Interlopers

When I dismantled the garden last year, it didn’t make sense to throw away the used potting soil. And the internet seemed to be pretty much in agreement that reusing potting soil wouldn’t be a problem so long as I didn’t plant tomatoes in the same soil next year.

I figured I’d do a little composting over the winter to replace whatever nutrients I could and add plant food during planting in the spring. In fact, that had kind of been happening already; whatever tomatoes that weren’t harvested in time ended up as fertilizer in other pots. So all the plant matter–stalks and roots and leaves–from the garden ended up in a Rubbermaid tub along with the soil in late November.

Fast-forward to spring. All the old soil had found its way into pots with new seeds, and I went out of town for a couple weeks. When I came home, seeds had sprouted Even in pots and planters that I hadn’t planted anything in yet. And in ones growing alongside different sprouts. Like, I knew for certain what carrot sprouts should look like and the little green things growing in the carrot bucket weren’t them.

I plucked the foreign sprouts from the otherwise occupied pots; curiosity led me to let them continue growing in one with last year’s soil but no new seeds (yet). I suspected they might be parsley since that had kept growing in the Rubbermaid compost bucket for a month.

I figured out what they were after about a week. Some were marigolds, others parsley, and others tomatoes. The first and the third I found interesting because the seed packages make it seem like they’re so finicky to grow.

While I can foresee weeding these interlopers from other planters for a good chunk of the growing season, seeing these sprouts grow from last year’s plants has actually been a good thing in terms of saving money. It means that harvesting seeds at the end of the year is both feasible and could very well mean not having to buy seeds again next spring. It’s a little thing, but I’m excited to move closer towards being self-sufficient.

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Gardening Interlude

While I was house-sitting for my parents, they asked if I’d start their vegetable garden. Their new house doesn’t have a designated garden yet, so they wanted to plant a couple tomatoes and peppers in pots on the patio. And since I’m always itching to play in dirt and my garden will never bit enough to sate that desire, I said YES, ABSOLUTELY, WHEN CAN I START?

It’s a small garden with two tomatoes, a bell pepper, and a mammoth jalapeno. We bought four bags of soil, and I only ended up using two. I’ve already been given the go-ahead to take the extra bags home with me, which is exciting in and of itself.

I also found that I vastly prefer starting plants from seeds to buying seedlings from the store. There’s a certain–satisfaction, or maybe wonder–at seeing little green stalks poking through the soil.

And another lesson: Sam and Grace like to eat potting soil. I envision them trying to eat the plants as they grow, so it’ll be interesting to see how long the leaves are without doggy bite-marks.

If you have a garden, what are you planting in it?

The Libby App

I’ve become more inclined to read on my phone. It’s more convenient than stuffing a paperback into my purse and hoping that the cover or the pages don’t crease, and it’s far less bulky than sitting with a massive hardcover on my lap.

eBooks are plentiful on Amazon and Kindle, but the cost adds up quick. I shy away from ones priced above $2.99 but sticking mainly to the $1.99 books (aka on sale). I can usually justify such a price, but the budget has gotten rather tight recently.

Enter Libby: an app that allows the user to borrow eBooks from their local library.

Libby let me choose my library and browse its collection of eBooks and audiobooks even before I entered my library card number. Once I entered that bit of information, I could borrow and put holds on books. I’ve already buzzed through one book (Lock In by John Scalzi), have a second one downloaded, and have two holds that should be available in a couple weeks.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg library is substantial, but I hadn’t gotten a library card until finding Libby. It’s one thing to drive all the way to the library, spend forty-five minutes browsing the stacks, check-out with the librarian, and then drive home. It’s another thing entirely to browse through the Libby app and press a button to either borrow or put a hold on an eBook. Plus there’s the whole difference in returning said books. One involves driving back to the library. The other involves opening the app and pressing a button.

I’m not knocking physical libraries at all; there are few things better than meandering through shelves upon shelves of books. It’s just that I don’t have time in my schedule. So Libby lets me borrow library books without the logistics of going to the library.

Do you borrow books from the library? Do you prefer borrowing physical books or eBooks?

Quit Fridging the Girlfriend: The Umbrella Academy

“Fridging”: a trope where a (usually female) character is injured, killed, or otherwise lose their agency as a plot device to further the arc of another (typically male) character.

Since that’s out of the way, let me get to what’s pissed me off this week: The Umbrella Academy. My S.O. was away for the weekend, leaving me ample time to binge-watch season one of Netflix’s superhero show. And the first few episodes showed promise. Not a lot but enough to keep me watching even as it turned into an utter trainwreck.

UA undoubtedly has a number of issues. I could honestly do three or four posts on how the storytelling went to shit. Depending on how well this post satisfies my rage, I very well may write another one.

Anyway, to the point of this post: fridging. (Usual disclaimer of spoilers).

There are at least three instances of fridging in the ten episodes of UA: Patch’s death, Allyson having her throat slit, and Agnes being held hostage. Want to know how many male characters die to further the arcs of female characters? Zero.

Patch’s death becomes Diego’s motivation for going after Cha Cha and Hazel. Never mind the fact that they’re assassins (as his brother, Five, can confirm). And never mind that he’s established early on as a character who goes after criminals and other bad guys. Because those two things aren’t good enough reasons for him to hunt down the pair, but his ex’s death (after she takes his advice to “break the rules”) is.

Allyson nearly dying after Vanya slits her throat not only makes Luther overly protective of his sister-slash-crush but also literally silences her. As in she can’t speak. She can’t  defend Vanya or to talk to her daughter on the phone as the apocalypse looms, and she’s forced to rely on (and defer) to Luther. And Luther manages to trigger the apocalypse.

Then there’s Agnes. Shes such a sweet, albeit cliche character who causes Hazel to turn his back on life as an assassin, and that honestly would’ve been one of the lesser sins (and forgivable) UA committed. But then ChaCha literally ties up Agnes and nearly drowns her in a hot tub. And if that’s not enough, the Handler then holds Agnes hostage until Hazel and ChaCha succeed in their mission of making sure the apocalypse happens on schedule. Would Hazel have become a quasi-good-guy without Agnes? No. But he’s such an interesting character that he should’ve been given another (non-fridging) reason to return to working with ChaCha for a final mission.

The superhero genre has a history of screwing over female characters in order to further the male heroes in their journey or mission or whatever. And in 2019, this shit needs to stop. Guys should be allowed to have motivations other than women and their suffering. Women should be allowed to have their own narratives not tied to a guy’s.

Have you seen The Umbrella Academy? What’s your pet peeve when it comes to storytelling tropes?

Project Adventure: Alpacas

Project Adventure: Visit somewhere new (ideally) once a month.
Adventures completed: 1

I found out about the Carolina Alpaca Celebration through Facebook; one of the local interest pages posted the event info. I’ve become fascinated with fiber-producing animals (alpacas and sheep) as I’ve been knitting more, so I jumped at the chance to see alpacas up close.

The Cabarrus Arena & Events Center is about thirty-minutes from my apartment. It took me about that to get there, and I walked inside and into a massive open room that smelled of hay and manure. The front half contained a handful of vendors dispersed among three rows, and in the back stood a dozen chest-high pens with fans attached to the bars.

The alpacas ranged in color from beige to gray to brown to black and looked like over-sized, super-fluffy stuffed animals. A few of them hummed.

A couple industrial, roll-up doors were partially open, making me regret my decision not to wear a winter coat. The show area, located inside the arena-portion of the building, was slightly warmer. It also housed a handful of adorable baby alpacas.

I took lots of pictures and browsed the vendor booths for the better part of an hour. Long enough to see everything (and to justify the trip up). I bought a ball of alpaca yarn; I haven’t figured out what I’ll make from it though I’m leaning in the direction of fingerless gloves.

What kinds of new places or experiences have you had so far this year? Do you have any planned?

Me with an alpaca

Spring Fever

North Carolina decided to take a break from winter and spend a couple days pretending that it’s spring instead of mid-February. And as a result, I’ve gone into gardening mode. Like buying seeds and fighting the urge to buy potting soil and recognizing that the cold will kill anything I plant but wanting to start gardening anyway.

I’d hoped that going through photos of flowers and the garden from last summer would help take the edge off. And they have, somewhat.

How do you handle these unseasonably warm winter days? Do they leave you with a touch of spring fever?

Permission to Write

This post is just as much for me as for anyone who needs it.

You have permission to write whatever your heart desires.

Write a teenage character that swears, an over-the-top gory death scene, an asshole character with no redeemable qualities. Write and finish a crap story instead of rewriting one sentence over and over with the goal of perfection.

Write the story that scares you most. Write the story that’s just above your skill set. Write the story that isn’t “in” right now. Write the story that you want to see on your bookshelf. Write the story that you want to read.

Writing is work, yes. And there are times when it will feel like work. Keep writing anyway because you’ll hit that breakthrough moment where all this work is worth it.

Keep writing. Write whatever you wan to write, even if it’s rough around the edges or all over. There’ll be time to sand those out in the next draft.

More COOL THINGs at Goodwill

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of shopping at my local Goodwill because I occasionally happen upon COOL THINGs. But luck was on my side this because I found COOL THINGs two Goodwill trips in a row. (I often go three or four trips before something catches my eye).

So who did I come across this time? Well, there was Tommy the Turtle Teapot with his friend, Fishy. Then I spotted the Kitty Triplets who toed the line between cute and creepy. And finally, I saw Mr. Miner chilling in his barrel of what looked like alcoholic Mountain Dew.

I’m curious. Have you found any COOL THINGs while out and about?

COOL THINGs at Goodwill

Goodwill has become my go-to-destination for crafty inspiration. Finding what I’m looking for is a gamble (compared to shopping at Michaels or JoAnn’s Fabric), but I occasionally hit the jackpot and find a COOL THING tucked behind vases or miscellaneous holiday stuff.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my definition of COOL THING is what other people consider CREEPY-A-F. There’s a certain endearing quality to COOL/CREEPY-A-F THINGs. And while space, budget, and a territorial COOL THING already on my shelf limit what comes home with me, I always keep my eye out.

Just this week, I saw a couple COOL THINGs in the holiday section. Mr. Frankie from Target almost came home with me. His ear-to-ear grin with baby vampire teeth just drew me in, and I pictured him on my desk. He’d watch my back while I write. But then I took a look at his eyes. Big, beady eyes that would give me nightmares for the rest of the night if I caught them staring at me in the middle of the night.

Then there was Santa Claus, whose eyes seemed to follow me whenever I walked past. Few things creep me out more than eyes following me. So his ass stayed on the shelf; I didn’t even look at his price-tag.

 

Project Salsa: the Beginning

Growing flowers requires pretty much no preparation. Got seeds? Got soil? Got a pot? Combine and then pop that sucker in sunlight (and remember to water it every couple days,) and it’s good to go.

Growing vegetables is a bit more complicated. At least it is when I’m looking to produce a usable amount of vegetables rather than having the occasional handful of cherry tomatoes to snack on. Vegetables require research and planning. What kinds of plants will do well on my patio? How much space do they need? And how many plants should I plant to get a usable yield (so I can actually make salsa)?

My research has given me an idea of what I should be doing, and I’ve come up with a list of what I want to plant. The next step is figuring out planter sizes and how to best utilize my patio space. Other than the garlic (which probably should’ve been planted in the fall), nothing needs to be planted until late March, which means I have time to figure those things out. And that’s good because I’ll be planting a lot of different seeds.

Here’s a rough list of what I’ll be planting this spring:

  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Carrots
  • Strawberries
  • Pumpkins
  • Watermelon
  • Cantilope
  • Marigolds
  • Red Sunflowers
  • Wildflowers
  • Forget-Me-Nots

And all of that will hopefully fit on my itty, bitty patio. It’s … going to be an adventure.