Saturday, September 18, 2010

Green Things

In the endless attempt to grow a decent garden, this year's planting is now underway. On time, no less! As our northern neighbors head toward their last harvests, we are just now poking the earth to life down here in the sunny south. Our compost pile this year finally produced some nice-looking soil, and a fat herd of wriggly earthworms, courtesy of the summer rains. Two of the four garden boxes have been topped up and amended with some organic inputs—bone and blood, basically, with fish emulsion to come.  Yes, I know, "Ew."  Our garden may be organic; it's certainly not vegan.  But, I can't deny the power of stinking fish emulsion to produce some happy, healthy plants, so in it will go at a very awkward arm's-length from me.

The other two boxes still need de-rooting from last year, which is a backbreaking task that I will put off as long as possible because I'm just that way about backbreaking tasks. Unfortunately, that means putting it off until the very late date of . . . tomorrow.  After running.  And blueberry pancakes.  And anything else I can think of.

So far, I've put down four types of tomatoes (two of each, how Noahidistic), along with broccoli, an eggplant, the first of the lettuces and some sugar snap peas that seem a little disinclined to participate in the whole "growing" thing.  A quarter of one box and two more total boxes await later rotations of lettuces, more broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and possibly another attempt at Brussels sprouts.  Strawberries will go in the oldest box elsewhere in the yard. And, this year, I'd also like us to build a deep box for carrots.  I figure that if you're going to continue your long history of gardening failures, you might as well go all-in and try everything.  The worst thing that happens is the same thing that happens to most of my gardening every year, but the best thing that happens is tasty.  It's worth a shot.

Clicking on the title of this post will take you to a previous entry that has a rough planting guide, if you're interested in what grows when around here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Busting Out

If you've ever seen Sir David Attenborough's stunning "Planet Earth," you might recall the footage of the Arctic. More specifically, you might remember the sight of a massive, smooth slope of snow unbroken by any trace of life, until, quite unexpectedly, a polar bear pokes out a paw and then a nose and blinks into the light of day. This polar bear has been hibernating, but spring has come at last. It's time to wake to the big, wide world and do those things that polar bears do all day long.

Substitute the flat, heavy, deadening blanket of an overheated Florida summer for that chilly slope, put my lumbering self in the place of that surprisingly agile bear and you have me, this morning, running around Crescent Lake Park. Why, what's this? My shoulders straightened a bit. I breathed in air that didn't stick on the way down. I felt stray, sweaty hairs lift in a slightly cooler breeze and I knew.  It's coming.  IT.  The other half of the year wherein the electricity doesn't come from the too-near lightning of a raging tropical downpour but, rather, from the energizing sparkle of dry-air static and easy breathing and the getting done of things. My whole being blinked.

Now, I've lived here for three decades and have seen more than a few Thanksgivings with temperatures around the 90-degree mark. The heat isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But that little breeze was a reminder that, amidst the chaos of the everyday, our planet is just chugging along on its regular path and is finally—finally!—coming around to what I selfishly esteem The Good Half of the Orbit. All this nonsense about wet and dry seasons; the reality of that orbit 'round these parts is that you have the Doing Season and the Wilting Season, and it is finally time to get up off the fainting couch and get busy.

Perhaps it's no wonder that Florida is an odd place, given that we bust out of the proverbial snowbank just as so much of the nation gets ready to hibernate under it. We have a peskily inconvenient latitude for a northern hemisphere country. We're like the third shift of the nation, always off the regular schedule and wondering why we can't find fried chicken when everyone else is eating breakfast cereal.

For me, I'm just happy that the alarm has gone off and I recognized, as I do every year around now in my own annual processional, that it's time to wake up.  After the long sleep of summer, it's an exciting feeling not only to want to get things done, but also to feel like you can find the energy to do them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Mulligan

So what happens when you stop your new-found running—and any semblance of exercise beyond a bit of high-altitude hiking—for three weeks? Do you...

A.  Rip open a bag of Cheetos and park yourself on the couch to await the next season of "The Biggest Loser," consoling yourself that at least you're not as big as "those people."

B.  Rip open a bag of Cheetos and park yourself on the couch to watch "Pumping Iron," congratulating yourself that you didn't risk getting as big as "those people"

C.  Sigh dramatically, rewind your completed Couch to 5K program to Week Four and start over, forced to run outside in the heat because you passive aggressively overslept and now don't have time to go to the air-conditioned gym.

If you answered A, you know me quite well.  But, alas, this is not the correct answer outside of my fantasy world, where chewing, lounging and believing in unicorns is all the exercise a body needs.  If you answered B, you're close, but it was a gin and tonic and I was too busy goggling in amazement to think about my own pathetic weakness.  I have nothing but love for "Pumping Iron."

The correct answer is C.  Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.

You also commit and sign up for the first 5K that you will run, not walk. Nor stroll, nor amble, nor meander. Possibly sashay. But certainly run.

So I will see you or think of you at the Susan Komen 5K Race for the Cure in downtown St. Petersburg on October 2, when I'm not thinking that the people who measured five kilometers for that race were clearly mathematically inept morons who made the course much longer than it should be.  There's information here: My Race Page

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Things That Get Away From You

May 2010? Can that be right? Because it feels like time hasn't really passed at all, yet a full five months and a bit have disappeared since I last posted anything to this silly little blog. That is not to say, however, that I've spent those months whiling time away on the couch watching reality television and eating Cheetos, as much as I occasionally want to do exactly that. Especially the Cheetos, preferably in a convenient feedbag strapped to my face. But, no.

2010 has, so far, been far more physically active than the preceding four or five years. I feel better than I have in some time, having continued to work on my overall health since August alongside the good Mr. Handy. We both have come to the growing realization at 41 that time does, indeed, get away from you if you turn your attention away for even a moment. We're nowhere near the cliff's edge of "too little, too late," but I feel like I occasionally glimpse it off there in the pale and hazy distance. That's...strange. Disconcerting, certainly, to really grasp that things, like my life on this planet, are going to end, and within a time frame that I can understand because I've already lived it. Middle age is where the immortality of youth fails. When you're 15, how can you contemplate living another 70 or 80 years? You only know what 15 years feels like, and a few of those you can't even remember. I suspect that's why so many young people at some point think they'll die by the time they're 30. How could they possibly be expected to imagine living longer than a time span that, to them, equals existence, everything?

I, on the other hand, know exactly what 40+ years feels like, and I can expect to get about that many more (plus a few extra decades if I'm lucky). That puts me right in the middle holding this knowledge of halves in my hands, along with the knowledge that I get to decide what to do with it. That's been an interesting bit of yarn to untangle in the last year, but all of this heavy realizing and thinking and accepting responsibility...well, it's also exhilarating, if truth be told. If this is the time that I have, I wonder what I could do with it? How mindfully can I live these years? I do like the idea of a challenge.

So, if this is the start of the second act of my life, then, by gum, I'm at least going into it as fit as I can possibly be. In addition to getting more active in general, I'm in the sixth week of the Couch to 5K running plan doing something that I spent four decades swearing I simply could not, would not do--run. In my case, we'll be charitable and call it jogging, but still, I am doing a running-like motion and, here's the crazy part, enjoying it. Given the fact that I'm built like an arthritic dairy cow rather than a sprightly gazelle, the idea that I would run anywhere for any reason, let alone personal choice, is nothing short of shocking. But run I can and run I do. Once I stopped saying I couldn't, lookee there. I could. And now crazy, vague whisperings like "5K" and "10K" and "do another triathlon" and "get back into yoga because those hamstrings are pathetic" are running through my brain. I missed you these past few years, Crazy Vague Voice. Nice to hear you again.

I've also been spending time on the garden, slogging through ignorance and figuring out how to get something to grow here. Did you know that plants need (non-sulfurous) water? Not only were our boxes acidic, which we repaired through soil amendments and turning off the well water, but I also believe I was not watering our previous plants anywhere near enough. I bought into the advice from the Square Foot Gardening book that their planting methods would lessen the amount of watering needed, but in Florida that has proven to be less than accurate. I planted only two of the boxes this season as experiments because we were losing so much on failures, but both are doing well so far. An unusually cold winter has also resulted in our having blueberries for the first time. They're starting to ripen now but, more importantly, the plants are looking much more healthy. That watering thing, again, I suppose. Next up is to redo the landscaping in the front yard with plants that don't need watering, unlike the straggly grass we have now. I don't mind spending water (a lot of it rainwater) on edibles, but on useless grass? In an overdeveloped and drought-prone area, that seems quite wrongheaded. I hope we can get it done before it's too hot to plant anything and see it live. If not, we'll continue to have the ugly yard on the block until it cools off six months from now.

Many other little tidbits going on, including getting out and about more and meeting people. Apparently, being more social involves leaving the house once in a while and conversing with actual humans. They don't come to you, you see. We've met with some great people on a pretty regular basis and, frankly, it's been fun, even for this avowed nonsocial homebody. The family recipe book is getting at least a small update by the end of the year, although I'm considering going electronic with it rather than print. If you have an opinion on the matter or anything to add, do please send it along when you get a moment. Channel your Inner Julia and share the kitchen love! My book reading is up significantly, although a pile of magazines still mocks me. I'm coming for you, Smithsonian and Mental Floss, so keep on with your sassy little smirking. And I'm about to commandeer, er, borrow the keyboard Jared got for Christmas to relearn some piano, in addition to teaching myself conversational Spanish via podcasts. It is nothing short of mind-boggling to consider the free education and information now available to anyone on the web. The hardest part is deciding what to learn!

We live in amazing times. They won't get away from me.