Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just Call Me The Crazy Garden Lady

This morning I actually said to A., "I hate to leave my garden for a whole week. But I guess I've done everything I can to prepare it for my absence."

Apparently, the garden is my fifth child.

Then again, all my children are coming with me tomorrow when we leave for Blackrock for a week, but the garden will be left to fend for itself.

My preparation mostly consisted of stripping the pea and bean plants of every last small pea and bean, so that I don't come home to overly matured legumes that have caused the plants to stop producing.

Can we just talk for a moment about how incredible it is that I'm still harvesting peas in mid-August?

Peas are a cool-weather crop. They stop producing when it gets hot and dry. At Blackrock, I would rarely get more than one good harvest from the pea plants before they would wither away. But here, this year, it's been so cool and wet that it took forever for the peas to start producing anything at all, but once they did they don't seem to be giving up.

I did pull the shelling peas out this morning, though. They were starting to die, and were harboring an alarming colony of slugs (another result of our cool, wet summer), so I decided to rip them out. I left the snap peas in, though, after harvesting a full two quarts of snap peas from three plants.

The carrots have also been outstanding this year. A. planted a full two packets of seed in April, and they all came up. We started eating the thinnings from the carrots about two months ago, and we've had a steady supply since. The kids more or less free-range in the carrot rows, eating however many they want whenever they want, and we still have incredible quantities of quite large carrots out there.

Unfortunately, the weather that has been so beneficial for the peas and carrots has been very, very sad for the summer crops. Particularly the cucumbers and tomatoes.

There are dozens upon dozens of tomatoes on my sixteen plants and not a single one was ripe. Not one. What a screw. And here we are facing down a killing frost in about a month.


As I was working my way around the tomato forest to get to another patch of green beans to harvest, I spied . . . is that red?

Yes! It's the much-anticipated First Tomato!

I found it in the very center of a remarkably bushy Juliet plant. I haven't been checking the interiors of the plants much, figuring the tomatoes on the outside that are more exposed to the sun would ripen first. I guess I was wrong, because I found the one Juliet that was entirely ripe, and then a few more that were almost ripe, and all were way inside the tomato jungle.

Cubby was in the garden with me when I found it, and he was so excited that he raced into the house yelling to the household at large that there was a ripe tomato.

That's my boy.

Everyone came out to admire the tomatoes I had found. And then I ate the ripe one. Myself. Oh yes, I did. It's a tradition.

I now have some hope that when we get back in a week there will be a lot more red to greet us in the tomato patch. That would be a sweet homecoming indeed.

And in the meantime, we have lots of snap peas and carrots for our long drive tomorrow.

Nothing like homegrown carrot sticks.

Farewell, beloved garden. Ripen lots of tomatoes while I'm gone, okay?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Don't Use That Word

This morning when I announced my intention of sorting through and organizing the disaster of clothing bins in the utility room, A. said The Word. The Word that always comes up with pregnant women and that inspires irrational irritation in me.

"Ah, nesting."


There is no doubt that nesting is an actual phenomenon. It's just the way it's said that always annoys me. Kind of condescendingly, as if hormones are the only reason a woman would choose to, say, scrub the grout in the shower. Never mind the fact that a pregnant woman--especially a woman who has been pregnant a time (or three) before--knows damn well that if that grout doesn't get cleaned now, she's going to be staring at filthy grout for months as she slowly loses her mind with newborn-related sleep deprivation.


The reason I wanted to do all the clothes sorting now is so I could figure out what the kids might need when the colder weather comes. Then I can look for those things at thrift stores when we're at Blackrock next week. There are no thrift stores up here, so I want to look at the thrift stores there first, and then buy online what I can't find there.

While I was sorting clothes, I pulled out the extra convertible carseat we have so A. could put it in the Subaru for Jack. Except when I pulled it out, I noticed that the cover and straps were covered in mildew.

Sigh. Must I be plagued by mildew wherever I go?

I pulled off the cover to wash, which was surprisingly complicated. Many little elastic pieces to be unhooked and buckles to be disconnected and so forth. Then I decided I might as well do the same for the infant car seat I got from someone recently. That was also amazingly complicated to disassemble.

I then hauled the plastic shells outside to hose them down and scrub them with vinegar. They're drying outside right now, as are the covers.

I suspect that I will need A.'s help to figure out how to get those covers back on, however. They will probably defeat me on my own. Besides, if I'm going to be nesting, I might as well drag Papa Drake into it with me, right? Right.

At least we have two months to figure it out.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

You Can Take the Boy Out of Blackrock . . .

A. had to learn many home repair skills while living at Blackrock. Unless you want to spend a literal fortune to pay carpenters and so forth, it's kind of a necessity with a 160-year-old house. 

One of the skills he learned that is definitely unusual was masonry. Because, of course, Blackrock is not just an old house, it's an old cobblestone house. With stone foundations. And those foundations require periodic repair if you don't want your house to literally fall out from under your feet.

So he learned how to replace stones and re-point mortar. He even learned how to mix his own mortar, because the mortar used on old houses like Blackrock is not the same as the modern pre-mixed bags of concrete and so forth available at places like Home Depot. Apparently the old mortar was more flexible than the modern mixes, and therefore is less likely to crack as the foundations shift with freezing and thawing and so on. 

A. also discovered that he has a great affinity and liking for stonework. Handy if you live in a place like Blackrock. He got pretty good at it.

But then we moved. Our current home is only fifteen years old and made of wood on a poured foundation. No need for masonry here.

Except . . .

The church we attend in the village happens to be an imposing stone edifice. And one of the first things A. the Amateur Mason noted was the sad condition of the mortar on the cut-stone front steps. It's crumbling and in many cases completely missing and growing grass. There are other areas that need repair work, but he was pretty sure he could repair the steps in an appropriately professional fashion.

However, the fact that he's not a professional made him a little shy to bring this up with those in charge of church maintenance. I mean, how many random people would really be able to do a repair like that in any kind of acceptable manner? Most people would just slap some modern concrete in there and call it good. 

The thought of this horrifies A., however, and he was particularly concerned that if the deterioration continued, the powers that be would decide to just take out the existing cut-stone steps and replace them with poured concrete steps.

Sacrilege in A.'s eyes.

So he got up the courage to ask the deacon if he might repair the steps for them. (For free, obviously.) After the deacon consulted with whoever he needed to consult, A. got the go-ahead.

Last time we were at Blackrock, he stopped at his favorite masonry supply yard to pick up the supplies he would need. And then he got to work.

This is very slow work. It takes him about two hours to do one step. There are ten steps. He can only work if there's at least a 12-hour window with no rain to enable the mortar to set. This has been somewhat difficult to achieve during this cool, wet summer we've been having.

There is also the issue that the children do not appreciate it when Daddy disappears for hours without them.

A. brought Cubby along with him the first time he went, figuring Cubby might find it interesting. He did find it interesting. He also learned how to do it. It seems ridiculous to think that a seven-year-old can do masonry work, but apparently Cubby's affinity with tools extends to trowels. A. reported with some amazement that not only does Cubby help, but he can actually just DO the work. Like, the two of them just work along side by side. Cubby actually makes the work go faster.

Of course, then Charlie wanted to try. Which meant Jack had to go. And THAT meant that I had to go, too. So we all loaded up on Sunday afternoon and descended upon the church.

Charlie's contribution was mostly scraping and sweeping the old mortar and dirt and grass from the cracks so A. and Cubby could mortar it. Charlie tried working with the trowels, but he doesn't appear to have the same natural feel for it that Cubby does. 

Thankfully, the third (and definitely least helpful) apprentice mason fell asleep in the car on the way to the church, so I just left him sleeping in there while the other three worked. When the inevitable fighting over tools began, I removed Charlie and Jack to the playground. Cubby elected to stay behind to keep working.

A.'s goal is to finish the steps before freezing weather arrives. Mortar won't set in freezing temperatures. So he's got about a month and half. With Cubby's able assistance--and mine in the form of keeping the other two out of the way--he should make it.

So the church gets its steps repaired for free and A. gets to do his beloved masonry. Everyone wins.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Professionalism in the Workplace

Some background: A. uses our home landline phone for his home office. Because cell phones usually don't work here, he needs the landline. Through the miracles of modern technology, it routes through his old work number. No one knows the call is going to or from our home, but it is through our landline. He takes the mobile handset into his office when he's working, so I don't pay any attention if the phone rings during a work day.

When he makes a call out via his computer (again with the miracles of modern technology), the phone in the house rings, for reasons I'm not very clear on.

There is a corded phone downstairs on which I usually have the ringer turned off, so it doesn't wake the kids up. But when we had a power outage a few days ago, I turned the ringer on so I would know if someone was calling. I hadn't yet turned it off again.

And now the stage is set . . .

I was upstairs in the kitchen preparing to do battle with sourdough dough. All three children were downstairs playing some game that was rendering them increasingly hysterical. The phone rang. I ignored it, because A. had the handset in his office.

And then I heard A. bellowing, "KRISTIN!"

I thought he had gotten a call saying someone had been in a horrible accident or something. I went to the door just as he came in scowling and saying, "I'm trying to make a work call and the kids are shouting 'wiener' on the line."

I went downstairs to find the phone back in its cradle and both Charlie and Cubby disavowing any wrongdoing. I suspect Cubby was the one who picked up the phone, and Charlie was the one shouting the offending word.

A. left the house yelling, "No wieners when I'm on a work call!"

I impressed upon the children the importance of them never picking up the phone or saying that word*. And then I turned the ringer off again.

When A. came back in a little while later, I apologized for the incident. He shrugged and said he got the case anyway. I asked who had been on the line. "A private client who wanted to hire me. It's okay, though. I just told him, 'That was my kids on the line yelling wiener. It wasn't a prank call or anything.'"

I'm sorry, anyway. For all of us.

* And Cubby wonders why I yell more than Ma. I bet Laura and Mary never did anything like this.