Write on Wednesday – How My Blog Began

This was my first blog post from April 25, 2012. Hard to believe I have been posting for six years. I’ve gotten more focused recently with a gardening focused post on Saturday and a writing post on Wednesday. Next up — Food on Friday. That may or may not happen. This is the season when writing and gardening vie for attention.

Laura Ambler & Mala Burt 9-19-12

April 25, 2012

Laura Ambler, my writing partner, and I were sitting in a Blogging workshop given by Mindie Burgoyne. Mindie said setting up a blog was super easy. Laura leaned over and whispered, “We should start a blog about our writing insecurities.”

“Oh, you mean like how I see life through a distorted body image lens?” I whispered back. (I used to be a clinical social worker so sometimes I talk like that.)

“You’re just neurotic about your body,” Laura said. “It has nothing to do with your writing.”

“It has everything to do with my writing. What if we sell one of our scripts and it gets made into a movie and we have to attend the Hollywood premier? I’d have to lose forty pounds before I could even look for a gown, ” I said.

“You’re just nuts,” Laura said. “But I bet there are other writers out there who are just as insecure as we are. Let’s start a blog called Does This Font Make Me Look Fat? It would be hilarious!”

Actually creating the blog has not been so hilarious. Mindie lied about the easy part. I spent an hour trying to figure out how to change the tag line. I’m still looking for a new headline font. Something puffy and fat. This font is way too skinny.

So, let’s hear from the neurotic, but talented writing community. Your fears, foibles and how you deal.

A Nor’easter Blows Through

High winds early Friday morning woke me up several times. Was that a freight train coming at the house? Nope. A Nor’easter.

Laura Ambler, my writing partner, and I had worked on our play Thursday and she had warned me what was coming. Her day job is in aviation so she’s acutely aware of the weather. And the Nor’easter arrived just as predicted.

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We watched the old silver maples on our property give up some limbs. Nothing very big, but a pick-up-sticks job to be handled. Although we are near the water we didn’t have any flooding like other parts of the east coast. However the rotation of the storm pulled water out of the local rivers and there were some really low tides. We never lost power although we do have a generator back-up. The winds were still roaring Sunday night and another storm is predicted for Wednesday.

Dancing Santa

The weather didn’t keep Laura and me from writing. Our play, commissioned by The Merlin Players in Faribault, Minnesota, is almost finished. We will be able to send it to Artistic Director,  Julianna Skluzacek, by the end of next week. We sent our ideas to Julianna in early October 2017 and began work in earnest on January 6, 2018. We have worked two to four days a week since then. Sometimes with our cell phones on speaker when Laura was in Florida on business. Usually we worked for two hours or a little more before our brains went on strike. Much of the time at the beginning is asking questions. What is the play about? What would happen if this character did x, y or z? What conflict would that generate? Does a scene further the arc of the story?

Since the play is about the same characters in The Santa Diaries (five years later), we had the luxury of knowing who would be playing some of the parts as actors who had played characters several years ago wanted to have those parts again. That meant we could write to an actor’s strengths. I’m very visual. It helped to know what a character looked like.

In the Rest of My Life

We’ve had a worrisome two weeks as my beloved daughter-in-law was in the hospital with post-flu viral pneumonia. She spent a week on a ventilator. Most of the time I’m just fine with my kids living on the other side of the country, but when something like this happens I sure wish we were closer. Janet is now home and recuperating. I spent alot of time knitting to keep my anxiety under control.

The weather has kept me from the gardens but I went out yesterday while dinner was heating on the stove and took some photos. The Hellebores are blooming, but I haven’t had time to get the winter damaged leaves pulled out yet. And it’s still too wet and a little early to do an all in clean-up. I like leaving leaf mulch around the perennials until the evening temps moderate.

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Columbines and tiny lamb’s ears are emerging through the leaf mulch.

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My agenda for today, Sunday, March 4, 2018.

  1. Plant some seeds using the soil blocking method. My efforts to start some seeds inside in a bio-dome are not going so well.
  2. Read the 90 page play script to see what tweaks are needed. Laura and I are scheduled to work early tomorrow morning before she has to go to her office.
  3. Help my husband pick up sticks on the lawn.
  4. Poach a chicken so there will be protein in the fridge for the coming week.
  5. Make red onion refrigerator pickles.
  6. Do laundry. We are out of socks.

Wow. That’s a long list. I’m thinking some of these items may get pushed to tomorrow afternoon. But the play work will get done…and the laundry. We need those socks.

 

The Garden Gets Put to Bed

Almost all the leaves are off the trees. This year I’m having a guy come who has a big mulching mower and can dump the mulched leaves where I direct him. Not all goes in the wire corrals I created, but most of it does. His machine makes finer mulch than my little self-propelled mower with a bag. Chris has been here once and I’ll have him do another pass in a few days. Then I can put those mulched leaves on the flower beds and my four raised vegetable beds at home.

I currently have three beds at the St. Michaels Community Garden. One is a bed that nobody wants. It’s under a big maple tree and requires extra attention. It’s planted in garlic at the moment, although I am thinking about planting it with some hardy flowering shrubs next spring. Another bed is covered in heavy black plastic to keep the weeds down. I’ll uncover it in the spring, add some amendments and dig it before planting seeds. The third bed, where I had my tomatoes last summer, was planted at the end of August with fall crops: radishes, turnips, collards and two kinds of kale.

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Last week I put a floating row cover on it. I’m always surprised that most people at the community garden never think about fall crops. Our temps are moderate here on the Eastern Shore. We didn’t have a hard freeze until  two weeks ago. Friday was the first day I had to scrape frost off the car to go to my early morning yoga class. The row cover will allow me to harvest greens all winter long.

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The garden across the alley from this bed is the Wilson Reading Garden at Carpenter Alley which I helped create and maintain. A vacant lot when we started, it’s outside the St. Michaels branch of the Talbot Country Free Library. A winding oyster shell path and benches offer an inviting place to sit and unwind.

The land the Community Garden is on is owned by the town. The town council just approved our second five-year lease. Another friend and I have, for the last four years, been primarily responsible for keeping the Community Garden going. Recently we sent out an email that others needed to step up as we would be stepping away from our leadership roles next year. We got two “thank-you for all you do” emails in response, but no volunteers for the behind the scenes work that keeps the garden going. I’m not sure what will happen.

One of the original goals of the community garden was to create more opportunities for the small black community which borders one side of the garden to interact with the rest of the community (or the other way around). We were more successful with that in the beginning because the pastor of Union United Methodist church was very involved in the garden. A couple of years ago he moved to another church and the new pastor isn’t interested in the community garden project. That is not a criticism. Not everyone is a gardener.

Non-profits ebb and flow. Change happens and sometimes things get better. Sometimes they don’t. We’ll see how interested the community is in continuing to have a Community Garden. In the meantime, I’m off to the garden to harvest red turnips for a dinner party tonight.

 

 

Squash – the Triumph of Hope over Experience

It feels like I’ve written this blog post before. Why can’t I outwit squash borers? I grow my squash from seed under grow lights. Tending them religiously, hardening them off before planting in my raised beds. I even rotate the beds. This year I had a couple of new beds at the community garden. They aren’t the best beds. Right under an old silver maple, they needed deep digging and now constant watering. But, I thought, there was no squash in this bed last year so I might have a fighting chance.

I did suffer something of a setback when I dropped the tray that held all the squash seeds I’d planted. I was working in the garage in preparation for bringing the tray inside to put it on a heating pad for plants to encourage germination.

I put the seeds back in the peat pots trying to match what I’d written on the craft sticks. Was this a Blue Hubbard or a zuchinni seed? In some ways it didn’t matter. I’d know soon enough once the plants were outside and began blooming and setting fruit.

Two zuchinni plants at the community garden were doing well. I got at least four small zuchinni, but today I began to see some yellowing on the leaves, a sure sign of borers at work. The other squash in that bed aren’t thriving. I do see a very small spaghetti squash coming along. Those vines should be covering that bed by now. Maybe that’s why that bed went unclaimed this year. But I didn’t give up. I planted more squash seeds. There’s still time for a squash harvest as we have late frosts.

The squash plants at home were doing extremely well. In fact, I have two blue hubbards and one naguri. Both the blue hubbards were doing well. I used some tomato cages I’d made from concrete reinforcing wire for the vines to climb on before I realized the blue hubbards can get huge. In my mind I was figuring out solutions to that problem. Then one of the blue hubbards didn’t seem to be growing. This morning this is what I saw.

The other blue hubbard is much larger and that vine okay. This is so disappointing. Commercial farmers are able to grow squash. What do they do to keep squash borers at bay? Everything on line is something I’ve tried except noxious chemicals – although I might consider… Once the leaves start to yellow, it’s too late to do anything. I wonder what immature blue hubbard squash tastes like?

But the real question is why do I keep trying? When every year the outcome is the same.

I suppose it’s partly because it’s a challenge and I want to figure out how to solve this problem. That may be some of my Viking heritage at play. Those men and women got on their ships and sailed out of the fiords and didn’t know what they’d find. It was a challenge. Of course, it was too cold to grow squash in northern Norway and they were looking for plunder and slaves, not a lovely blue hubbard squash to turn into the best “pumpkin” pie ever to grace a Thanksgiving table.

When the seed catalogs arrive next winter, will I be able to resist ordering squash seeds? Somehow I doubt it.

 

What’s Up

Saturday is the opening of the St. Michaels Farmers Market. The husband and I signed up to help with early set-up.  As a reward we get to be some of the bell ringers to open the first day of the market. I was a bell ringer last year, too. It was a chilly morning, hence all the layers.

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I’ve never helped with the market before, but it’s in a transitional phase and I want to do everything I can to help the market continue. I grow most of our green food, but supplement at the market.

I volunteered to keep the MailChimp mailing list and send out market reminders. The first one went out on Wednesday morning. I plan to take a lot of photos this year to add visual interest to the market reminders.

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Garden chores keep on. I’ve planted the dahlia roots I grew from seed last year. A week ago I planted the elephant ear tubers. I am hoping to get huge leaves so I can do more cement castings in late summer. The castings have been in the garage all winter and as soon as I get some time I’ll paint them.

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I also programed the drip irrigation systems and installed them. This year I did the programming while sitting on the garage stoop instead of doing it once I’d put them on the hose bibs.

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That required me being on my back trying to read the directions and program at the same time. I’m embarrassed to admit that I did that several years before I figured out I could do it another way.  I tested one system that’s is my window boxes and it’s okay. I need to test the other, much larger, system and see if any fixes need to be made.

I’ve started some seeds inside the house but nothing is up yet. In the garden beds garlic, potatoes, arugula and turnips are sprouting. I’ve ordered Molokai Purple Sweet Potato (6 plants cost $18) and Ginger root but they haven’t arrived yet. Those sweet potatoes are supposed to be full of healthy stuff since they’re purple and Japanese who eat them live to be 120. Maybe $18 is cheap.

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I got a new computer Wednesday and my genius tech guy is coming today to transfer files and make sure all is well. I already have the latest Microsoft operating system so that won’t be a learning curve. But for someone of the generation who bought one refrigerator and one washer and dryer and had them last for thirty years, the notion of having to replace electronics frequently is hard to get my head around.

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I started a singing class two weeks ago. It was advertised in the ALL (Adventures in Lifelong Learning) and both my yoga instructor, Paulette Florio, and I read the summary of the class as being for people who wanted to sing but didn’t think they could. At the first class it turned out that most of the people had some background in singing. They’d sung with local choral arts groups, some professionally. All felt their voices had changed as they got older. Heck, I just wanted to see IF I HAD A VOICE. Paulette and I spent that first class trying not to laugh at ourselves. And the blurb in the ALL brochure didn’t say what we thought it did. Wishful thinking on our part.

However, I am learning things about breathing, where you tongue goes in your mouth, the mechanics of the body parts that produce voice, etc. so I think I’ll try and stick it out for awhile. If I don’t it wouldn’t be the first time I signed up for a class and decided it wasn’t for me. It would free up some time for writing and working in the garden.