garden

The Unexpected Pumpkins

Tomato plant with unexpected pumpkin sprouts

So, this (in above picture) happened a few days ago. My first thought was that maybe it was zucchini from the compost. Then my husband pointed out it was probably pumpkin, and I realized he was right.

What happened:

We didn’t make jack-o-lanterns last year because of Covid. One of the two years before that we bought pumpkins, but never got around to actually carving them. The kids might have painted them, I don’t really remember. Either way, we set them next to the house in a small strip of rocks and dirt about a foot and a half wide that runs between the house and the sidewalk up to the front door. That area had at one time been covered with decorative rocks but over time they had thinned out and it was part rocks, part dirt.

Then we just left pumpkins sitting there. then they started decaying and we thought, “We should throw those out.” But didn’t do it right then. As you can imagine, it didn’t get better over time. A week later we were deliberately leaving it alone because it was a gooey mess no one wanted to touch, and over more time it was basically dirt and seeds. And it stayed that way. For years. Until I decided to use some of the ground to plant things in, cleaning up the rocks and putting down new potting soil. I didn’t bother to pick up all of the many many dozens of seeds because they had been sitting out in the sun and rain and dirt for years. Surely, if they were going to grow they would have already done so, yes? Apparently no.

A week or two after planting a little tomato seedling there, the above picture happened. Yesterday I dug the sprouts up and moved them into little pots. There were even more sprouts under the soil that had small yellow leaves and hadn’t made it to the surface (I’d added many inches of soil on top of them), so I repotted them too. I moved one a little further down past the tomato plant to an open area, and a couple over to the space where I had hoped to grow grapes. The dormant grape stick has been there over two months now with no sign of life so we are pretty well given up on it now. Any of the seedlings in the post that survives my transplanting process I will find good homes for.

In other gardening news, the sunflowers are growing amazingly well, and I can’t wait to see flowers:

Mammoth sunflowers growing! (and a dormant grape vine that isn’t).
Uncategorized

Writing and the Day Job

Many years ago I did something that I thought wouldn’t work, but has turned into something kinda great, and I wanted to tell this story so others might be able to use it. I was into writing as a serious hobby and was always thinking about it. One year, at my annual review at work I asked it I could start a staff newsletter. They said sure. Now it was only a couple extra hours a month, but it was regular paid writing and it felt wonderful.

Sometimes I really have a hard time coming up with new, interesting things to write about, and I’ll try to talk to management to see if there are topics they want me to cover, but generally I’m left alone to do what I want with it. I interview new employees to get to know them better. Run little surveys and make games out of the answers people send me. Try to throw in current news of the industry. And in the last couple years I’ve asked for book and TV show recommendations from the staff and include one a month of each.

Since I don’t get much feedback about what’s working and what isn’t, other than everyone telling me it’s great (I work with the sweetest bunch of folks!) I have lately just decided to keep myself entertained, and if I’m getting bored, then it’s time to change things.

So two months ago I decided to add a little fiction into the mix for fun. We have a hospital cat, and since we’ve been closed to the public and only doing curbside appointments she has been allowed to wander and have the run of the front office. I thought a fictionalized story of her imaginary adventure would be fun to write. This has been a huge hit with the rest of the staff. Last month, to encourage feedback, I decided to make it a choose your own adventure story and gave two options about what she would do next. I thought one choice was the obvious, fun choice so I already mentally planned out how that would roll into the next installment for this month and was kinda excited about it. Obviously, you know that means that the survey came back with 100% of responses choosing the other option. That’ll teach me to plan ahead.

The hospital owner enjoying what I’ve done has also led to me doing more writing. I did a press release when we moved into a new location and I’ve done some blog posts for the website and have been asked to do more. My biggest challenge now is myself. I get to do this writing work at home and I’m not as organized with my time as I need to be. I’ve set myself a time schedule and so far so good. I don’t always hit my goals but I’m doing much better than when I didn’t make any goals at all and would stay up into the wee hours to finish a newsletter before the end of the month. That wasn’t healthy for me and it didn’t produce my best work. This is an ever evolving place for me and if I come up with any wonderful productivity or time management tips, I will be sure to share.

I mainly wanted the throw this idea out there to other writers. I’ve learned that most other people hate to write. It’s a weird idea to me, but it’s true. If you love it, and offer to do it, people just might take you up on it.

Now to figure out how to continue that cat story. . .

crafty things · crochet

March Temperature Blanket

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March 2021 Temperature Blanket

Took this photo outside so the sunlight is making it hard to see the pink at the top. Defiantly getting into more pink and green. I had planned on predicting that I might be done with the grey categories all together until winter, but then yesterday dipped into the light grey range. So I’ll predict we’re done with dark grey until winter. Ha.

The full blanket is getting a little big to take with me places. I like to bring it to my daughter’s violin lesson. Even though I wait in the car now to minimize people near each other, I can still hear her play and it’s nice to crochet and enjoy pretty violin music and relax. It will soon become a sitting at home project and I hope I keep up with it. Although I’ve kept up for 3 months now, so I’m doing really well.

A quickie measurement at the end of March puts the length at 19 inches. Times 4 that brings me to 76 inches, but since Feb is so short, maybe I can expect to land somewhere near the 80 inch mark for a final length. I’m happy with that outcome so I’m going to be happy with the choice to go with the small moss stitch for this project. I will be putting a boarder of some type on at the end which will add some as well, and how much more I want to add will help me choose what boarder I want to use when I get there.

Onto April!

cats

Meeko enjoying the Springtime

Meeko enjoying the springtime

For some time (years?) we’ve been trying to leash train Panther because she was young and we thought that would work best. She has remained skittish and unhappy on leash no matter how many reassuring pets and treats she gets. While decluttering I stumbled onto a larger harness I’d forgotten we had. Wouldn’t it be funny we said to each other if we took Meeko out to the back yard as well.

Turns out the joke was on us. He loves it. He rolls around and soaks up the sun and he actually hissed at my daughter when she tried to bring him back inside. While that kind of sass wasn’t and won’t be tolerated, I’ve taken him out several more times to sit with me as I write or crochet in the afternoons. Who knew the old man would like it so much. Even big truck driving past the wall that separates our patio from the stores on the other side didn’t bother him. A dart toward a passing squirrel just means he won’t ever be trusted off leash. We adopted him from the pound at 8 months old and he’s turning 10 this year. He has been indoors all that time. There might be a reason that saying wasn’t about teaching things to old cats.

writing

Finished a Short story. Now what?

I had an almost finished short story for several months now. At last I got over my procrastination, finished my edits and gave it to my husband who is my alpha reader. He gives useful feedback and the stories he likes the most are the stories I’ve been able to sell, so he has good taste too.

The ‘Now what?” in the title is about critique groups for writers. I am a member of a couple, and I’ve given critiques. I enjoy doing it and like what I get to read more than not, but I’ve never submitted my own story for feedback. I wonder if I should. There is lots of contradictory advice on this topic (or on all writing related topics perhaps?) out there in the web spaces. Some writers say critique from other writers is a must, others say no, it’s a waste of time, just do your best and submit and keep going. I imagine that it depends. Doesn’t everything? I can completely see how a really good critique group could be super helpful, and a bad one would be worse than no critique group. That doesn’t help me decide if I want to trust my story to a group yet.

Obviously, I don’t love rejection, but so far the rejection letters I’ve received, even the form ones are mostly kind. I don’t think editors like being cruel in general. And I get that even good stories can be hard to place because there are more good stories written than there are places to print them. So just sending the stories out and getting rejections is something I’ve learned to handle. Yet the idea of someone I don’t know, or don’t know well picking apart my story in detail to my face, even if they’re nice about it, horrifies me. Is this something I need to get over, or is it something I can just skip without worrying overmuch about it?

I will stay a member of these group because the process of critiquing other’s work helps me think about a story and what helps it work, so It’s good for me. Plus, as I said before, I’ve gotten to read some gems either before they’re published, or that no one else has gotten to read at all. For now though, I think I’ll just keep going with my process. If I feel a story is ready, I’ll send it out to markets. Maybe when I have a story that I feel isn’t quite working but I don’t know why, or one that can’t seem to find a home when I send it out – maybe those are the stories that need to go to a critique group.

Other writers out there. Do you use a critique group? If so, do you send them everything, or do you have another system for what you share?

garden

I now know – It’s Cauliflower

Cauliflower from my garden

So at least one of the mystery plants in my garden has declared itself in a way I understand. It have three cauliflower plants, which means, have no broccoli. Kinda bummed because i like broccoli better, but I’m also super excited to see this happening. I’ve looked up a bunch of explanations of how to know when to harvest, so I hope I’m ready to make the right call on that when the time comes.

I checked my garden journal, and I planted these seeds on October 29th, so that’s how long it took from seed to now (not quite harvest time, but soon).

More growth has also make me more confident that the mystery herb is in fact lemon balm. I need some more of my other tea herbs to get bigger so I can make myself a tea blend. That will be fun.

And while I was briefly afraid my blueberry plant was dying this past winter, I think it’s actually okay. Not much new leaf growth, (a very little, but not much) but it is making flowers like a powerhouse right now.

Blueberry flowers in my garden

Humm. . . . blueberries could be part of my tea too. . . .

crafty things · crochet

February Temperature Blanket

Kara’s 2021 Temperature blanket – February section

So, not as much temperature variety this month is seems. A couple of warm days there at the top in light green and pink, otherwise we stayed in the light grey and dark green ranges. It has been beautiful out and I’ve worked a lot in the garden.

However, I’m nervous how little rain we’ve gotten. It should rain all of February. It didn’t. Barely any rain at all. Makes me afraid for the summer fire danger if we are starting off with things this dry months earlier than normal. My kids sometimes don’t even say summer, they say ‘fire season’. It’s sad.

Please, cold and rain – come play. We love pretty springtime, but we need you!

books · writing

Story Sale

My quest to start sending more stories out has reaped it’s first victory. My short story “Eye of the Beholder” will appear later this year at Zooscape Zine. I’m so glad this story turned out to be a good fit for them because I’ve been reading over there a bunch lately, and love the animal and fantastical vibe of it all. Go check it out, and don’t worry, I will definitely be reminding you when my story goes live there later in the year.

This is my first reprint sale, and I posted back in January on Submitting Again that I had just had a light dawn that my older stories were available for the reprint market, and I was going to give it a shot. After getting a few stories out there, I had hoped that I would stress about hearing back for each one a little less. Like the stress would dilute somehow. That isn’t how it turned out, but I do have to say that a single acceptance does help take the sting out of other past rejections and gave me renewed vigor to write new words too.

garden

Lessons from My Container Garden

What I think is either broccoli or cauliflower

The number one lesson I have learned the past couple of months in my garden is to label my seed trays. I figured I was only planting a few different things, and I’d be able to tell what they were when they sprouted, so it was fine.

Narrator: It was not

I now have several nice little seedlings that I can’t identify. And I have bigger plants from earlier, like those pictured above, that I STILL can’t identify. I planted both broccoli and cauliflower. When I google what the plants should look like, they look pretty much the same. So I guess until these start to flower, I won’t know which I have. Maybe I have both? that would be cool, but I doubt it. The plants all look identical and I’d expect at least a little variation if they were different.

For a month or so I thought I had several mint plants coming along nicely from seed. Now that they’re a little bigger, I think I have no mint plants, and in fact I have several sage seedlings. They smell much more like sage than mint to me anyway. That’s great. I’ve never been able to keep my sage alive when I bought a plant from the home improvement store, so that’s why I thought these were mint. I read that mint is super easy to grow. Perhaps sage just likes it better outside than in my kitchen window? Either way, I now need to try again to get some mint started.

What I am 90% sure is a sage seedling

I did luck out that both my spinach and kale came up and they look nothing alike, so I know which is which. So maybe I can get away with no labels as long as it’s a plant I know I can identify and I have grown it before. Everything else – I must learn to label.

Spinach and kale

For Christmas, my daughter got me a set of herbal tea seeds, and – you guessed it – I planted a bunch without labeling them. Most are still super tiny and I’m (perhaps mistakenly) optimistic I will eventually be able to identify them when they get some more leaves in. However, the one below is nice and big now and I don’t know what it is. It doesn’t look like the photo on any of my seed packets. It is closest to the lemon balm, so I’m going with that for now, but the leaves look rounder on my plant than the seed pack picture. If anyone is good at identifying plants, I wouldn’t mind your guesses in the comment section.

Maybe lemon balm, but who really knows? Mint? Marjoram? Ack.

Perhaps I am very carefully tending a weed for all I know.