Daisy is grumpy.

It’s cold outside. Not just cold, but bitter cold. Below zero cold. Nasty wind chill cold. The kind of cold that attracted a hawk to take shelter next to our French doors and eat the sparrow that was its lunch. Well, this happened a few years ago, but it was that kind of cold.

I’m privileged enough to be able to stay home and wrap up in a blanket and wear fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm. The cold weather shouldn’t make me grumpy, but it does. If I wanted to go anywhere, I’d be miserable.

With grumpy comes impatient. Amigo and Chuck are pushing my buttons constantly. I am normally a patient person, but I’m running out of patience. Have some courtesy, guys! We’re stuck inside and can’t leave each other alone, so be nice, alright? Okay?

I’ve decided that a gin and tonic along with cheese and crackers might help. And I might go hide in a corner of the bedroom and look for old episodes of Homestead Rescue.

The other option is to go down the basement and start a few seedlings. No, that won’t work because it requires going out to the garage to get potting soil and small pots. It’s cold, very cold, outside.

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When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Grow Vegetables.

Not my original, I confess. I saw this on social media and said, “That’s me!” Life around me and around the world gets crazier and crazier, and what do I do? I buy seeds. I set up a spot in the basement for starting seedlings. I rearrange the living room furniture to maximize sun exposure and find the grow lights, too.

I can’t stop Russia from invading Ukraine. I can’t stop Kevin McCarthy from giving in to his party extremists. I can’t stop George Santos from cheating and lying – and voters from believing his statements. I can, however, feed my family.

Last year’s garden was meager. We had several setbacks. Foot surgery (twice!) put me in a bad spot. Chuck tried to take over the unplanted section with a three sisters plot, and then the neighborhood deer took over from him. No corn, only one squash, and we relied on the farmers’ market for beans.

I plan to plant marigolds instead of morning glories along the garage. Hopefully, the marigolds will be less appetizing to the deer. Chuck and I are working on plans for a higher fence, too. The challenge will be building the fence in such a way that it doesn’t block the sun. We’re brainstorming ideas.

I can’t stop the roller coaster that is gas prices. I can drive my hybrid car and use less fuel. I can’t stop the clueless conservatives in my state legislature from introducing misogynist bills, but I can vote for a governor who will exercise his veto power. I may not be able to change the world, but I can take action by sending postcards and by writing my (thankfully) progressive state assembly representative.

And when the going gets tough, I can grow vegetables.

 

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Pizza, Always Pizza

We have a fun tradition in our home related to following our favorite NFL football team. We eat the opponent. Each week during the football season, we check our Green Bay Packers schedule, find out who our Packers will play, and then choose a signature food from the opponent’s home city.

In a discussion completely unrelated to the NFL, more along the lines of Hey, Honey, What’s for Supper, we realized that pizza fills our needs for several of the Packers’ regular opponents. Detroit style pizza – from Jett’s, of course – is our go-to for eating the Detroit Lions. We’ve had Chicago style pizza for the Bears, Cowboy pizza for, well, you know, and occasionally even New York style pizza for the Giants or the Jets. Chicago style and Cowboy pizza both come from one of my other favorite sources, Papa Murphy’s. Do they have a pizza we could call New York style? I may need to look through the menu again the next time our Packers play a team from New York.

We do have other options, including molasses cookies for Detroit and steaks for the Cowboys. Since the Jets and Giants actually play their games in New Jersey, we’ve been known to get Jersey bagels for those occasions, too. But it’s nice that we can fall back on pizza for just about anyone our team may face. Pizza is always welcome on my table.

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Typical Autumn Day – almost

It’s a typical fall day at the O.K. Chorale. Mostly typical, that is. Temperatures were warm – reached 70 this afternoon! – so we raked and mowed and swept leaves. I did look up at the neighbor’s maple and think “We’re not done yet,” but it still felt good to get a lot of this chore out of the way. We dumped some of our leaves on the pile in the street for the public works department to pick up, and we dumped a few tarps full in the garden to insulate the soil for the winter.

The not-so-typical piece? It’s November. We haven’t had a true killing frost or major overnight freeze yet. I’ve been turning the heat off by day because it’s plenty warm without it. And we wonder – is this our new normal?

Halloween was a wonderfully warm evening for trick-or-treat. Amigo sat on the front porch and handed out candy for most of the four hours. He’s very friendly, and he enjoys interacting with everyone who comes along and says “Trick or Treat!”

The local college sent out students, mainly student athletes, to collect for a food drive. Soccer players stopped at our house. We introduced ourselves as alumni, gathered a few boxes and cans, and handed them a few extra bags in the hopes that they’d be able to fill them.

After a successful Halloween night, one in which we did not run out of candy, I took a look at the leftovers. To me, the bowl of tiny peanut butter cups shouted, “Cookies!” Oatmeal cookies, to be exact, but with chopped peanut butter cups instead of chocolate chips or raisins.

Perfect. An unseasonably warm day, followed by cookies made from leftover candy. Readers, how is your weather? Are you concerned about climate change, too? And what did you do with your leftover candy?

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Drought?

You may have heard how to recognize a happy gardener: they’re the ones who see the rain barrels as half full instead of half empty.

Mine, all three of them, are empty. Empty. Chuck is in charge of watering everything right now, and he told me not to even ask until we have another storm. There is no more rain water left.

My little valley in the Midwest has been part of a trend for a few years now. The “severe” weather, major rain or snow, veers around us. We’ll look at the forecast and the radar and say, “Oh! Oh! We might get some of that!” and then Nope. All the precipitation will sweep to the north or the south, and we’ll be standing outside next to our empty rain barrels looking at the sky and pleading for a few drops.

I guess it really is drought weather.

Fortunately, we’re city dwellers, so we have city water. It’s treated and it’ll cost a few pennies, but we’re not limited in the amount we use. Here in the Great Lakes basin, water is plentiful and costs very little. Dry period or not, we’ll be okay.

Readers, let me know. How is your water situation? Are you flooded? Evacuating from wildfires? I hope everyone is safe and has enough to drink.

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My Garden Misses Me.

Chuck, dear sweet husband that he is, came in the other day and told me, “Your garden misses you.”

Back story: I’m recovering from surgery to straighten a big toe. Bunionectomy, it’s called. The stitches came out two days ago, and now I can focus on letting the bone heal. I’ll see the doctor again in a month. Until then, I’m stuck wearing the Incredible Protective Boot, a.k.a. Stupid Boot.

Back to the garden conversation. I only planted half of the garden last May because I knew I wouldn’t be able to work it very much. Chuck said, bravely, “I’ll plant the rest.” And he did.

He might not have realized at the time that he’d also be responsible for maintaining “my” sections as well. When he told me the garden missed me, he mentioned long branches on the tomato plants that I would certainly have tied up or guided into the spiral tomato supports. There are weeds, too. I put down barriers of corrugated cardboard and shredded paper, but a few brave stalks have found ways to sneak in. The clover, for example, stands almost as tall as the dill. A few dill plants are approaching sunflower height.

I cut him some slack in the watering task. He’s using a sprinkler to water the main patch, and using the rain barrel water to water container like the citronella and lemongrass.

I stood outside the chicken wire yesterday and threaded some tomatoes through the supports or through other branches for support. My garden misses me, and I miss it, too. Meanwhile, I’ll sit outside on the deck and watch it grow while my foot heals.

 

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Drumroll – Canning Begins!

It’s not a typical canning season – or a purely typical farmers’ market season – or even a typical garden season here at the O.K. Chorale. I’m in the middle of a Foot Surgery Summer, and that makes a difference everywhere.

I decided not to plant the whole garden plot, so Chuck decided he would put in a three sisters garden in the places I left open. Then he decided we usually have more than enough beans, so his part of the garden became two sisters: corn and squash.

I worry about being out of commission when the major tomato season arrives, so I actually started early. I made and canned barbecue sauce this week, and Chuck applied it to grilled chicken right away.

I also canned three bean salad. We still had yellow and green beans in the freezer, and fresh beans will show up at the market soon, so I pulled out my recipe file and made three bean salad, enough to last months. That’s the goal of summer canning, right? Make enough to feed the family for a length of time.

With Chuck’s help, I prepared some incredibly delicious strawberries for the freezer. That’s another task that may fall through the cracks as my foot puts me down: filling the freezer.

Then again, Chuck is stepping up to the plate, er, the counter and putting in time on the canning front. Footwork or not, we’ll feed the family. The pantry will be filled.

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Pistachio Pudding to the Rescue!

Chuck had a dream last night. I won’t analyze it, although I’m sure it has some parallels. The highlights are these:

We lived in a cramped place, and we were in a situation with a lot of anxiety. Chuck was working in the kitchen, I was struggling to get a box of something from the basement, and Amigo, just a toddler, played on the kitchen floor.¬† (La Petite didn’t make an appearance. Maybe she was at school.) When Amigo was young, he sensed anxiety and reacted to it in his own toddler-on-the-spectrum way. Chuck and Amigo collided, Amigo fell to pieces in a total meltdown. Chuck knew that the only thing to combat this meltdown was — pistachio pudding.

Long story short, he made pistachio pudding, put the toddler in the high chair, and all was well. Messy, but calm.

When Chuck woke up this morning, he came downstairs and made pistachio pudding. Inspired by his dream solution, he wanted to have pistachio pudding with lunch. It wasn’t that easy, though. Monday is typically our grocery shopping day, and our supply of milk was low.

Enter Daisy the Doomsday Prepper’s stockpile of sorts: dry milk! I had some! I only use it for baking bread and occasionally making oatmeal, so of course we had plenty in the cupboard. Chuck read the directions on the package, mixed up two cups of milk, and made pistachio pudding.

Amigo thought the dream was hilarious, and he could picture himself playing on the kitchen floor in our old tiny duplex. Pistachio pudding was a hit with lunch, and we continued on with the day. Chuck and Amigo grabbed the peanut butter jar to return (that’s a whole different story, and you probably know the background, readers), and headed off to shop for groceries.

Readers, has a dream ever inspired you? Serious or wacky, tell us!

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Restless

I’m supposed to be sitting still, off my feet, elevating the left foot, and doing little or nothing. It’s not working. I’m restless. Very restless.

I should offer the back story. I’m approaching surgery on the big toe of my left foot. I had bunion repair done on this toe 22 years ago, with mixed but mostly good results. The toe eventually started leaning again, and I visited the podiatrist. Long story shortened: in order to redo the bunion repair, she first had to remove the hardware (one tiny screw!) placed in the bone 22 years ago.

The hardware removal took place last week. Since then, I’ve been limiting motion, elevating the foot, wearing a massive bandage and a post-surgical “boot”. I detest these boots, by the way. This is a small one, ankle height, so it’s a little less irritating than the bigger version I dubbed Stupid Boot a few years ago. I’ll take that as a positive.

Tomorrow I see the doctor for a post-op appointment. She’ll look over the incision, take out the stitches, and hopefully tell me all is well. Given 6-8 weeks for healing, I’ll head back into surgery to fix the toe. Hopefully, it will last at least another 22 years.

Meanwhile, Chuck has taken over the kitchen. He’s handled cooking, dishes, clean-up, and the works. If I try to help, he tells me to sit down.

Meanwhile, I can’t work in the garden. Doctor Feet is also a gardener, and she pointed out a few cautions for this year. No root crops, she said. While the toe heals, you won’t want to squat. I managed to get the tomatoes planted pre-surgery, and now I just need to keep them watered. Chuck has to help with that, too.

Meanwhile, I’m stuck on the couch much of the day. And I’m restless. I hope that’s a sign of healing. I want to get the garden watered and can some more broth, but it’s not likely in the next few days. I guess I’ll wait until I heal enough for shoes.

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Taking the Day Off Post-Show

Chuck came downstairs today and asked/announced, “Can I take the day off?”¬†Amigo did almost the same thing an hour later. Why? you might ask. Day off from what? would be a good question, too.

Yesterday was the Big Spring Show for Amigo’s barbershop chorus. This Spring Show was bigger than most because, well, pandemic. This was the first actual Spring Show since 2019, so it was special. Important. Exciting. Insert any comparable adjective here, and it’ll fit just fine.

These guys, like many of us, suffered through massive cancellations in 2020. They had to cancel a show, cancel rehearsals, and lost a major fundraiser as well. Singing, you see, can be a super spreader event. A show in theater that seats 700 was out of the question. Eventually the directors consulted their college-age daughter who guided them in the process of Zoom rehearsals, which led to in person sectionals (masked), and finally in-person rehearsals.

You can read between the lines: this year’s spring show was a Big Deal. A really, really, Major Big Deal.

In a typical week, Amigo had rehearsals every Tuesday. Chuck usually drove him to rehearsal and stayed to help out if he was needed. The week leading up to the show was bigger and busier. Tuesday’s rehearsal was a tech rehearsal. Chuck, former broadcast engineer, always helped out with audio and microphone cues. In addition, the two actors who carried out the story line between songs couldn’t make it for tech rehearsal, so Chuck and Yours Truly played their parts. Fun, yes, but it was a late night and a tiring evening full of details.

The usual Friday night dress rehearsal included the regular actors, thank goodness. Chuck still helped the tech crew, but I was able to stay home and clean the kitchen (hahaha) and make fresh ice cream (yay!).

All things considered, by the time the show was done, all three of us were thrilled and happy and wiped out.

We were thrilled to be back into show mode, performing in person for an actual audience. We were happy to be perform and socialize with the rest of the chorus. We were happy to bring Petunia and Robin and even La Petite and her sweetheart to the concert. And after coordinating all of this and enjoying the show, we were tired. Very, very tired.

Really, folks, this is the best kind of wiped out tired there is. Covid19 isn’t gone yet, but numbers were low enough to allow a performance with audience. The emotional high from this day will be with us for a while. Meanwhile, I think we’ll all three take a day off.

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