Who knew?

I’ve been struggling to get flowers to grow around the edges of the vegetable garden to attract pollinators. I’ve planted seeds, sprouts, bulbs…. all to no avail.

However, the newest compost heap seems to get overrun with bees every time I dump a new supply of melons and fruits in it.

I would never have guessed it was that easy to attract pollinators to my garden.

final note: I wandered around the garden yesterday evening, and I’m seeing the effects of days without sufficient water. I’m going to have to get out there tomorrow and do some gardening to try and get the dead bits pruned out, and get some grass pulled up so it will quit choking my actual veggie plants to death. I’m going to need lots of sunscreen, a big floppy hat, and lots of water.

Marathon Jam Session

Not the musical kind of jam session. I’m not that cool.

Jam-making session would probably be more accurate. I brought home a few fresh cantaloupes to go with the back door ones that I cut up and flash-froze. I made this vanilla cantaloupe jam using some of the imported Mexican Vanilla extract that we sell at work. I won’t be providing step-by-step pictures because I suck at taking pictures. I do not live a Pinterest-perfect life. Besides, the website where Tia found me this recipe has plenty of lovely pictures and instructions.

I’m making this jam (and some strawberry jam) to go in my Christmas gift baskets to our families. His family really gets into that sort of thing, and my family just kind of goes along with my homemade gifts these last few years. These jams are NOT for the community at large here (although there will be enough that they can certainly have some); these jams are for Christmas gifts. We will be gifting our friends some stuff too, and I paid for this fruit and these jars with my own paycheck.

side note: If it was grown here (like the blackberries), I’m more than ok with sharing. All of the vegetables we’ve grown, all of the freegan fruit I’ve brought home… All of that is fair game. But I didn’t go and order up all this fruit from my boss for people to just eat it indiscriminately. I’ll be packing up and storing a lot of the jams made this week to safeguard them for Christmas gifting.

I bought a lot of fruit for this jam. Perhaps more than I needed. There are several days worth of jam sessions happening this week. I’m making good progress, though.

vanilla cantaloupe jam

With Sunshine out of town for work, it’s the perfect time to have a marathon jam session. I don’t have him bitching about how hot it is in our house because of the stove going on high trying to boil these giant pots of jam mix and jars full of jam. However, it also means that I have no help lifting this heavy ass pot full of jars of jam and boiling water. Good thing I don’t work again until Friday morning.

Sunday night, when I got in from work with all that fruit I had the boss get for me, I immediately began cutting it up so I could get it in the fridge over in Biff’s RV.

side note: Biff is awesome about letting me encroach on his living space. I’ve got fruit in his fridge and jars of jam in his cabinet. Everybody pretty much knows which jars they better not touch (the 12 ounce cut crystal looking ones) and which ones they can take and eat (the plain old pint jars) without fear of dying a slow and painful death.

After I got the strawberries cut up, I started in on the cantaloupes. About 1/3 of the way through the second one, Mr B popped over to say hi. Apparently, Mr B is as horrified by watching me with a giant kitchen knife as I am horrified by watching him navigate the roads while also doing endless shit on his phone. He took my chef’s knife from me and proceeded to halve, slice, and chop the cantaloupes while I scooped seeds out and gathered up the chunks he was making, getting them into the storage containers they spent the night in.

side note: I think I’ve mentioned that Mr B is one hell of a cook. He cooks far more than I ever have, and therefore he’s much better at cutting shit than I am. I’ll gladly take the help, because I cut my hands/fingers at least 5 times over that long 4 day weekend at work while the boss was out of town.

Sunday night, as I finally crawled into bed at almost 1AM, my house smelled like a Bath&Bodyworks shop in the spring, with cantaloupe and strawberry scent permeating everything. I can think of much worse smells to have permeating my home LOL. The vanilla cantaloupe jam smelled rather like cake as I boiled the fruit/sugar/pectin mixture, and it was pretty close to divine. Mr B popped in and helped for a few minutes and pre-cleaned the empty jam mix pot by scraping every last bit of goo out of it with a spoon. He looked like an overgrown kid while doing it, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Making jam is sweaty work, and when one has a kitchen the size of most people’s stovetop it requires that most of the house be rearranged to facilitate jam-making. I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer to do marathon jam sessions rather than have to rearrange the entire house multiple times. It’s just less work that way.

 

final note: I have fallen into a rabbit hole on the internet. Did you know that corncob jelly is a thing? There’s also cotton candy jelly, Mountain Dew Jelly, sriracha jelly, Root Beer jelly, honeysuckle jelly, and a whole host of other interesting flavors of jams and jellies. I am thinking that Kool Aid jelly is a must try. Yes, that’s really a thing and I really want to make some purple koolaid jelly.

Blue Sky Tag

Thank you, Nusrath Sariffo’deen (Diary of a Muslim Girl) for nominating me for the blue sky tag. I shall now attempt to answer your questions so that the world can get to know me better the way I got to know you a little better reading your questions and answers.

  1. Describe yourself in one word: Recovering. I am a recovering addict. I am also treating depression and anxiety. So recovering is the word I think describes me.
  2. Coke or Pepsi? Neither, but if I have to choose one, then Coke. The Mexican Coke, made with actual sugar and not that high-fructose-muckity-muck
  3. Desk: messy or organized? I prefer organized, but I often let it get messy when I don’t have time to do all the things I think I want to do. I can’t stand clutter.
  4. Pet Ownership: which is better, dog or cat? Depends on what we’re talking about. Cats are better for rodent control, and they require less attention. However, my little doggie Mollie is the best for reminding me to stay in the moment, love with my whole heart, and play like it’s the most joyful thing ever
  5. Things to do: which is better, sing or dance? That’s another hard one, since I do neither well LOL. I guess sing, since it is less taxing on my COPD lungs
  6. Are you always early or terminally late? Early. Always.
  7. What is your favorite book you read as a child? Um, probably the nursery rhyme book we had in the living room. There was one little rhyme about a purple cow that I loved. “I never saw a purple cow/I never hope to be one/but if there were a purple cow/I’d rather see than be one”
  8. What is your all-time favorite joke? “What’s grosser than gross? Eating a rump roast and it farts!” (sorry, inside I’m really just a 12 year old boy or something, farts are funny)
  9. Who is the funniest person you know? Hands down, Sunshine. That man can make me laugh until my abdominal muscles hurt and my lungs feel like they’re going to deflate explosively
  10. What is your favorite word? Probably motherfucker. I actually had a drug-court treatment plan, signed by a judge, that read “I will not use the word motherfucker in any variation in group therapy sessions for two weeks”. (The judge read it, raised an eyebrow, looked at my counselor; she replied “Your honor, I assure you that it’s necessary” and he signed it. And yes, that is the entirety of the treatment plan for that two week period.)
  11. What is your least favorite word? apathy. I hate the word, I hate what it means, I hate that it manifested itself in my life for the last few years. Hence the depression and anxiety treatments that led me to choose “recovery” as my one word description.

final note: I can’t think of 11 people to nominate right now, I’m so busy trying to get laundry and food preservation caught up that I almost forgot I had been selected for this challenge. Again, thank you to Nusrath for tagging me!

Training a big box store

When we first started drinking our flavored sparkling water, we were living in east Texas. I got the big box giant with the blue letters and yellow star trained to keep tons of the peach flavor on their shelves for me. Then we moved here, and I eventually got this location of that big box giant trained to keep lots and lots of the peach flavor on their shelves.

side note: yes, it is absolutely possible to train a big box store. It took me going in there several times a week and buying up all of their available stock in my preferred flavor every time I was in there. Eventually, the inventory & logistics experts adjusted their ordering and made sure that more was in stock.

Then we had the “rule” that there would be no burning plastic in this community; Mrs B would be taking all of our plastic to her mom’s place in the next town over (where they actually have recycling pickup).

side note: I put the word rule in quotation marks because as far as I can tell, one person made that decision for the entirety of the community with no discussion from the rest of the community.

So we put 55 gallon barrels in the yard to collect the metal cans and the glass bottles and all the recyclable plastics. It took us about two weeks to fill the plastic one to overflowing. This situation prompted threats of a new “rule” that there would be no plastic allowed out here. I was all for it, but I wanted it to be a total ban on plastics.

side note” when I say total, I mean total. No plastic wrapped food, no plastic containers of fruit, no plastic wrapped breakfast cereals, no plastic k-cups for those ridiculous one cup coffee brewers, no plastic toothbrushes, no plastic shelves in the doors of the refrigerators (hell, no plastic shells on the outside of refrigerators), no plastic bottles of oil for cars, no plastic buckets of hydraulic fluid for tractors….. Yeah, you know that didn’t happen.

So I decided that, to reduce some of the contention around the amount of plastic we were using, I would buy my flavored sparkling water in cans.

That was months ago. I am still trying to train this big box store to keep more than 6 twelve packs of my flavored water in stock. I’m resigned to going to this store multiple times per week and buying up all of their available stock in my preferred flavor in cans, whether I need them or not at that moment. Eventually, they’ll figure it out and expand the amount of shelf space allotted to cans of my preferred flavor of sparkling water; then they’ll have enough in stock that I can reduce my stops at that store to once a week again. Until then, pray for the employees and patrons at that big box giant, because I hate going grocery shopping with a purple fucking passion.

final note: I know, bottled water is not very eco-friendly. I’ve decided that I’m ok with it, especially if I can train this store to carry enough cans, because I have given up so much in our journey towards a more simple, eco-friendly way of life.

Learning from others

I recently read a post from The Eco-Feminist that talked about her journey to becoming a mother. As an adopted child, it gave me a glimpse into what my own mother went through to become my mother. It made me cry, it made my heart swell with love, and it made me so fucking proud of the woman I know as mom.

I sent my mom an email with a link to that post, and a little bit of mushy “I love you” stuff about how I had never really thought about what she went through to adopt me.

Well, I had occasion to think about it again yesterday. I called my mom, just a routine “how are you, I love you” call. She answered the phone with “I was wondering if you’d call today”….

…which sent me into a panic, wondering what the hell I was forgetting that I totally shouldn’t be forgetting.

Turns out, yesterday was the anniversary of the day she and my dad took 3-month-old me home from foster care and became my parents.

side note: to make it even better, that day was also my mom’s father’s birthday. I miss my Papa. He was so cool!

I had never thought about that day as a big deal, because I am not a mother and never much wanted to be a mother. However, as I talked to my mom, I realized that it was a big fucking deal to her. I asked her if she had read that post, and she said that she did. She said that she could absolutely relate, and she was happy that this wonderful woman has a chance to become a mother at last.

Had I never read that post, I might have gone the rest of my life not really thinking about what my mom went through to become my mom.I mean, logically, I know that adoption is a long and drawn out process. I knew that there was paperwork, and social workers, and home visits, and more paperwork, and financial disclosures, and appointments, and more paperwork. But I had never thought about the emotional aspect.

Maybe because my mother always struck me as so very pragmatic, I never thought about how much hope and fear she went through trying to adopt a child. My mom was always fairly emotionally reserved in front of people. Throughout the six years of daddy’s illness, I never saw her cry for very long, I never saw her despair, I never saw her really seem like she was overwhelmed and on the verge of a total breakdown.

My adoption was always presented to me in a very matter-of-fact way. I’ve always known I was adopted, for as long as I can remember. The DFACS (Department of Family and Children’s Services) office had given my mom a little box set of books to help her explain to me that I was adopted (I still have those books); even before I could read, I knew those books were for me and they were about being adopted. It was always explained to me that I was not unwanted by my biological mother; she just knew that she, at 16 years old, couldn’t take care of a child as she would WANT to take care of a child and so she gave that child up for adoption in the hopes that this child would indeed be taken care of as a child should be cared for.

I always felt fortunate and loved. I was loved so much by two mothers that one of them went through the hell of giving up her child, and the other went through the hell of the adoption process to become the mother of that child. I was fortunate, because that child was me. Anytime anyone ever asked me if I ever wanted to know about my “real” parents, I was rather befuddled, because in my mind I HAD real parents. My mom and dad are the only mom and dad I’ve ever known, and they were damn fine parents. They were my real parents; I couldn’t understand why people didn’t think that mom and dad were my real parents. Of course I always had curiosity about my biological parents, but I never felt any overriding need to know more or meet them. I had my parents, and that was that. I understood that opening up the sealed case files might cause that woman great pain, as she might not have told her current family that she had once given up a child; or it might cause her great pain to know that I merely wanted to meet her to satisfy curiosity but had no need of a relationship with her.

side note: my mom offered repeatedly to help me have the files unsealed. I never took her up on it. I had a mom, and that was that.

After I hung up the phone, I went into the calendar function on my phone. I set a reminder for a yearly event for yesterday’s date, so that I can call my mom on her dad’s birthday every year from now on, and thank her for becoming my mom. I wasn’t always a good kid, because addiction is a motherfucker. No matter how much hell I put my mother through, she never quit loving me. I am the luckiest shithead in the world, because my adoptive mom is the truest definition of “mother” I have ever known of, and I am so grateful for that.

So this year, as Father’s Day approaches, I am thinking about my mother. That woman amazes me. She loved me no matter what. She raised three children basically on her own, because my father was sick for many years before he died; she had to be both mother and father to us. I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful mom; and I’ll have to make it a point to call her on father’s day and thank her for being her wonderful, beautiful self that did the job of two parents for a large portion of my childhood.

final note: I’m about to cry now, so I’m going to go clean house or something to distract myself so I don’t cry because I am fighting a sinus infection that is causing some really ugly vertigo as a result.

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

How does your garden grow?

Well, since you asked…

Thanks to working four days in a row this weekend, things got a little out of control. I have so much food to preserve, and nowhere to put it once I do. I’ve been making jam like mad to try and clear out some of the freezer space so that I can put vegetables in there.

I’ve also got the neighbors bringing me vegetables from their garden, and I’m having to come up with interesting ways to use those, since I am already running out of space to store food.

I suppose it’s better to have this problem than the opposite one of not enough food.

New Skills

Yesterday, my neighbor came over and taught me to can jam. We made blackberry jam using some of the wild blackberries that I picked.

First we heated the jars and lids.

water bath pot

Then we started boiling the blackberries.

cooking berries

Then we added sugar and pectin.

cooking jam mix

Then we put the jam in jars.

jars and utensils

This weird little tool is a lid lifter, to help me lift the lids out of the boiling water.

lid lifter

My first batch of jam, hiding in the cabinet that Biff so graciously allowed me to take over in his RV.

my first jars of jam

I’m making more today, because I need to get some fruit out of the freezer so that I can freeze some more vegetables. I’m starting to think I’m not going to get some proper lazy/rest time until after Christmas.