Take a Walk Through My Garden

Take an early morning walk through my garden with me. I often take photos then because the light is so lovely. Here are some of my favorites from last week. After my walk, I am ready to sit at my desk and write.

Take a walk through your yard, no matter the size, or down the street of your neighborhood and look closely. There is beauty to be found.

 

 

Equifax Data Breach Time Sink

I’m watching the news on TV while I eat my breakfast. There’s a piece about what you should do to find out if you might be compromised by this data breach. Go to Equifax.com and check, the anchor tells me. Then you really should freeze your credit on Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

I was convinced…and the travail began. First it wasn’t so easy to find out where on the Equifax website to check to see if your security has been compromised. Mine wasn’t; my husbands was. We talked and decided to freeze security on all three sites. That’s six freezes since I have to do one for me and one for my husband at three different sites. My husband has hearing problems and that meant I needed to do all six.

I started with Experian. I called the number provide which led me to an automated system. After putting in all my husband’s information (this took probably 8 minutes) I got a message that it couldn’t be done and I’d have to mail in the information. Of course I couldn’t write it all down fast enough. Then I tried to enter my information on Experian. Same final words – you don’t qualify. Send us the info. I went to the Experian website thinking that would be faster. It wasn’t and I ended up with the same instructions – mail us the information. Certified mail preferred.

On TransUnion I would have to open an account to be able to freeze security checks. I didn’t want to sign on for 19.95 a month to be able to freeze security checks so I bailed.

After spending a couple of frustrating hours on websites, it boiled down to I’d have to send in information, preferably by certified mail. Since almost half the population of the United States has been affected by this data breach, I can’t even imagine the amount of mail that would entail. That’s if people didn’t just get frustrated and forget it.

Oh, and Equifax executives knew about this in July and then sold their Equifax stock. Can you say “insider trading.” How much you want to bet they get no fines, no jail time. They should be subject to the same treatment as Martha Stewart.

That’s my rant for the day. I’d really planned to spend the morning working on my manuscript. I need to sit cross-legged on my meditation cushion.

Fall Has Arrived

The new furnace has a thermostat that shows the outside temperature. 59 the other morning – that required a sweater. I love fall weather. Crisp mornings and evenings and mid 70’s during the day. Flowers are still blooming including one confused azalea. The flowers are beautiful so I’m going to pin down some low branches to make new plants. I think this plant came from my mother’s azalea garden and I have no idea what the name is. The only one I remember is Martha Hitchcock which has a very similar flower but in shades of purple.

Seeds for fall crops are going in a couple of the raised beds. On Saturday my husband helped me take the tomatoes down in my Community Garden bed and cut them up for the compost bin. Then we added some amendments (LeafGro) and dug the bed. I’ll seed it today. Two kinds of kale, some radishes, turnips and a couple of rows of leftover seeds just to see if they germinate.

My parsnip seeds never germinated. They came from Johnny’s Seeds and that was surprising and disappointing. I paid extra for pelleted seeds as parsnip seed is tiny. But not one parsnip seed germinated when I planted mid-summer. I think I’ll plant a row now  and see if I have better luck. You can do fall parsnips for spring harvests but I might be a bit late.

I had the last “student” at my leaf casting station.

Those concrete leaves will go to yoga class this morning to be delivered. Most of the sand I used for forms has been scattered around. It will eventually help my clay soil. The  I’ve been wanting to do some hypertufa planters and at Lowe’s yesterday found smaller bags of perlite and sphagnum moss so I think I will have to do that before it really gets cold. Then that flat door I’ve been using as a work station can go back into the garage as a colder weather project table.

My first book is at the proofreaders. The second in the series is on the dining room table. I have another plot thread I want to add, and then it will go to the proofer. I am quite impressed so far with her work. She’s asking all the right questions and is only occasionally confounded by some patois slang I use in dialogue.

When work on the second book is completed I will go back to working on book 3. I need to get up and move after working on the books and sitting for hours. These outside projects give me that opportunity. I supposed I could pull out furniture and clean behind, but being outside is always the option I’d rather choose.

 

 

Writing Between Leaf Castings and Fig Condiments

It’s raining this morning. This rain doesn’t have anything to do with Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. I’ve been watching the coverage and can’t imagine what all those people are going to do after the rain stops and the clean-up begins. It’s going to take years. Honestly, I don’t know how the whole Houston area could have been evacuated. Where would everyone have gone? And, not everyone has the resources to be able to leave. 

I had a leaf casting workshop scheduled, but that’s not going to happen. Actually it got cancelled yesterday afternoon when the “student” texted me from Lowe’s to say they were all out of the QuickCrete patcher with vinyl which is what we’ve been using. Maybe we bought out their supply. 

My yoga buddy, Gail, and I made the one shown below. It is the largest one we’ve made so far. It took two buckets of QuickCrete – 40 pounds and was 40″ long. We had to get more sand for the form to put the leaf on. I now have about 150 lbs of sand on the table.

The photo below gives a better idea of the size. It’s in the trunk of my Honda Accord. I delivered it to Gail at our morning yoga class. And had two more people beg to have a class.

The top edge of this one isn’t perfect, but I remind myself that leaves aren’t always either. Gail’s leaf is a third bigger than the one I made for Laura for Christmas last year.

Figs

Another yoga buddy, Hanna, has a surfeit of figs this year and gave me a bag that weighed over 5 pounds. I made some fantastic fig chutney and then a double batch of fig jam. I think we have enough jam to see us through the winter. Here’s the link for the recipe that I pulled off the internet. It’s delicious. Fig Chutney.

Of course, Hanna got a pint jar of Fig Chutney.

I put the chutney and jam through a 10 minute hot water canning bath before storing. I made half pints of the jam for gifts.

During all of this our 10 year old French door refrigerator died. Higgins and Spencer, our local furniture and appliance store, quickly brought us a loaner late on a Saturday afternoon and put it in the garage. We transfered food and didn’t lose anything. Apparently 10 years is the expected life of big appliances these days. The replacement has been ordered but it may be another week. I didn’t want ice and water in the door. We had that in the old one and we never used it. And I wanted white which must not be a popular color. Old fart statement: I expect major appliances to last at least 25 years!

I’m hoping the dishwasher, stove and washer and dryer, which were all bought at the same time ten years ago, don’t decide to die for awhile.

Stepping down into the garage to the fridge is a pain, but I remind myself that in earlier times I could have been walking through the rain to the spring house.

Writing Update

The first book in the Caribbean series is off to the proof reader. I am now looking at the second book. I think because of a plot twist that’s crucial in the third book (not yet completed) that I need to add some fore shadowing to the second book. Republishing gives one a chance to fix some things.

Today I am having a phone consultation about the republishing process with Ally Machate. I know Ally from the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. She’s been one of our speakers many times. I’m hoping this will help me be clearer about the order of the steps to be taken.

So the writing continues every day with breaks from my desk for leaf castings and fig condiments.

 

 

 

 

 

My Writing Moves Forward as Our Country Moves Backward

Life moves forward, and then I watch the news and am—for a few minutes—paralyzed with grief.

I have never written anything political on this blog, but another blogger whom I read reminded me that hate is not political. I am beyond dismayed that our president is supporting hate and violence and that our political leaders are putting self before country by not calling him to account.

_________________________________

Today I am biting the bullet and sending off the contract for the first book in my Caribbean novel series to be proof read. I’ve made some very minor changes, but needed to spend the money to make sure nothing is misspelled and all the puntuation in correct before I send it off to CreateSpace. Proof reading costs more than it did ten years ago. I had to wrap my brain around spending the money on a book that had already been proofed and published (ten years ago), but my wise husband said it’s still the proof reader’s time that’s at issue. He is right.  So the contract goes in today’s mail.

Next I have to take a look at the second book in the series (also previously published) and keep moving forward on finishing the third book. Sending the contract to the proof reader means I am really doing this—getting the books republished with my name instead of a pen name.

Another decision is about the covers. I had planned to have new covers done, but other print books are out there with the old cover and they will never go away on Amazon. I don’t want potential readers to be confused. Lots to consider in this process, but I am moving forward.

And in between there are tomatoes to be made into sauce. We’ve had alot of rain and cooler temps so the tomatoes are not ripening as quickly, and they are just not as plentiful this year. That’s okay. I have sauce from last year on the shelf. I am cutting them up and putting them in bags in the freezer for making sauce on a day in the fall when the canning kettle won’t steam up my kitchen.

A couple of leaf casting appointments are still outstanding. My goal is that in two weeks I will be able to get the casting work station out of my driveway.

So my life moves forward, and then I watch the news and am—for a few minutes—paralyzed with grief.

 

 

Hummingbirds and Elephant Ears

Early this summer I bought two hummingbird feeders. I mixed up the sugar water, filled the feeders and waited. I put fresh sugar water in them weekly and waited…and waited…and waited. No hummingbirds found my feeders. Perhaps I had too many flowers in my yard.

 

Yesterday I saw a hummer visiting the bee balm. So I mixed up a new batch of nectar and moved the pole. I am hoping for visitors.

Those large elephant ear plants behind the feeder now have big enough leaves that I am having a rolling leaf casting workshop. When I made them last year several people said they’d like to learn how to do it. I have everything set up in the driveway, but one person at a time is all I can handle. This is my friend, Diane, who made two castings last week.

Here are her finished castings. I don’t know if she’ll want to paint them. That will be another project. You can see that one has a hole in it where the stem of the leaf was. She wants that one for a birdbath, so I will plug the hole with cement tomorrow morning when I have another friend coming.

It’s fun to do projects with friends on these cool mornings. That leaves the afternoon for working on my novel. The castings have to stay on the table for a day before they can lifted off the sand support. The sand can then be reshaped for my next student. And while we are working, I can keep my eyes open for visiting hummers.

Plein Air Jelly

When our lunch at Plein Air was over last Saturday, I brought home all the Sangria fruit plus the cut up fruit that had been served with the crackers and cheese ball. It was a lot of fruit. Cantaloupe and watermelon balls, blueberries, apples, plums, nectarines, pears, and some thinly sliced lemons. I forgot to take a picture of what I had. I just couldn’t stand for all that good fruit to go to waste. #wastenotwantnot

I cooked it up, put it through the food mill and then strained that juice which had a fair amount of pulp in it. I didn’t put it in a jelly bag, but strained it through a colander with fairly small mesh. Some fruit particles came through so the jelly isn’t as clear as It would be if I’d used a jelly bag. I wasn’t going for jelly to enter in the State Fair.

I needed 5 1/2 cups of juice according to the “plum” SureJell recipe. I used that one because it was closest to the amount of juice I had which came from mostly stone fruits. I was a little short so decided to add some Peach Schnapps I had in the cupboard.

I think this was leftover from the year Laura and I rode in the Christmas in St. Michaels parade. It was bitterly cold and we decided we needed a flask. I must have used this for something else since there was only about a quarter cup left. But this stuff never goes bad, right?

I got all my canning supplies ready and put pint jars through the dishwasher.

I followed the recipe exactly as I wanted the best chance to have the jelly jell.

Eight pints went into the canning kettle for a 10 minute boiling water bath.

Several of the ladies from the Plein Air lunch will get a jar. It’s a beautiful claret color and is fruity with a hint of lemon. And it jelled…unlike my strawberry jam in June. Yum!