'm spending a lot more plotting what to plant. For the first time in my gardening history I can seriously consider pumpkins, and melons, and winter squash, and more than three tomato plants, and enough strawberries for more than a token taste now and then.

Since my access to this garden is for a limited time, I'm taking it as my opportunity to find my favorite varieties. When the time returns that I have room for only one pepper plant, or one tomato, or a dozen heads of lettuce, or I have to decide whether any melon or squash at all is worth the space, I'd like to know what my very favorites are.

And that means starting seeds--also something that I can do this year for the first time. We've added a tiny greenhouse, roughly the size of a double closet, and I'm already well on my way to filling all of the space available with plants in progress.

It's exciting. Assuming that it happens, there will be Pictures.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gardening: Coveting my neighbors' plants

So, it's spring, and the garden is looking lovely. And I'm looking at the neighbors' flowers.

I always do this. I have a few yellow tulips so far; I look longingly at the deep purple ones next door. I have candytuft covered in white flowers; I'm jealous of the bright magenta creeping phlox across from the high school. I had gorgeous true blue Siberian squills; I'm focused on the grape hyacinth growing all over town. My tulip-flowered magnolia is looking lovely, and I keep eyeing the kind with the fringed white flowers, growing in three different yards on our usual walk to lunch.

Would I swap my magnolia for theirs? Would I give up my squills for a healthy stand of hyacinths? Would I  even plant the phlox, much less dig up the candytuft to make room for it? No. But I still can't seem to keep my eyes on my own flowers.

Image: Mine.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Link: Himself's take on AIFF

We just staggered back from our first day at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Himself has been industriously blogging all day. I, on the other hand, feel up for some chocolate and some sleep. So I point you to his posts:

AIFF Day One: Snow!
Born to Lift
Blurred Vision, Happy Bird(er)s
Follow The Bouncing Ball

and no doubt he'll be commenting on the extremely disturbing Silver Tongues. All I can say right now about that one is: Yikes. Well, no, I can say that it was very, very good. And then I can say: Yikes.

Updated to add: And, indeed, you can find Himself's views on Silver Tongues in his post:

Freaky Weird Badness

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rambling: What's up? And the film festival.

So, sometimes when I post non-perfume posts in The Other Blog, I find myself thinking, Oh, noooooo!, the readers on This Blog will miss learning about critical facts about my life!

Then I get a grip.

But all the same, I seem to have been doing all my recent posting over there, including non-perfume posting About the move, and, now, the film festival that I'll be attending for the next five days, and a glance at cocktails and Saturday night. So I figured I'd point to those posts, just for, well, context.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ramble: Books and E-Books

I own seventeen e-books. (And how do you spell and punctuate that word?!)

On principle, I disapprove of e-books. The fact that my copy of the book will go away when the technology goes away, the fact that I can't bring them to the used bookstore, the fact that I can't lend them or only lend them so many times, the fact that some books could go to a pure e-book publication and that when those books go out of copyright they could be flat-out lost forever. All that is bad.

But I downloaded the Kindle reader for Mac and for my phone, and bought a cheap out-of-copyright e-book to play with them with. And then I bought another e-book at a moderately discounted price. And then I bought one at the ridiculous (given the extremely low per-unit cost for e-books) full price.

And now, a few months later, I have seventeen of the things. Three technical, two how-to, one self-help, one reference, five novels, three biographical nonfiction, two "other nonfiction."

So I disapprove of them, but I have seventeen, and I'm reading more than I was before, and reading relatively new books (which I rarely did before), and authors are making more money from me than before, because I used to mostly buy used books. So, well, maybe it's not such a bad thing. Except financially, for me. Well, and for my local bookstore. Eep.

My original plan, as much as it could be detected mixed in with my denial that I was buying e-books at all, was to restrict my electronic buying only to those books that I don't want to own permanently in paper form anyway. There are a lot of these. The shelves are full, and while I never actually want to get rid of any book, most books must go, promptly after I've read them. Or if they stay, something else must go. Turning my head left and right, I see two stacks, representing about fifteen books, that are destined for the used bookstore. And that's just what hasn't been boxed yet.

Come to think of it, fifteen is almost the count of what I've read for the 100+ Reading Challenge. So given that some of my 100+ books were electronic, and assuming that I actually drag myself to the used bookstore, I'm more than keeping up with one book in, one book out. Yay me!

Um. Where was I? Oh, yes. The e-book versus paper judgement has failed three times, which is a rather high rate. I bought Betsy Lerner's Forest For The Trees (one of the "other nonfiction", about writing, though there's plenty of biographical stuff in there too) in e-book form, and I liked it so much that now I want it permanently.

I should have learned my lesson, but, no, I just downloaded and finished her Food and Loathing, and while I'm letting my impressions settle out before I rush to spend more money, I think I'll want a paper copy of that one, too. I think that my recent post about writing while grumpy/cranky/angry reminded me of Betsy Lerner and sent me looking for her latest book--while Forest For The Trees wasn't all that grumpy, her blog often is, and so is Food and Loathing, and I love her writing, grumpy or non. It makes me wonder if, like it or not, I should grab a keyboard when I'm gnashing my teeth and see what comes out.

And I'm in the middle of Dominique Browning's Slow Love, and judging from my fondness for two of her other books (Paths of Desire and Around the House and in the Garden) I'm also going to want that in paper form. (As a side note, I find myself wondering if I should email to the author that her website makes it impossible to link to a single specific book. Would she care?)

So, really, I have no grounds for claiming surprise in the last two cases. Frankly, I just wanted the books and I wanted them now, so I downloaded them.  I tell myself that I'm supporting the author. And the publisher--I have no problem supporting publishers either, I'm just more excited about supporting the authors. And by buying the things a second time on paper, I can even ease my guilt about the local bookstore, because I can order them there. So, really, everybody but my pocket wins. That'll have to be good enough.

Roundup: Kindle review from All I Am - A Redhead.

Image: By Andreas Praefcke. Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beginning: Coffee Break

Again, breaking the block with "post something!" This has even less plot than usual--it's the beginning of a possibly surreal story, and I don't know the ending yet.

"What? What? What do you want?" demanded the waitress behind the counter, all Alice in Wonderland in blond hair and blue dress.

Henry halted, then resumed, his approach to the cash register. Er. ""

"There's no decaf. None at all. We are out of decaf."

Maybe a smile would help. He tried one. "Okay."

It didn't. Help, that is. Alice advanced on mug and coffee, over-filled the one with the other, and deposited the dripping result in front of him. "One nineteen."

Henry put two singles down at a safe distance from the spreading puddle, and watched as they vanished into her pocket. She was at the other end of the restaurant, facing the window, before he recovered himself enough to murmur, "Keep the change," and lean over the mug for a safety slurp before picking it up.

Two more sips as he scanned the available resources. He finally ventured, "Sugar?"

She flapped a hand toward the counter, without turning.

"No, see, that's Sweet'N Low, and..." He broke off as she turned to shove her way through the swinging door to the kitchen. He watched the flapping door settle, and finally tore open one of the pink packets. He was reaching for a stirrer when she appeared on the other side of the window.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The state of blogging discussion (Rant Rant Ranty Rant)

Just a link to a rant on the other blog.

Image: By Hannibal Poenaru. Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vignette: Lunchtime Doubly So


"Oh, thank goodness you're there. I was about to go to the police!"

"Hi, Mom."

"'Hi, Mom'? Is that all you have to say?"

"About what?"

"You weren't at the restaurant--I looked everywhere. I just got back home!"

"Just now?"

"Yes, of course just now. I almost went to the police station, but I decided first I'd go home and call. I thought you were dead."

"What happened to your cell?"

"I don't carry that thing, it's just for emergencies."

"It's about a ten minute drive, right?"

"What difference does it make how long a drive it is? I was so worried, I'm lucky I didn't have a wreck!"

"How long were you at the restaurant?"

"Oh, now you're interested? It must have been half an hour, almost. I was so upset the owner had to offer me a cup of tea and a place to sit down while I settled my nerves. They had to vacuum around me! It was very rude of you, inconveniencing all those people."

"Tell me, what time is it now?"

"It's five minutes to two and, mind, you, I was so worried I haven't even eaten yet. I could have fainted from low blood sugar! The bartender thought that you behaved very badly."

"Five minutes to two. You checked that on your watch? It's working?"

"What? Yes, of course, what are you going on about? And the hostess agreed with him."

"So that means you got there sometime after one."

"And? So?"

"We were supposed to meet there at noon. I waited forty-five minutes."

"Oh, for heaven's sake! Is everything all about you?"

Image: By Jon Sullivan. Wikimedia Commons. And Jon Sullivan's website is at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Link: Rambling. And cheese. No, not really.

Just a pointer to a post on the other blog, where I ramble about... well, where I ramble.

Theater Image: By Smatprt. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rambling: Bad Peony Timing

So. Gardening. This blog once had garden content. Then the garden filled up. Then winter came. Then NaNoWriMo came. Then I started the 100-fiction-words-a-day resolve, which is still in effect as a goal. And there wasn't a lot of gardening, in my writing or in real life.

But the days are getting longer, and this weekend was deceptively springlike. And, most important, I may have access to some fresh gardening space soon.


So it's time to start the spring gardening dance. Seed catalogs. Websites. Peonies. At this moment, particularly peonies. And, yes, I realize that it would have been much better to have thought of this in the fall.

I used to garden in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bay Area weather doesn't support peonies--there isn't enough winter chill. All the same, many of the garden centers sell the things, presenting me every year with those gorgeous pictures on glossy boxes of peony roots. Every gardener knows that there are plenty of things sold in garden centers that are highly unlikely to do anything at all in the garden, but that's usually about skill. And skill improves every year, so each spring the gardener buys a new batch of plants, and most die, but some unexpectedly live, or even bloom, and so everybody's happy.

But when the garden centers sell something that simply won't bloom unless you live a few thousand feet up a mountain or dump a truckful of ice on it every few days through the winter, that seems to be an unfair stacking of the deck. I planted and lost a couple of peonies before reading about them and learning that they were a doomed pursuit. Then I ignored what I read and planted some more. But nothing ever bloomed.

So when I moved to a Southern Oregon garden that not only supported peonies, but had one already blooming, I was excited. I planned to plant many more.  But we had new paths made and new beds built, and in all that tromping around, peony roots seemed somehow too fragile to insert and too hard to keep track of. So we installed roses for me and irises for Himself, and space filled up.

And then one fall I had a spark of peony determination, one that wouldn't wait for catalogs and mail-order, and I planted six of what they were selling at the hardware store. And then we revamped the irrigation system, and then we did remodeling, and people did their very best not to walk on the flower beds, but planting more seemed like a mistake. And then, two or maybe three years later, those peonies bloomed, and they were lovely, but they were still what they were selling at the hardware store. They weren't gasp-and-fall-down peonies. And the garden was full.

Anyway. Enough history. Now I may have another chance to plant the really glorious peonies, the ones that transcend the hardware store. Except... it's spring. And I should have planted them in the fall.


The quick thing to do would be to search local nurseries and buy any potted peonies that I can find. The sensible thing to do would be to accept reality, prepare a luxurious bed, perhaps plant a few annuals to keep myself entertained, and order roots for perfect, glorious, transcendent peonies, to be received and planted in the fall.

What, I wonder, are the odds that I'm going to do the sensible thing?

First Pink Peony Image: By Epibase. Wikimedia Commons.
Second Pink Peony Image: By Epibase. Wikimedia Commons.
White Peony Image: By Usien. Wikimedia Commons.
Striped Peony Image: By LapisLauzli Tomorrow. Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rambling: Rambling

So, as I've mentioned on the other blog, I haven't been doing much writing this past couple of weeks. And it's not just writing that isn't happening; my brain's usual production of silly daydream stories has been drastically reduced as well. In fact, even my dreams aren't offering much in the way of plot. But I have been doing a lot of reading. Unlike last year, this year I'm keeping up with the 100+ reading challenge, and I can imagine exceeding it. Maybe.

This made me wonder if my mind is unidirectional, either absorbing or producing, and not both. But what causes the direction to flip? Seasonal change? The end of the holidays? The tragic resumption of work at the end of the holidays? Seasonal Affective Disorder? What's the deal?

I also (whispering) read a novel that didn't involve a murder.  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, a nice low-key story with no crime to speak of. Is it possible that aliens borrowed my brain and didn't get the fluff and fold process quite right before returning it? I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, too, but that one does involve a murder, even if it is sold with the regular novels at the non-mystery end of the bookstore.


Image: Wikimedia Commons.