Project Salsa: Preparation, Strawberries & Daffodils

Warm weather during the day makes me itch to press my fingers into the soil and rip open seed packets and sew specks that’ll grow into flowers and vegetables. But it’s still spring yet not quite SPRING, so the temperature drops low once the sun goes down. I have a couple seeds that’ll probably do okay, but I’d rather plant everything all at once.In the meantime, I’m preparing everything. Buying buckets. Making drainage holes in the buckets. Buying and organizing seeds. Planning out the garden layout. Buying (hopefully) enough garden soil.

During my latest trip to Lowes, when I was shopping for garden soil, I wandered through the aisles of started-plants: the herbs, the blueberries, the fruit trees, and such. I start my plants from seed since it’s cheaper to buy a packet of seeds than three or four actual plants. However I’m doing strawberries this year and starting them from seeds isn’t on the agenda. I’m sure strawberries are no different than planting tomatoes or cucumbers from seeds; I just want this year’s garden to go well. It’s my first attempt at growing a usable amount of food (not just snacking on tomatoes here and there), and I’d like to minimize the what can go wrong part of the equation the best that I can.

Strawberries grew behind my parents’ house in Massachusetts. They received pretty much no care as far as I remember and survived multiple New England winters and then produced crops of strawberries. We never got the chance to eat them, though. The neighborhood rabbits chowed down on them first.I picked up four strawberry plants from the shelf at Lowes before heading inside the Garden Center to pick up soil and two more packets of seeds.

On my way to checkout, I spotted small, gorgeous daffodils and couldn’t leave them behind. I’m going to figure out how to harvest the bulbs in order to plant them again next year.Now that everything is home and prepped for planting, it’s a waiting game until the weather turns for good.Are you gardening this year? Have you started growing seeds inside or are you waiting for warmer weather? Let me know in the comments.

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

Project Serial: First Draft

I’ve been working on the short story for what I’m dubbing Project Serial since the beginning of December, kind of sorta intending for it to be a serial and having in the back of my mind that I might one day post it on this blog. And I probably would still be tinkering on it with a few words here and a few words there until summer. But Project Serial gives me a deadline. More or less.

Apparently even a more or less deadline motivated me enough to get me to where I’m DONE with the first draft. Not DONE as in I’ve written The End; DONE in that I finally figured how I want the story to go and am ready to start revising so it starts looking like the one in my head.

Which is a good thing. It leaves me the position of having to throw out an entire plot-line; I’ll be able to reuse descriptions and hopefully a character. Focusing on only one plot gives me the opportunity to expand on the characters and hopefully make the whole thing scarier. I’m excited.

So what’s this story actually about? It’s a about teenage paranormal investigators and a cave with a creepy history. The placeholder title is Cedar Creek Cavern. I’m aiming to start posting  in June.

How do you feel about serial fiction? Are you a fan? Or do you prefer the opportunity to read the whole story at once?

Project Quilt: Two Steps Forward & One Step Back

Quilting is like any other big project: you really should prepare before jumping in with both feet. That means buying and preparing the fabric, learning to use my sewing machine, figuring out the parts of a quilt and how to put one together. (And holy crap, putting together even a throw-size quilt is going to be a project and a half.)

Since this is my first quilt project ever, I decided not to spend a lot of money on fabric. A yard of fabric at a craft store is at least $7; meanwhile, I can pick up a set of three sheets for no more than $10 at Goodwill. And those three sheets will be more than enough for the majority of the quilt. I may need a couple pillowcases or another sheet eventually, but those are easy enough to pick up.

Learning how to assemble a quilt has been eye-opening. On some level, I recognized that quilting is a project. However the realization of having to cut HOW MANY squares and all the measuring and probably getting stabbed with LOTS of pins hit me hard. I’m still going to make this quilt. I’m actually glad that I know how much work will be involved, so I won’t become disheartened when I’m not making progress as quickly as I’d like.

Everything seemed to be progressing apace. I even pulled the sewing machine off the shelf in my closet, chiseled the Styrofoam off it, and poured over the instructions (which made close to no sense). A couple YouTube videos later, and I successfully threaded the needle and the bobbin. I even used it to sew a pair of rice-filled ice packs. Then I decided to make a pair of handkerchiefs. I pinned the seams in place rather than iron them flat, and the needle on the machine hit the head of a pin and that little plastic pinhead bent the needle. I’m still not even sure how plastic won i that battle.

I replaced the needle but couldn’t pick up the bobbin thread. So the sewing machine is sitting in my living room until I have the time to re-thread the machine with hopefully better thread tension (because I heard that might fix it?). Until I figure that out, this project isn’t exactly on hold. I can still measure and cut fabric squares; I can figure out how the pattern should look. The pause button has just been hit on assembling everything.

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.