Thursday, August 30, 2012

Worldcon, first two days in pictures

Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's Pizzeria

On wall of restaurant

Alternate history panel held in open since we couldn't get into the scheduled room

Adler Planetarium

A quote that is relevant to my interests. Click to enlarge.

A moon rock!

Sunset over the Chicago skyline

Night, Chicago skyline

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tangible accomplishments

I've been going non-stop trying to hit all of these meaningless goals, just to eke out a sense of accomplishment. Something I can pin down and say, yes, I was here and I left a Folly-sized dent.

None of it really matters. I haven't been writing. I've been thinking about writing. I've been beating myself up about not writing. Instead of writing I've been spending hours in the yard, digging in the soil, planting carrots and kale and beets. Because at the end of the day I can point at what I've done out there and say, here, this exists.

Not like writing.

Other things I've been doing: I finally leveled one of my World of Warcraft characters to 85, and then I canceled the account the next day. I've been rereading the Harry Potter series since I never finished books 5-7. Today I finished book 2.

I've been spending time with friends. On Friday I went on a ghost tour with Eliza and met her husband for a rare night of drinks downtown. On Saturday, Jer and I bought 25 bags of river pebbles from Home Depot and spread them in the yard. We went to Sky Nursery and bought Wickwar Flame Heather and Purple Sage and Japanese barberry and spinach and Walla Walla onion starts.

On Sunday we worked in the yard again and then hung out with friends in the evening at a housewarming party in West Seattle.

Today I recorded three podcasts, critiqued two stories, planted more vegetables, and packed for WorldCon. It's amazing how even these small responsibilities stretch me thin.

Tomorrow I'll be getting on a plane for Chicago and I expect I'll have an amazing time and be inspired and have lots of strange and wonderful experiences.

And sharing all of this is not meant to be read as complaining. Sometimes despite my best efforts I get frustrated and need a break. So I'm taking a little break, by driving myself to exhaustion.

It's just this thing I do.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Backyard Transformation

Jer and I spent the weekend working on the yard. The back part of the yard used to consist of a fence covered in overgrown ivy. It looked like this:

Then the week of July 4th, Jer stripped all the ivy off the fence, which left it looking like this:

My parents came to visit in mid-July and they helped put up a new fence. Since then Jer and I have been working outside, and now the back of our yard looks like this:

We put in river pebbles and planted a bunch of new things, which make me tired just thinking about. Hopefully they don't die. First time it rains I expect the dust to wash off the rocks and change the way everything looks. Until then, hello new backyard.

All photos in this post were taken by Jeremy.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The finished greenhouse

You guys sick of gardening pictures yet? I get it, I do, but I feel like I owe you some closure with the whole greenhouse thing.

Last night Jer nailed the grid together for me. Then this morning I filled in the squares.

Top row, from left to right: Tomato, Cucumber, Kale, Jalapeno. Bottom row, from left to right: Carrots, Swiss Chard/Lettuce, Beets, Onions

I expect I planted some of these just to freeze and die in a few weeks, but I'll pretend it's an experiment.

Greenhouse with the bird netting down and the plastic front rolled up

I have a few odds and ends to wrap up outdoors and then I'm into maintenance mode. If this greenhouse thing works out, we'll build a proper raised bed in the yard. And if it doesn't, say I burn out and don't care anymore, then I'll spend more time next year wandering the produce section at the market, overcome with nostalgia.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Assembling the Mel's Mix -- with pictures

This afternoon I assembled the Mel's Mix for my square foot garden. Mel's Mix consists of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, and 1/3 compost (at least five different types.)

It was a lot of work.

Getting the Mel's Mix supplies together

The square foot garden book suggests laying out a large tarp and dumping all the ingredients on it. Then lifting the corners to mix. So that's what I did.

Peat moss, various types of compost, and coarse vermiculite

Not pictured: A couple of hours of hard labor.

Everything mixed together like magic

Looks nice and easy, doesn't it? Holy cow it was exhausting.

Mel's mix in the greenhouse.

You might be noticing my greenhouse. Yep. I bought a greenhouse kit at Costco and assembled it yesterday. There were a lot of parts and the instructions involved non-consecutive pictures with vague and/or confusing labels. At one point instead of using the part number, the instructions started referring to a part's length in centimeters.

Anyway. The end result looks nice.

Closeup of the wet Mel's mix

Now all I have to do is figure out how to lay down a grid and plant stuff. Oh yeah. All that work and I still haven't planted anything yet.

Jer just came home and I said, "I'm tired." He laughed at me and said, "You look tired."

There you have it. Independent confirmation of my tiredness.

Quick Zucchini Status

I am fascinated by the zucchini. This morning I moved it to a much larger container--a plastic half whiskey barrel. I planted its seed the week of August 6th and look at this thing!

The two orange dots are plant watering spikes attached by cables to a water reservoir hanging off the side.

I've created a monster.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gardening Update - Zucchini and seed starts

Seed starts and plants ready for transplant

My zucchini plant, a lot bigger than it was in the August 13 post


Folly's First Beet

I started the beet seed in a biodegradable pellet made from fiber, not peat, which is apparently the eco-friendly thing to do. According to the package the demand for peat is negatively affecting the peat bogs. I didn't even know that was a problem. You can read more at I guess we are supposed to be using coir instead, which is the outer husks of the coconut.

I am learning so much.

The, uh, greenhouse thing I ordered should arrive today so I'll be able to get a lot of those plants in the Mel's Mix. For fall I have seeds for carrots, beets, and kale and I am very excited--probably more than I should be about helping along a natural process.

Also it is probably too late in the season but I found this great post about growing zucchinis in containers, complete with info about hand-pollinating the flowers. I think I might give it a try.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adventures with the strawberry pot

Strawberry Pot

I don't know if any of the plants will live through this, but I filled up a nine-pocket strawberry pot with strawberry plants and a couple of thyme plants. I tried to be gentle as I threaded leaves and roots through the openings, but I know I did some damage.

Eh. A first time for everything.

I used Black Gold potting soil and followed the directions I found in this youtube video:

After watering thoroughly, I stuck an Aqua Globe in the corner, just in case.

So yeah. Strawberries. Maybe.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Experiments in gardening

I've been bit by the gardening bug.

And it stings.

Okay, so it doesn't sting exactly, but every year when the weather turns warm, I get this urge to plant stuff and water things. A few years back I bought a book on Square Foot Gardening, skimmed it, and stuck it on a shelf.

For whatever reason, this summer I've decided to be a little more methodical. Before I go any further I should tell you I really don't know anything about gardening. I am totally faking any competency at growing stuff, but maybe my blunders will be of interest, so here we go.

First off, I haven't set up the square foot area yet, but I will. Instead, I put together some seed starts in pellets and was growing them on the kitchen counter until one of my cats ate half of the shoots one night. So that was disheartening, but I learned a valuable lesson: my cats are jerks.

Next I bought some discount plants at local grocery stores that were further along. I bought a basil plant from Trader Joes and made pesto from the leaves. I bought a Meyer Lemon Tree for half off at Lowe's. I also picked up some cheap jalapeno, blueberry, cucumber, oregano, dill, and thyme plants. They were all so inexpensive I won't be terribly broken up if they die.

Zucchini (growing from a seed I planted last week)

I just love looking at this little plant. It's amazing how fast it grows.

Meyer Lemon Tree (plant + pot + stand + mulch = about $15)

Lowe's had the tree on sale. The pot was 60% off at Ace Hardware and the stand was a deal at Grocery Story Outlet. I am planning to bring the container inside when the weather turns cold.

Blueberry Plant (Patriot)

End of last week I planted two blueberry plants along the back fence, mixed the soil with peat moss, and spread bark mulch around the base of each plant. I actually picked up both plants at Grocery Store Outlet in Lake City. I bought a Patriot and a Hardyblue, and now with all this hot weather the trick is keeping the soil moist.

Unknown tree, planted

Yesterday Jer and I planted this tree in the ground. I have no idea what kind it is. When we bought our house the previous owner offered to leave us a bunch of plants in pots and we accepted. This tree has been in a large pot on the deck since we moved in three years ago and it seems to be doing well. At the base is a solar light we're experimenting with and behind the tree are some river rocks we're thinking of spreading all along the fence.

The fence on the right, by the way, is the one my dad and Jer put in a few weeks ago. Jer and I put a clear coat on it last weekend to protect it from the elements.

Over the weekend we made our first trip to Sky Nursery, which is a wonderful place and I bought the ingredients for the Mel's Mix square foot gardening stuff, so I'll be combining vermiculite, several kinds of compost, and peat moss in a large container soon. And then hopefully moving some of my seed starts over.

I have a lot to learn, but I think this is a good start.

Friday, August 03, 2012

My week in Texas

Renaissance Austin Hotel, Austin, TX, location of 2012 ArmadilloCon

Last week I flew out to Austin for this year's ArmadilloCon. On Thursday night, I tagged along for an excellent dinner with authors, Jen Volant and Cat Rambo.

On Friday I attended the Writers' Workshop, which I found really useful. The first part of the morning was spent with all instructors and participants in a large room for a couple of panels and a writing exercise. At lunch we broke off into critique groups. The instructors who led my group were Joe McKinney and Scott A. Johnson. I was very pleased with the experience.

I hesitate to start linking names because I know I'm going to forget someone and I apologize for that in advance. Thanks in particular to incandragon--can't tell by the site if I should use a real name or not--for introducing me to Amy's ice cream. It was also great to have the chance to hear Sanford Allen read. And I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear Kasey Lansdale sing before a showing of "Christmas with the Dead." There was so much more, but that's a good overview, I think.

I almost forgot. A special thanks to Nancy Jane Moore with Broad Universe for allowing me to squeeze into my first Rapid Fire Reading alongside a number of other fantastic spec-fic authors. For my five minutes, I read a poem called "Shag" and a horror short called "Giblet Pan Gravy."

Joe Lansdale reads from Dread Island

On a Greyhound bus between Austin and Fort Worth, stopping at a Burger King

Late Sunday afternoon I rode on my first Greyhound bus from Austin to Fort Worth. The trip took about four hours and only cost $37. The bus was well air-conditioned and the seats clean and comfortable. After reading a bunch of horror stories about the station, I was pleasantly surprised not to have any problems.

Fort Worth Stockyards

For the rest of the week I went sightseeing with my sister in Fort Worth. She's a pretty fantastic gal who lives too darned far away.

Very good steak at Riscky's Steakhouse, Fort Worth

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth -- the permanent collection features Michelangelo, Caravaggio, C├ęzanne, Matisse, and Picasso, to name a few.

I was really impressed by the small but significant collection on display at the Kimbell.

My sister at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth

The flight home was also easy. As far as trips go, this was a good one. Although I confirmed that I am too much of a delicate flower to stand > 100 degree heat for long.