Apr 232014
 

It was a hell of heat and dust and pain.  ”She’s a Killer!” they said, “Killer Queen!”

As the marker for mile 11 flashed by, I imagined the mountain coming after me in a rage.  Feet pounded the dirt and dust choked the air.  If my head didn’t explode, my heart would surely collapse.  My legs were on autopilot, ticking back and forth at a pace I had no idea they could sustain.  I was on the backside of the killer mountain, running down in a manner of controlled falling.  I had passed people who were collapsed on the side of the road, surrounded by emergency responders.  Probably heat stroke.

A sudden cramp in my stomach made me regret all of the water I drank at the summit, before my (un)controlled plunge down the backside.  I forced my legs to a walk, to walk off the cramp, and they revolted.  Against all logical assumptions, walking was harder and more painful than running.  So I ran with my stomach cramping, my head spinning, and my heart pounding.

Coming around a bend, there was a big sign, mocking the runners.

Remember when this seemed like a good idea in February!

I laughed.  I smiled.  And I cried.

All around me, spectators cheered.  So many high fives.

I felt like I was going to fall down and die and everyone around me was so happy and celebratory.  I tried to think about the end of this nightmare, when I could drink the free beer, sit in the shade, and not move.

Eons passed and I ran across the finish.

Photo credit: Sawtooth Photo Pros

I was herded through an endless tunnel of racers and spectators, emerging into a sea of people.  It was the park at Robie Creek.  Green grass and blue creek waters, trees and shade.  Shade!  My legs felt so wobbly that they could barely support my body, but the shade saved me.  Gradually, my heart rate slowed and I felt a glorious coolness against my hot and sweaty skin.

The miles and miles of people would have been otherwise overwhelming, had I not been feeling completely delirious.  Having no idea where to go, though a cold beer was strong in my mind, I just followed the people in front of me, assuming (correctly) that the first place every racer would go to would be the beer line.

And then I heard my name.  It was Chrissy, my neighbor with whom I had gone to the race.  She had finished two minutes before me and was waiting at the side.  Together, we got some free beers (our first beer was a raspberry wheat from a local brewery, and the second was a seasonal IPA from another local brewery).  YUM.  We also procured some free food, heavy on the carbohydrates, and enjoyed our calories whilst sitting in the shade.  Eventually, we got another beer and waited in the line for the buses, which transported us back to town.

Earlier in the day as well as during my training for this race, I had imagined my experience of participating in this race and it was significantly different than my actual experience.  The heat is really what got me.  Having been running over the winter and early spring, I have felt more cold than warm and certainly no hot on my training runs.  The day of the race, temperatures hit 75 degrees, but I am certain that the “feel like” temperature in the canyon, where heat is trapped and amplified, was much hotter than that.

There are some people who are resilient against heat, and I am not one of those people.  After the race, I chatted with many of the racers; some people said the temperature felt great, while others said the heat killed them.  Out of 2400 racers, I raced along with a cohort of folks who seemed to be likewise suffering from the heat.  At about mile 5 or 6, having tried to run up the 2100 feet of climbing through the canyon, I blew my gasket.  I really blew my gasket.

Photo credit: Sawtooth Photo Pros

 Around about this time, an ATV ambulance drove by to retrieve a racer who had collapsed and I decided to race smarter, not harder.  I power-walked the rest of the way to the summit.  This allowed me to keep my heart rate within reason, though it was still VERY high, and allowed me to actually keep pace with those racers around me who were still trying to run, but who would frequently have to drop back to a slow walk to recover from the heat and the too-much-exertion.  The final mile to the summit is BRUTAL.  Power-walking, I passed so many people who had tried to run previously, who were now walking.  When I got to the summit, Josh was there to hand me some cool water, which I dumped on my head before gulping down several more cups of water.  My power-walking allowed me to reach the summit without feeling too spent (though, I was very spent) and I was able to run almost all of the final 4 miles down the backside.

The first part of the descent is steep and is also in the shade, and I ran fast!  I passed by almost 100 people (seriously, no hyperbole).   After two miles of running in the shade, I was again out in the scorching sun and the last two miles were hell.

My muscles were VERY sore for two days after the race, however, I did not experience any tendon or joint pain (which was something I was concerned about).  Right now, riding my bike sounds pretty nice and I have no interest in racing the Robie Creek Half-Marathon ever again.  However, I can imagine next February rolling around and having visions of doing the race and trying to beat this year’s time.  Oh geez… the pain, the suffering, the excitement!

Apr 222014
 

Before I get into my April Garden Update, I’d like to thank everyone for the words of encouragement for my half-marathon.  I’m still sifting through the race photos to find some okay ones of myself, and hope to post a race report soonish.  You’ll be happy to hear that I achieved my three goals for the race: (1) have fun; (2) challenge myself; and (3) don’t get hurt.  Although, the having fun part occurred in but a few places, when I wasn’t otherwise feeling like I was going to have a cardiac arrest or die of heat stroke or have my legs explode whilst beneath me.  More on that later.

Anyway, wow, April has been a whirlwind of garden activity; I expect May to be a tornado!

So far, this year is proving to be a great time for the garden.  We’ve been having a lot of nice rain, intermixed with warm and sunny days.  Above, the two plum trees we planted in the fall have fully blossomed.

And below, the lilac bush is covered in blossoms.  Last year, we didn’t see a single lilac bloom because of a late hard frost and an early heat wave.

Josh is working on building a flower bed using some of the big rocks we’ve pulled out of the ground.  The design is still in progress but is going to have some kind of undulation pattern.

I also planted a wee forsythia bush.  This spring, the beautiful pops of yellow have been such a welcome burst of color after the gray winter.

And remember how I exclaimed (over and over) about how we have so much dirt left over from our basement window well project?  Well, it is a really big pile of dirt, and will probably be PLENTY to fill up the flower bed.

Our dirt is 70% clay and 30% river rock, so I’ve been pulling out many of the rocks to enhance the rock garden that I started last year.  This area did really well at withstanding the chickens, which disproves the assertion that chickens and gardens don’t mix.  I think you just need to find plants that are hardy against chicken scratching, and in this case I hypothesize that the rocks limit the amount of scratching they can do.

Even though I prefer perennials, I liked my Verbena so much last year that I got another one.

Among the plants in my rock garden that can withstand chicken scratching are Candytufts…

And hostas…

Columbine…

and Dianthus…

Here is the side yard, which obviously isn’t very pretty.  This is Berryland.  Two raspberries, two blueberries (and a third elsewhere), three blackberry plants, and about 80 wild alpine strawberries at the back tower.

The blueberries!

Here is the currant from last year.  Geez, I just love how I planted so many plants that have somehow survived!  This is planted in a strange location, so I might try moving it to Berryland.

At the back of the yard, here is the official Veggie Garden.  We have been getting so much rain this spring that all of the grass that I let die during last year’s heat wave and drought has grown back with a vengeance.

Several kale plants made it through the winter, and you can see that dill has seeded itself everywhere (which I am happy about).

A bed of onions that I started from seed in January/February.  I also have much older onions scattered here and there (mostly, that the squirrels moved for me).

And my asparagus are coming up!  Since it is their first year, they are very spindly.  Out of 24 plants, only about six have come up yet, but that’s better than zero.

I have so many peas.  This is one of two beds.

I’ve actually harvested a few peas already, practically surpassing last year’s meager harvest.

And my beets are all thriving and beautiful!  As you recall, I was foiled over and over and over last year in my attempts to grow beets.

Rhubarb is resplendent in stalks and flowers.  I plan to start harvesting soon…

… just waiting to harvest some strawberries.

This is my brassica and garlic bed.  As you can see, my love of garlic pairs well with my love of broccoli and cabbage.

This is a De Cicco broccoli, with a wonderful head forming and lots of side shoots.  I have been very impressed with this variety (started from seed in January).

I planted my seed potatoes at the beginning of the month, and within the last few days they have emerged with some solid growth.

I also planted two bareroot grape plants next to the garden fence, one Red Flame and White Himrod.  They sprouted growth and are doing very well.

And inside, lots and lots and lots of seedlings.  Our average last frost date is coming up fast and I’ve scheduled to take some time off work to help give me enough time to plant everything.  Any reasonable human being would be shocked and awed by the number of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and squash I’m tending to inside of our home (I suspect that Josh’s patience is growing thin… it’s been months of seedlings everywhere). For these seedlings, I’m experimenting with CowPots, which are made out of cow manure and are supposed to naturally biodegrade (and feed the plants in the process), and when it’s time for planting, one simply drops the plant and pot in the ground.  I got a case of these for about $0.40 a pot and we’ll see how they work out.

Lastly, my fig has been enjoying our warm and sunny spring.

Anyway, look for a race report in the next few days… and I’ve gotten the wild idea to actually do a knitting post sometime.

Apr 132014
 

Having maintained an unparalleled enthusiasm for cycling for years, I always assumed that runners who did not also cycle  had a comparable enthusiasm because, well, they chose running over cycling.  Now that I’ve firmly added running into my recreational repertoire, I have developed a solid appreciation for it.  It provides a well-rounded and highly-effective full body workout.  It is also weight bearing, which is important for us females who might be more prone to osteoporosis.  It also doesn’t involve the amassing of quite as much gear, and quite as expensive gear.  It is more versatile – - if one goes on vacation, for example, it’s easy to pack a pear of sneakers in one’s suitecase in order to continue one’s running regimen.  Weather also doesn’t seem to be quite as impactful on the runner as on the cyclist.  Really, I could go on and on and on about the practical advantages of running.

At the same time, for me, running lacks a key feature that is the cornerstone of cycling: fun.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed myself on many of my runs and I am SO HAPPY that I have added it to my exercise possibilities.  For the last several months, I have been running exclusively in order to prepare for my race that is coming up too fast.  However, I do not feel nearly as prepared for the race as I would like and I have been battling some extreme discouragement.  Because of the stress and feeling discouraged, running has been less fun for me recently.

Also, running can hurt.  I have been doing these 10-14 mile training runs up to Adalpe Summit (which is about 1600 feet of climbing and 1600 feet of descending) and for days afterwards, my body feels fine in normal life but hurts when I try to run again.  I have to take several days off from running to recover from these longer runs because the impact from running up 1600 feet and then running DOWN 1600 feet hurts!  In order to train for my race, I had wanted to do one of these longer runs with lots of elevation gain and loss a week, as well as two 6 mile medium pace and two 3 mile hard pace runs.  Because I have felt so much deep down pain after my long runs, I haven’t been able to get in my other runs as I had planned and this makes me feel not as prepared for the race.  A few times, I’ve forced myself to run when my body told me not to, and that really made it worse.

Another thing that hurts is my self esteem because I am a very slow runner.   I’ve taken first place in mountain bike races and when I was a member of a cycling club I could hang with the faster members of the group.  In running, I am passed left and right by people who look out of shape, or people who are 60 years older than me.  It feels so discouraging!

The last mile of the climb up to Adalpe Summit is BRUTAL.  I’ve ran it three times and have to run/walk it because I always feel like I’m going to have a coronary arrest.  I ran/walked it the other day, feeling particularly like I would drop dead because it was also hot outside, and when I got to the top I watched an old guy (seriously, he must have been over 70 years old) run up the whole thing.  When he got to the top, to be friendly to a fellow runner, I said, “Wow, you ran up that whole thing!” and he said, very loudly as though he really wanted me to hear his wisdom, “YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WIN ANY TIME TRIALS WALKING LIKE YOU DO.”

I don’t want to be a whiner, but it really irritated and discouraged me when he said that.  A few days earlier, I confessed to Josh that I don’t expect to take home a gold medal during my race and he said sweetly, “But you’ve already won the Jennifer race.”  …Which is true.  I entered the race because I wanted a kick in the pants to motivate me to get in shape (which I have) and I wanted to add running to my exercise toolkit as a balance to cycling (which I have).

My goals for the race are threefold:

  1. Run at a pace that is sustainable but also challenges me;
  2. Don’t hurt myself;
  3. Have fun and enjoy the experience.

Honestly, I’m sick of having running be my primary exercise modality because it’s less enjoyable when I compare myself to other, more experienced runners, and also because even the greatest of my runs has paled in comparison to a fun bike ride.

On Sunday, Josh and I decided to do something that we used to do frequently, but haven’t done in almost a year… go on a mountain bike adventure.  Part of why we haven’t done this in so long is because he hurt his back badly last year while repairing our roof.  And while I continued to ride my bike around the local trails, I’m not comfortable heading out to the badlands of the Owyhees by myself, where one can become easily lost.

With Josh’s back healed and me abandoning my running exclusivity, we went to a place called Kane Springs in the Owyhees, which we’ve never been to before and it was SO MUCH FUN.  Even though I haven’t been riding hardly at all for MONTHS, my running has kept me in good shape for biking, which leads me to think that they are very complementary sports.  Even with a fierce headwind and loose trail conditions, I was able to power up all of the climbs.  I felt so strong and confident in what I was doing.

At times, the trail/road was VERY sandy.  It appeared that the area had experienced some flash flooding this spring (we’ve had lots of HUGE rain storms) that created big ruts and washed out zones, as well as very very sandy trails.  Pedaling one’s bicycle through sand can be challenging.  On flats or on climbs, one has to exert a tremendous amount of effort to not spin out and continue to propel oneself forward.  On descents, it’s literally a balancing act of allowing the bicycle to fishtail and wibble-wobble all over the place and just staying cool and relaxed within oneself in order to remain upright.

A few years ago, I had an epiphany about descending in the sand: even if you crash, it shouldn’t hurt that much because sand is soft.  It was like a revelation for me.  Sand is soft!

Of course, don’t be like me and impale your groin on your handlebar stem while you’re performing an accidental superman endo into the sand.  Sorry, but contrary to popular culture, males don’t have the monopoly on impact groinal injury.  Ouch.

I’ve done a wee bit of road cycling in the last several months but I honestly cannot remember the last time that I rode my mountain bike.  There was so much dust on the bike, I was ashamed!  Despite all of the time that had passed, I was able to hop back on and the skills returned (well, some of the skills).

The first bit of descent, I did feel a little uneasy.  I don’t have a photo, but the first descent was pretty sandy and rocky and sort of steep, so I had to search a little bit within myself to find the place where I had stashed my downhill mojo and confidence.  Once I found it, I had such a blast!

The roads were undulating / rolling hills, with hard climbs followed by awesome descents.  I never knew what would be around the next corner.

The views were spectacular and I had such a wonderful time.  It reminded me to keep my expectations under control and (wow, this sounds so cheesy!) to ensure that my motivations are true to who I want to be and how I want to live.  For me, I want to run as a complementary cross-training activity to cycling.  I want to run because some days it’s what I feel like doing.  I don’t want to run when my body hurts and I don’t want to feel badly when old guys tell me I won’t be winning any time trials.

Anyway, here’s that photo of Josh descending an extra steep part of the trail.  I rode down several sections that were sketchy and challenging for me, but I had no desire to descend this.  Maybe next time…

My race is in five days.  I hope that I have fun and don’t hurt myself.

 

 

Mar 292014
 

Happy Spring, everyone!  I know many of you are still in the depths of winter, but we’ve actually been having some lovely weather this month.  We had a couple of hard frosts, but most nights haven’t even gone below freezing, and our days are mostly warm and sunny!  Mostly… this past week has been cold and rainy.  Still, things are going well.

We’ve been doing some landscaping and structural work in the garden this month, feeling very motivated to beautify the space.  The front yard has been getting most of my attention these days. Last weekend, I splurged and bought a beautiful clematis to climb up the railing of the front porch.

Now that we have the egress window for the basement and the two front window wells all dug up and re-mulched, it’s time to make that space look nice.  We decided to install some low-water native plants around each of the front window wells: lavender, coreopsis, and blue flax.  There are already some peonies and spring bulbs coming up in that space, as well as a rose bush that will not be tamed.  (In the below photo, you can see my quilted curtain for the basement that I don’t think turned out very well).  Anyway, we bought very small plants because they are so much cheaper than the larger ones and are excited to watch them grow and fill in the space.

I was also a good neighbor and spruced up the space that we share with one of our neighbors by a sycamore tree that we share but that is on their yard (it’s a weird lot situation).  They had landscaped just their side of the tree but I thought it would look nicer if the landscaping on our side of the tree matched their side.  I even located a mulch that matched the mulch that they used, so I hope they are pleased.  I dunno, landscaping dynamics between neighbors can be weird.

In the backyard, our plum trees that we planted at the end of the season last year are starting to bloom and they are so pretty!  …Oh wait, what’s that in the background???

It’s our garden fence that Josh built to keep the chickens out of the veggie garden!  Isn’t it the most awesome garden fence ever!!!  He used some of our old windows along with some trellis material.  Our plan is to get some grapes to grow along the trellis portions.

Here’s the full view.  I think this fence really enhances the aesthetic appeal of the backyard.

One more view, because the fence is so wonderful!  It’s hard to see, but there is a gate with quick and easy access to the veggie garden.

Also, in the backyard… in my February update, I mentioned how Josh had moved one of our side fences up so that this space, which used to be part of the front yard (but which I sort of hated in the front yard because it was overly cumbersome to maintain) is now part of the backyard and I don’t have to feel my neighbors giving me the twitchy eye about this area.  Recently, Josh installed this walkway here (using pavers which were already on the property when we bought it (yay, free pavers!!!)) and located the strawberry tower at the end.  This tower is for my alpine strawberries and I think they will need the coolest and most shadiest area to succeed (what with them being ALPINE strawberries, and all).  I’ve been working on filling the tower with dirt but I still need to plant them.  By my estimates, I’ll be able to fit about 60 strawberry plants in my tower, and will have A LOT of leftover plants to give to friends and neighbors.

Here are my almost 200 strawberry seedlings that I started from seed in January.  They are red and yellow alpine berries.  Also, in that above pictured zone, we are going to make into a “Berryland”.  I’m going to try moving my raspberries, blueberries, and blackberry here, because I think it’s the best place in the yard for berries.

Anyway, I anticipate that I will begin harvesting peas soon!  I started some peas in containers last month and they’re starting to set blossoms.

I also have two full raised beds with peas (and the errant garlic that the squirrels moved for me) that are doing well.

We’ve been getting a lot of rain this spring and I’ve been using my mini hoop tunnels to protect my seedlings from the torrential downpours.  Under these two I have my onions and leeks in one, and the other houses kale and broccoli.  I have most all of my brassicas planted (except for a few wee ones that I started much later than the others) and they are all doing really well, despite our few hard freezes.

I have a lot of seedlings still going inside.  Here are some more leeks, onions, cabbages, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Soon, I will start my cucumbers, squashes, and melons.

I’m also growing from seed my annual and perennial flowers, most of which are both native AND attract beneficials.  One of my learnings last year was that I didn’t have nearly enough flowers (both for the aesthetic beauty as well as for encouraging pollinators and other beneficials).  I’ve taken a week off from work in May so that I can have lots of time to work on planting everything.  I’ve also told Josh that he will have to help me, because this is going to be a lot of work!

Finally, I’m late with my potatoes but I have managed to procure seed potatoes and am working on getting them sprouted.  We’ve been having a ridiculous amount of rain recently, so once the ground becomes less muddy, I’ll get them planted.  This year, I’ll be growing Red Pontiac (a RED potato), All Blue (a BLUE potato), and Austrian Crescent fingerling potatoes.  In addition, I seem to have quite a few volunteer potatoes growing up already from last year’s crop, apparently having failed to dig up all of my potatoes… so I’ll also hopefully be able to harvest German Butterballs (which were very yummy).

My animal friends are all doing well.  Kiko has been enjoying some fresh greens in the backyard lately.  She is such a good girl!… She follows me outside and then runs back inside when I call to her.

Anyway, those are the garden happs.  I’ve been working on lots of secret knitting designs, so don’t plan on seeing anything from me soon.  And my sewing has been nonexistent, which is sad.  So there’s not much fodder for yee olde blog right now.

Oh, my half marathon running race is coming up in three weeks!  Tomorrow, I’m planning (weather dependent) on running the full course, so perhaps I’ll tell you ALL ABOUT that.

Mar 102014
 

I miss my Craft Happenings posts.  Last year, I was doing them every week for a while, and that seemed to be too much because most of my projects continued from week to week.  This year, I had decided to just focus on finished projects, but it feels like there are projects that fall through the cracks, and other in-progress works that I want to capture.  I’m thinking about piloting a twice a month happs posting, with this as my first post in that pilot.  Please let me know what you think…

On the Needles

As usual, I have been knitting A LOT.  In addition to some secret stuff, I’ve been working on updating some older patterns.  Right now, I’m doing a rework of Tumbleweed, with an update on the sizing and I’m hoping to have this done by the end of the week.  Earlier this year, I updated Camas Lily and Oleander.  I’ve got some other older patterns that are in all kinds of formats and I’m hoping to give them a consistent layout and style.

Once Tumbleweed is finished, I’m struggling with the decision of what to work on next.  I have a mental queue consisting of one million ideas.

On the Sewing Table

My current sewing project is a spring trench coat using Vogue 8884 and some upholstery fabric from the bottom of my stash, and a blue polyester fabric as the lining (also from the stash).  I’ve been on a dedicated mission to whittle down my fabric stash this year and part of that is identifying fabrics that I haven’t had a clue what to do with, and matching them to a pattern.  I suppose this effort of making clothing from upholstery fabric is reminiscent of Maria making clothing out of curtains from The Sound of Music, but I honestly don’t know what else to do with this fabric.  I am also considering whether or not I should add an underlining to this coat, just to give it some added warmth.

On the Bookshelf

I’m about halfway through the book Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and I’m really enjoying it.  Since I discontinued my happs posts, I haven’t mentioned the books I’ve read, so I might do a quick book report of what I’ve read since I last updated on that, as I’ve read some good stuff!  In a tiny nutshell, Mistborn is a sci-fi/fantasy book centered around a dystopian world wherein a Lord Ruler held an uprising 1000 years ago and installed himself  as dictator, and now there is a group of rebels working to overthrow the empire.  I am finding it to be both interesting and exciting.  It is definitely an epic saga sort of tale, but doesn’t get too bogged down in extremely lengthy dialogue (like some of the sci-fi/fantasy books I’ve read recently) and has a good dose of exciting action and adventure.  There is also a strong female character who is portrayed as an extremely awesome and capable heroine (I assume that is her featured on the book cover image, and the Lord Ruler being thwarted by her awesome capability).

 

Here Kitty, Kitty!

Just like me, Kiko gained a bunch of weight this winter because she didn’t balance her love of eating with exercise.  I’ve been trying to put her on a diet, but it’s not been going well, in part because I don’t have much willpower against her cuteness when she wants more food…  This past week, I’ve been trying hard to be a stickler for meal times, rather than just munching all day, and we seem to be doing a little better.  You cannot tell this by the photo, but she has quite the low-hanging belly.

Here Chick, Chick!

Chickens are all well.  Penelope has started molting and she has a bunch of bald spots.  Since she is the smallest of the bunch, I’m relieved that she’s losing her feathers now that the weather is warming up, rather than during the depth of winter (when Florence was molting).  Florence and Josephine are back to laying regularly again, so we are getting 2-4 eggs every day (the two RIRs are missing a few days here and there).  Photo above shows the two RIRs, Penelope and Madeline, and one of the BRs, Florence, with Josephine in the nest box getting her egg laying on.  We have been getting a lot of rain lately and there are worms everywhere – so the chickens are having a blast.

Josh’s Home & Garden DIY Projects

Josh has continued to be a busy bee this winter and spring with his projects.  Right now, he is constructing a stylish garden fence using our old windows.  This is going to replace the temporary garden fence he installed last year using plastic poultry fencing, and we’re hoping it will greatly augment the aesthetic appeal of the backyard (both by hiding our neighbors’ unsightly fences, as well as being itself very stylish).  The fence is going to have sort of a tiered cascade of our old windows, and either horizontal wood slats or trellis material.  We’re ultimately hoping to plant some grape vines that will grow up this fence.

Half-Marathon Training

After the ordeal of trying to run 10 miles at a hard pace this weekend, I’ve developed a weekly training strategy for the next couple weeks.

  • One Long Run (10+ miles) at a Slow Pace (13 min miles)
  • Two Medium Runs (6ish miles) at Average Pace (11 min miles)
  • Two Short Power Runs (3ish miles) at a Fast Pace (9 min miles)
  • Two Recovery Days focusing on strength training (core, legs, arms) and yoga

In a few weeks, I’m hoping to be able to shift my pace, so that a slow pace will be 12 min miles, medium pace 10 min. miles, and fast pace 8 min. miles.  All of my running is over hills these days, no flats.  I am also practicing my downhill running form, having done some research about what that is supposed to be – - since I started improving my downhill running form, I’m able to run downhill faster and with less knee and ankle discomfort.

My hydration system is working out really well.  I don’t bring water with me if I do a short run (30 minutes) but anything longer than that I prefer to have water with electrolytes along for the run.  I also bought a new pair of sneakers, since my old ones were about 6 years old and didn’t have much cush.  My new sneaks are Hoka Kailua Trail runners and they have so much cush and shock absorption.  I spent almost an hour trying on running shoes and just couldn’t get over how comfortable these are (but I was a little hesitant about them because I felt the extra large sole looked silly).  The day that I bought them, I went and did a hard 10 mile run and felt more comfortable with the run than I’ve ever felt.  The success of that run convinced me that I made a good sneaker purchase.

In the Garden

Spring has sprung.  November and December were dry and cold, February and March have been wet and warm.  Here is a roundup of perennials that I installed last year… some have made it, others are dead-dead.

My Celeste Fig tree is doing well, with a few figs!  This variety is hardy down to 10F, but our winters can get much colder than that so I’m going to keep this tree in a container and bring it inside for the winter.  I brought it up from the basement a few weeks ago and it’s been thriving in our early spring outdoor weather.

Ozark Beauty strawberries are doing very well.  I have two well established plants from last year, and the new ones that I planted last month are showing a lot of new growth.

Rhubarb is coming up!  The one in the foreground I planted last year, so I should be able to harvest a few stalks this year (it is advised to not harvest rhubarb the first year).  The two other crowns I planted a few weeks ago and are growing really well.

This is a Hollywood plum tree with lots of growth buds.

And the Satsuma plum tree.  We planted both of these trees in the fall and I am delighted that they made it through our particularly freezing winter.

I didn’t plant this, but I vigorously pruned it last year.  The Lilac bush is really coming alive.  It didn’t bloom last year, I suspect because it was very overgrown AND because of a late hard frost and an early heat wave that killed blossoms everywhere.

I planted two dwarf Gala apple trees (that I got for $10 on clearance) and they both are showing signs of emerging leaves.  I’m impressed these trees have made it, since I planted them late and they had to survive the sudden heat wave in June.

Impossible to see, but the Currant bush has lots of growth buds.  I am so impressed with this Currant bush.  I just sort of threw it in the ground and it thrived all last year without any issues.  It’s also a very pretty bush.

Sadly, only one of three blueberry bushes seems to still be alive.  I’ve been worried that two have been dead for a while, and have read that blueberry bushes are pretty temperamental.  My hypothesis is that I accidentally poisoned them by lowering the pH of the soil too much too quickly.  If this survives, it will need a pollinator to produce a decent number of berries, but I’m not sure if I should just give up on trying to grow blueberries.

For my seedlings that are getting on in size, I set up a shelving unit on our front porch so that they can all soak up some natural sunlight and acclimate to the outdoors.  Pictured on the bottom are my smaller brassicas (I have larger ones planted already), three big trays of strawberries, lots of onions and leeks, as well as tubs of perennial flowers.  Inside, I’ve got tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers under grow lights.

Anyway, this is what has been happening here lately.

 

Mar 092014
 

“It never gets easier, you just go faster.” Greg LeMond.

Way back in December, I wrote about how I had begun running and was sort of hoping to train for a particular half marathon that is dubbed “the toughest race in the Northwest.”  Well, I have continued to run, have gotten much faster than I was back then, and have successfully registered for that half marathon, which is a little over a month away.

As I’ve been upping my miles and building my capacity for running longer distances, I’ve been reminded of Greg LeMond’s words… it really doesn’t get easier, but I am pushing myself and running faster and faster.  I did a 10 mile run yesterday and for 8 of those miles I pushed my pace much harder than I had before.  The last 2 miles were pretty awful and I had to walk for most of them. As a result, my overall pace wasn’t much different, but in looking at the splits for each mile, I can see that I really did run faster than usual.  Also, I passed a cyclist on the climb, and even though it was obviously a not very in shape cyclist, I still felt excited to leave him in my dust.

The race I’ve signed up for is the annual Race to Robie Creek, a half-marathon up and over dirt roads, ascending 2,072 feet and descending 1,692 feet, and I’m feeling very excited about this challenge.

One of my epiphanies about running has been the reversal of my long-held assumption that running is harder on the body than cycling. True, running is very impactful on joints and tendons, but cycling can also be hard on the body (on the sit area from sitting on the saddle, on the lower back for bending over to grasp the handlebars, on the neck and shoulders if you hunch them, and on the hands if you ride over rugged terrain).  …I think it’s safe to say that hard exercise is hard on the body, but is also very beneficial.

Speaking of benefits, sometimes when my running feels particularly hard, I find that it is helpful to mentally review the benefits that I have noted my running has given me:

  1. It makes me feel strong.
  2. The feeling of strength makes me feel more confident.
  3. Feeling strong and confident reduces the number of self-loathing moments I have because of self-esteem and body concept issues.
  4. Despite eating a tremendous amount of food at all times, I’ve already lost the pudge around my mid-section that I acquired this winter.
  5. I sleep better.
  6. My mood is better regulated.
  7. I feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
  8. It makes me feel okay that most of my hobbies (knitting and sewing) are sedentary.

What is more, running outside is actually FUN and ENJOYABLE if you have the right attitude.  I love getting fresh air, listening to my musical tunes, and observing the scenery.  I also enjoy the camaraderie of passing by other runners and outdoor recreators – - most everyone tends to smile, wave, and/or wish each other well in their recreation.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to fair in the race.  So far, my 10 mile runs have only ascended a little more than 1,000 feet… I still need to be able to ascend another 1,000 feet and 3 more miles.  I know that I could do that, but one of my goals is to not hurt myself, so I want to train and race smart.  In that vein, one of my biggest challenges on race day will be pacing myself – - I tend to get really competitive in races (which is, of course, the point) but I’m concerned that my novice level of running might compel me to start the race much harder than I will be able to sustain.  So I’ll have to be okay with allowing all of the multitudes of faster runners to pass me as I continue at a pace that is sustainable for me.  Also, I’m worried that the heat will be a problem for me, which is another reason why pacing myself will be very important.

Tell me, wise Readers, do you have any tips or suggestions for my training or race strategies?  Do you have anything that motivates you to exercise when it feels really difficult?

 

Mar 052014
 

I’ve always understood that, in order for my crafting to be successful (and for me to actually finish projects), the process needs to be enjoyable and satisfying.  This is not to say that every single moment of the process needs to be filled with delight and joy, but that most of the moments need to be so.  This project is a good reminder of that.  For the entire month of February, I was working on a sewing project (for my quilt curtains) that I did not enjoy at all – - actually, I worked on the project hardly at all because I did not have a desire to spend time with it, but the project remained in progress for the whole month.  Over the weekend, I forced myself to finish that project, and I hated every moment of its finishing, but my motivation was to begin work on a project that I was certain would be enjoyable and satisfying to work on.

I began work on this dress Sunday evening, cutting out all of the pieces.  I took Monday off from work and spent the day sewing, mostly filled with joy, and finished this project less than 24 hours after I started it.

This is Simplicity 1882, which I’ve made before.  I am so delighted with how well it turned out.  As a recap, I used the smallest bust cup size with the “curvy” skirt pieces, it fits perfectly

This project was a 100% stash busting project!  The main fabric is an Amy Butler cotton print, the yellow is some linen, and the lining fabric is a generic poly lining (for the skirt – - not shown), and they have all been in my stash for years.  I’m participating in a stashbusting sewalong, and I’m finding it motivating to get my stash down to reasonable quantities.

This dress has some really nice pockets.  On the last version, I added the pocket flaps (and love them) but when I was working on this version, I forgot that the pattern instructions for the pocket flaps don’t make any sense to me and I became so frustrated trying to install them that I threw the flaps away in frustration (this was the moment while making this dress that I was not filled with joy).  Considering that I made the other version of this dress in January, one might think that I would have remembered this frustrating pocket flap business, but no, my memory is apparently very short.

Except for that pocket flap business, this dress came together so easily.  I’m thinking that I should write down some sort of sewing mantra about only working on projects that I enjoy the making of, because otherwise they will sit on my sewing table, in progress, until I force myself, literally kicking and screaming, to finish them.  Incidentally, I will not be blogging about my stupid quilted curtains because, even though they “technically” turned out okay, I really just hate them because they remind me of frustrating times.  In fact, I want to throw them away and just buy curtains from the store… they have such bad memories for me.

What about you, Readers… are you able to motivate yourselves to finish a project even if you dislike working on it?  Do you have any crafting mantras or ways to stay motivated to work on projects that are not fun?

Feb 242014
 

This has been a busy month!  While I still have a knitting and sewing project to show you, I didn’t accomplish my goal of two sewing projects this month.  If I can ever trouble myself to finish up the last bit of my current project, my plan for the next sewing project is for a spring trench coat, which I am excited about.  I’ve been thinking about resurrecting my weekly craft posts, just to give me an outlet for writing about things I’m excited about making, even if I don’t actually make them.  :)

Anyway, February has seen an inordinate amount of yard and garden work at the ol’ Joshifer homestead.  Not only did we install an egress window, but this weekend Josh was able to polish it off with the final soil grading, landscape fabric, and wood mulch, in preparation for planting some native plants in a few weeks.  We’re still trying to decide if the red wood mulch is too red (or if we should have gone with brown) but I think we should wait until we’ve planted things before making the final assessment.  We also need to find some stylish solar lights, because Josh is worried about someone falling into the hole at night.

Before this project, this area was sort of a flower bed with an overgrown wild rose bush (which I had spent 18 months trying to tame) and large lava rocks as the border to the grass.  While I enjoy yard and garden work, I am definitely of the inclination to make this work easier rather than more cumbersome and arduous.  And those rocks as a border made mowing the grass very cumbersome and irritating – - either I’d have to move the ginormous lava rocks to mow the grass at the border (which invariably involved me cursing loudly in frustration) or just not mow the grass there (which didn’t look very good, even by my casual lawncare standards).  So with the finishing steps of this project, I am DELIGHTED that Josh implemented an easy way for me to mow the grass around the flower bed!  Also, quite honestly, I think flower beds with a neat and clean border with the grass look so much better than some amateur placement of rocks.

Geez, it sure is funny how opinionated a person can be about unimportant things like borders to flower beds!

Anyway, the next step in our “plan” for landscaping along the front yard is to drastically reduce the amount of lawn we have in favor of low water native plant beds, both to be environmentally friendly AND to make it easier to keep things looking nicer.  Tending to the huge swath of lawn, I have found to be not my most favorite garden chore, nor do I find the huge swath of lawn to be particularly captivating to the visual and olfactory senses.

This is the flower bed on the other side of the house, with the old mulch pulled up, revealing lots of spring bulbs popping up as well as the two unruly rose bushes.

One piece of this puzzle has been to move the fence on the west side, dividing our back and front yards, up by about 20 feet.  What used to be an extensive front side yard was a beast for me to try and take care of – - it was so out of the way that it was very neglected (hard to  drag the hose around the house to water and was very overgrown with weeds).  I decided that I’d rather have that area be part of our more unsightly back yard, where I can grow edibles and give access to the chickens, rather than the front yard (which we are hoping to keep nicely presentable).  Last weekend, Josh was able to move the whole fence and regrade the soil.  I am working on getting this area weeded and the chickens are having a blast exploring this new area.  Our neighbor recommended making this area a big raspberry growing zone, which sounds splendid.

From the flower beds in the front yard, we’ve pulled up all of the old mulch and I’m planning on using that to create walkways in my garden area.

Josh has been such a busy bee!  This is the strawberry tower that he built me.  In my January Garden Journal, I wrote ALL about how I was growing about 200 wild alpine strawberry seedlings.  The seedlings are doing very well and are looking forward to being transplanted to their new home in a few months.  My plan is to plant this tower with as many seedlings as can be comfortably planted, and donate the remaining seedlings to friends and neighbors.

In addition to my 200 wild alpine strawberries, I have a bed for Ozark Beauty strawberries.  This is my bed from last year (I planted two plants last year) that I spruced up this weekend.  I pruned off some of the older leaves from the existing plants and situated the new runners where I wanted them.  I also expanded the bed to fit 10 more bareroot plants (which I got planted) and reinvigorated my netting around the bed – which uses chicken fencing and bird netting to keep out squirrels.  And added a layer of fresh straw for mulch.  There are a couple of bunching onions growing with the strawberries.  And the bed above the strawberry bed, bordered by the concrete blocks, is my rhubarb bed.  Last year, I planted two bareroot rhubarb crowns and only one of them made it through the year, so I added two more crowns this weekend.  While I was digging around, I saw that the rhubarb that is already established is about ready to send up its first stem of the year!

This weekend, I also finished my cucumber trellises, which I’ve designed to hopefully provide protection from the chickens for my plants.  (We’ll see how well this works).  The backyard is basically going to become a farm this year and I’m hoping to be able to grow a good portion of our food, so I’m trying to develop some growing structures to be able to bring some of the edibles into the chicken area.  As you can see, I’ve painted the trellises to match the purple trim on the chicken coop.

I started several varieties of dwarf peas in containers at the beginning of this month and have sown a ginormous bed of peas.  I had a few packets of peas leftover from last year, and their germination has been slow, but my fresher peas are germinating quicklier.

I also planted some of my cold hardy brassicas this weekend.  This is kale and broccoli, among some kale and onions that I planted last fall.

Miraculously, several kale plants successfully overwintered, despite the deep freeze.  This is Red Russian kale, which I believe is grown successfully in Siberia.  Obviously, it went dormant over the winter, but it has recently come alive and is sending out new growth.

I have a big bed of beets, which I may have started a bit too early.  As they say, only time will tell…  So far, my beets are doing well.

This weekend, I finally got my asparagus bed prepared and planted with 24 bareroot Jersey Knight crowns.  Preparing the bed for asparagus is a big project and I felt so satisfied with getting it done.  Unfortunately, right before their bedtime, the chickens managed to squeeze their way into the garden area and, within five minutes, and uprooted every single asparagus crown!  So now, I need to go and do this all again.  Gah, chickens!

Anyway, I had debated with myself all winter about whether to grow the fancy heirloom Mary Washington variety of asparagus, or the Jersey Knight hybrid.  I finally decided to go with the latter because it is more productive and less finicky (supposedly).  I hope I made a good choice!

I planted my three Brussels Sprouts.  B. Sprouts are heavy feeders so I planted them next to the compost pile, in the hopes that the soil there is nutrient dense.

In other news, the chickens celebrated their first birthday this month.  I remember thinking it was a really big deal for me to get chickens, and now they are just a normal part of my daily life.

Here is Madeline enjoying some water in the sunshine.

And here is Bully Queen Josephine, who is clearly needing to get into someone’s business.  I got really mad at her this weekend because she was being overly aggressive with Florence.  If she had kept it up much longer, I would have made her into some chicken noodle soup!

And this is Florence!  Despite being virtually the same age as the others, she didn’t start laying eggs until two months later and then stopped laying last year around September (I suspect after the stress of being attacked by a dog, after she flew into the neighbor’s yard), and went through two molts this winter.  She’s a very high anxiety chicken who prefers to sleep with her head tucked under the breast of another chicken.

She just recently started laying eggs again and I am super happy that she’s made it through her various discomforts no worse for wear.

Here is Florence in the coop, trying to find a spot to lay her egg.  I recently did some redecorating, adding a nice paisley shower curtain for added privacy to the next boxes.  I also refreshed the sand on the poop board under the roost (top right corner of the photo) and everything is much fresher in here.  Once it warms up some more, I’m going to do a deep clean of the whole shed and coop.

And here’s Florence from the other angle, approaching the nest boxes.

Even though they lay eggs every day, they always act like it’s this super big deal, honking and cackling loudly so that everyone knows they’re going to lay an egg.  And afterwards, they announce their successful egg laying so loudly that the entire neighborhood can hear.  We have quite a few neighbors with chickens, and the mornings are always resounding with hens calling out to the world.

Approaching the nest boxes stealthily, Florence peers into a box…

Oh no!  Penelope is in the exact box that Florence was eyeing!  Even though Jennifer has provided them with four nest boxes, they always want to use the box that someone else is using.

hmmm… maybe this other nest box will do.  Florence spends a good amount of time making sure that this box is good enough for her purposes.

Success!

Looking down memory lane, here is a photo of the four pretty ladies when they were two weeks old.  So cute!

Sigh… They grew up so fast!  Here they are a month later.

Wow, that was a long post!  Maybe I should have divided this up into seventeen posts.

Anyway, catch you later!

 

Feb 152014
 

Things have been very busy and I am behind on blogging about projects.  Josh finished our egress window about a week ago and I’ve struggled to get my blog on.  I was actually hoping for Josh to write this blog, but he’s moved onto thinking about other projects (pergolas, patios… and leaks in our roof).

Josh made our egress window well out of 6×6 pressure treated lumber with a terraced edge.  He did a whole fancy drainage thing along the bottom and sides.  As you can see, he did a really nice job.  All of the edges match up perfectly, every surface is absolutely level.  The inspector and planning & zoning person were incredibly complimentary of his plans and work on this project.

After spending several weeks (maybe almost a month) fine-tuning his plan for this project, as well as gathering the materials, and getting the final approval from planning and zoning, Josh was ready to break ground on Saturday January 26th.

Actually, he had to work that day, so I broke ground.  But we spent all day Sunday together, shoveling and hauling dirt.  Considering that it was in the middle of winter and temperatures were rarely above freezing, we were initially concerned that the ground would be completely frozen.  Fortunately, once we got past the initial few inches of frozen ground, everything was nicely thawed. That, however, doesn’t mean that this work was easy.

Here is a view of our driveway during the project.  A big mound of dirt, a big pile of gravel, and the lumber.  Last year, there was a guy down the street who was doing an egress window, and he seemed to take 8 months to complete it, and had similar piles of material in his yard and driveway for almost a year, and we were highly motivated to not be like that guy and actually get this project done within a reasonable amount of time.

One nice side-benefit to this project is that we have SO MUCH extra dirt that we’re planning on making several nice raised beds.

Also, cost-wise, this project really did not break the bank.  Obviously, it wasn’t free, but we saved SOMUCH money by doing it ourselves.  And even the cost of the materials wasn’t bad.  That big pile of gravel, for example, cost $20 because Josh went directly to the source rather than buying it in bags from some place like Home Depot.

Once we dug deep enough, Josh was able to remove the old concrete window well.  His initial blows with the sledgehammer were somewhat gentle – which was fortuitous because the window well was actually attached to the foundation of the house with several pieces of rebar.  He was able to use his reciprocating saw to saw off the rebar without damaging the foundation.

Digging some more.  By the time we got several feet down, the dirt was pretty compacted and heavily mixed with large river rock.  Multiple neighbors suggested to us that it would be nearly impossible to dig out this well with just our own human strength because of the compacted soil and river rock, and highly recommended that we rent a back hoe for this job.  Using a variety of shovels and pick axes, Josh was able to develop a system that allowed him to very effectively remove the dirt by himself.

By Tuesday the 28th, we were ready for the concrete cutter.  I didn’t realize this, but concrete cutting involves spraying a lot of water everywhere.  Despite needing to give the house a bath afterwards, the cut was well done.

Josh then set about building the frame for the window.  He bought some kind of special “hammer drill” that allows for drilling into concrete.  Ah, he loves his tools!

And then here we have the window installed.

And then he set about doing his drainage stuff and building the window well.  It was getting dark at about 6pm, but he would often work on the project until about 9pm, using a headlamp.  Part of the challenge with this project was that he, like most of us, works during the day, so trying to get this project done and also having to work at his job during the daylight hours meant that he had to work in the dark a lot.  All of my nighttime photos are pretty blurry, so I won’t disorient you by posting them.

And then, about a week after we first broke ground, THIS!

Here is a view from the inside.  Our basement isn’t really finished with normal walls (perhaps a project for another year), just plaster over concrete, but this window makes it so much nicer down there.

Another view from inside, with the window open.

We’ve been getting a TON of rain and snow since finishing this project, so the surrounding ground is a big mud pit, but we’re very excited to plant some nice perennials around the window well.  I’m thinking that several lavender plants would look really nice with our house, interspersed with some native wildflowers.

Anyway, that’s that project.  I’ve got some knitting and sewing to show you, the chickies are celebrating their first birthday this week, my veggie seedlings are threatening to take over the house, and our roof is leaking, so we have a lot going on.

Feb 022014
 

A new year, a new garden!  Even though it is still winter, I’ve been having a lot of fun in January playing around in the dirt and tending to my veggies.  November and December were sad months for me, having no garden to keep.  I did spend much of my waking hours drooling over seed catalogs and imagining the wonderous possibilities of my 2014 garden.  And now I can begin that process!

I had a few seed packets left over from last year, but I put in a substantial order with several seed companies before the holidays and was pleased to find my packages waiting for me upon my return from Florida at the beginning of January.  I spent a lovely Saturday organizing all of my seed packets, using plastic growing pots to organize the specific crops, and then dividing them up into my cold weather crops and warm weather crops.  The box to the left has cold weather crops (beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc., etc.) and to the right are the warm weather crops (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc., etc.).  As you can see, I have a fairly extensive seed collection!  I’m very excited to try many new varieties this year.

I started my first batch of seeds the first week of January, and have been sowing more continuously.  Here are my cruciferous veggies.  It might seem like a lot, but I absolutely LOVE cruciferous veggies! Cabbage and broccoli, in particular, I cannot get enough of.  Most plants are thriving, but there are a few varieties that are not doing well and I’m going to try resowing or sowing a different varietal.

Broccoli – 11 plants total

  • De Cicco (4 plants – all thriving)
  • Waltham (1 plant – not doing particularly well) – I grew this last year with mediocre success
  • Romanesco (2 plants – 1 thriving, 1 not thriving)
  • Calabrese (4 plants – all thriving)
Brussels Sprouts – 3 plants total  (last year, my brussels sprouts experiment was unsuccessful, so I’m not going to devote much effort or space to this crop,but I do want to try growing them again, as I love eating them)
  • Jade Cross (2 plants – thriving)
  • Fallstaff (1 plant – thriving)
Cauliflower – 5 plants total
  • Amazing (1 plant – thriving)
  • Early Snowball (4 plants – thriving)
Cabbage – 15 plants total
  • Early Jersey Wakefield (7 plants – all thriving) – I grew this variety last year with great success
  • Primero (4 plants – not doing well)
  • Premium Late Flat Dutch (4 plants – not doing well, poor germination)
  • (Note, I’m just bought seeds for Copenhagen Market and a Red Cabbage to make up for the poor performers here)
Kohlrabi – 4 plants total
  • Early Purple Vienna (4 plants – all thriving)
Kale – 3 plants total

I bought two packets of wild Alpine strawberries (Red Wonder and Yellow Wonder) and started them around Jan. 6th.  Supposedly, they can take almost 20 days to germinate, but mine germinated within a week and the plants are doing very well.  Growing strawberries from seed is a slow process and I likely won’t have any berries from these plants this year.

Last year, I bought two mature plants for Ozark Beauty strawberries and had quite a few berries that were absolutely delicious.  My plan for this year is to make a good size strawberry bed and plant a lot more Ozark Beauty plants.  And I mean A LOT more.  The strawberries from my garden were so much better than anything I’ve ever bought from a store.

From the 2014 Baker Creek Seed Catalog:

Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry: This cream-fruited variety is a favorite of many in Europe. The small fruit are very tasty and unique looking. Many prefer the taste of this yellow-fruited type to the more common red strawberry. These are served in only the finest restaurants and are very easy to grow from seed.

Beets! I’m going to try many varieties this year.  I started sowing flats of beet seeds at the beginning of January, aiming for  9 plants per variety, sowing one variety each week.

  • Chioggia
  • Crosby Egyptian
  • Cylindra
  • Detroit Red
  • Detroit White
  • Early Wonder
  • Golden
  • Paonazza
  • Red Ace
  • Red Cloud
  • Ruby Queen
From the 2014 Baker Creek Seed Catalog:
Chioggia: A pre-1840 Italian heirloom beet, this variety arrived in the USA prior to1865. They have light red skin and beautiful rings inside, like red and white candy stripes. Their flesh is very tender, mild, and sweet. Named after a fishing town in Italy.

And just like beets, I’m sowing a flat of onions and/or leeks once a week.  I read somewhere that if you want to grow a year’s supply of onions, you need to grow 60-80 onions per person.

Onions

  • Ailsa Craig - I grew this last year with great success
  • Red of Florence
  • Stuttergarter
  • Violet de Galmi
Leeks
  • Lancelot
  • Prizetaker
  • Tadorna
From the 2014 Baker Creek Seed Catalog:

Violet de Galmi:  The Galmi onion comes from the village of Galmi, a small community in the Ader Valley of Southwest Niger. It is here where this flavorful onion was developed and is believed to have been grown for over 100 years, selected and passed down. It is now a popular onion in several other African countries, as well.  Flat, thick bulbs are of good quality and are a beautiful pinkish-purple color; it also keeps well, making it a perfect choice as a short day onion.

I have a modest grow light operation in the basement.  Most of the lights are just standard full spectrum bulbs, but in the middle, I have a fancy 4-Tube T5 system that works really well.  I would love to get one or two more, but they are fairly expensive.

On sunny days, I bring my seedlings upstairs and place them in front of our huge south-facing window.  The below photo was taken several weeks ago, when everything was much younger and smaller.  I’m using the coffee stir sticks as plant labels.

In other news, Josh and I have been hard at work with some construction projects.

I’ve been building these cucumber trellises, which I’m hoping will serve the dual purpose of protecting the plants from the chickens (by growing the cucumbers on the inside of the trellises).  As evidenced below, I’m not particularly skilled with a drill, but I think they’re going to work out really well.  Trellises at the nurseries are so expensive so I decided to try making my own.  Each trellis is costing me about $5.00 in materials, which is a lot cheaper than anything available for purchase.

Our other HUGE project has been working on an egress window for the basement.  I’ll tell you more about it when it’s finished (hopefully soon!) but we’ve been making great progress.  Last Saturday, we broke ground and dug out the ginormous hole in just a few days.  Then the concrete cutter came on Tuesday and cut out a big hole in the foundation.  Then Josh has spent a few days building the window frame, installing the window, and doing all of the finishing work on the inside.  Next, he is going to build the window well with 6×6 pressure treated wood into a terraced well, backfill with dirt, and ensure good drainage with gravel.  It’s been hard work, but I think we’re saving about $2,500.00 by doing it ourselves.  One neat side benefit to this project is that we’re going to have SO MUCH extra dirt and river rock and we’re planning on making a bunch of nice raised flower beds.

And here’s a sneak peak at my current sewing project.  I’m sewing some quilt-like curtains for the egress window using my stash of cotton fabrics.  Since I am not allowing myself to buy anymore fabric for a while, it’s possible that my curtains won’t be very well color-cordinated.  :)

Finally, the chickens are all doing well.  The two Rhode Island Reds have been laying eggs everyday, even when the sun doesn’t shine for weeks on end, and even when it’s miserably cold.  By contrast, the Barred Rocks aren’t laying hardly at all.  But that’s okay – - they’re still very amusing!

Anyway, that’s my garden update for January – catch you later!