Hours in an Offhand Way

My raised garden bed has not been a source of unmitigated good news. Because it is four feet wide and I am a very small large mammal, reaching into the middle of a bed I can’t step on is a dicey proposition. More than a few backaches dampened my enthusiasm as recently as last weekend, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Two weeks ago, Central New Jersey had a crushing snowstorm that took down trees everywhere. I had an idea. It was a very old idea I’d come to on my own. It’s called hugelkultur, and the principle is to use what is on hand to solve problems.

Sunday, I dragged my little red wagon to the corner and turned left. Between two birch trees, I found a metric buttload of small branches. My neighbors watched from behind curtains as I filled and overfilled the wagon with branches and sticks. Don’t worry. When I see them do sketchy shit, I don’t make eye contact either.

Debris is your friend.

The raised bed, viewed with my back to the house, in the first stage of reshaping the surface.

Pete and I drove out to the feed store, where baby chicks distracted me from my worries and I spent a zany amount of dosh on seeds. Note to self: YOU ARE DONE WITH THAT. Anyhoo: we were driving around and broken branches everywhere frustrated me because I can’t operate a chainsaw and Pete says I’d be a total menace with a Sawzall. Which is true, and mostly to myself. Maybe. But Pete also said that right in front of our house, down a cross street, a fallen tree I’d reported to police might solve problems, but first, we both needed sandwiches and a time out because we were both grrr grrr bad kids.

This may be a thing where you live or not, but maybe where you live, jerks call the cops on Black teens who take pictures on their way home from high school. That’s happening in my tiny town. There’s no excuse for it. In fact, cops should call themselves on kids¬†not taking pictures of every little thing and give themselves a stern talking-to about being the goddamn adults. Since I am what passes for an adult, I ate a sandwich and walked my red wagon down to the fallen tree with my pruning shears. I filled and overfilled the little red wagon with branches and sticks. Twice, I walked down my street three or four houses and filled the wagon again. All of this debris was collected within 100 feet of my house. The last time I went out, I saw a man in a car spy me from a distance and slow down, because no one expects to find a grandmother with a red wagon and pruning shears on his front lawn. He drew closer, then darted down the driveway I was not blocking, and stole into his own house. After that, I waited for the police, who did not, somehow, come.

The first step of hugelkultur is to create a spine of logs, branches and sticks. This is the first step of the first step. As soon as the snowpocalypse we expect tonight and tomorrow thaw and fade from memory, I will collect more branches and sticks to build this spine higher and wider. This is going to give me a backache. I should stock up on Aleve.

Seriously, I don't have the teeth for this.

The same garden bed viewed from the opposite corner. Not pictured: beavers. Not at all.

After I collect more branches and sticks, the next step is to cover it liberally with rich organic soil. It’s going to compact as the branches decay and enrich the soil. If I play my cards right, I will gain two square feet of planting space the length of my raised bed. The trick is to at this point make the spine high enough to prevent future backaches.

Note to self: buy a lot of Aleve.



My Armor Is Destroyed

Deep breaths...deep breaths...

This week, I went to training seminar so difficult and upsetting the trainer switched to pictures of an adorable puppy when trainees got pissed off. Punchline: I was not invited to this seminar or sent there. I crashed this party. And good thing I did, because if I didn’t know what was coming and six weeks from now this bullshit came as an awful surprise, I’d be in handcuffs in short order. So this was a good thing. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Yesterday She Joined the Line

It's later than you think, and where are my keys?

Tick tock, tick tock.

Lately, I feel like I get to the end of the day and wonder where the freaking time went. Did I blog? Did I make cat blankets? Did I finally make an appointment with a dentist? Maybe, maybe not. Did I place a grocery order or call my congresscritters? Did I spend enough time with each cat and all the chickens? Did I turn the composter or read a book? Take pictures for the blog or make my breakfast for tomorrow morning? I have so many questions. As I write, Wednesday snores at my right and Drusy is trying to crawl under my laptop. My left ankle is mildly sprained for the hundredth time and it’s no big deal. My job is full of weird palace intrigue, uncertainty and people I love. Two of my closest friends are ill and if my wits had an end, I’d be a mile past that with my thumb out, hoping to hitch a ride home.

It’s time for something different. A change of seasons, a change in the garden, in the animals, in me. I don’t know what will happen. For once, that’s kind of cool.


Expert Texpert Choking Smoker Don’t

Today, lots of people are making Seven Layer Dip for a party celebrating a televised spectacle in which enormous grown men beat the crap out of each other and smaller white guys make a mint. Between the misogyny and the dripping testosterone, it’s bad news for women all around, but that’s nothing new. You know what is new? I’m physically able to do stuff all day again.

Come here often, sailor?

We can’t keep meeting like this.

Perhaps you remember that five years ago, I had hip replacement surgery and made recovering from it my job. I ate with healing in mind. I exercised and did physical therapy with great seriousness while telling jokes for months on end. And then, two years later, I did it again. The physical therapy place should have a wing with my name on it. I felt a million percent better and have gone on with life as if none of that ever happened. Sometimes I forget how limited my life had become, how dealing with pain sapped my energy and strength, how few things I could do in a day because arthritis in my hips made sitting, standing, lying down or anything in between exhausting.

Perhaps you remember my grandson Panky is whip-smart. He has not had it easy with school systems designed to push ordinary kids to graduation day and administrators who are scared of smart kids. One day it dawned on me he should spend time with the smartest kids and adults used to the quirkiness of smart kids. He should go to space camp. Once I thought of it, I began scheming about how I could make that happen.

I would need a part-time job. Then one came to me: the bagel place in which Pete works three days a week needed someone to bake cookies and cakes, mix compound cream cheeses and generally clean for 4.5 hours on Saturdays. I started work five weeks ago. At first, I moved through what I had to do, didn’t think much about it and suddenly, I’d been on my feet for five hours. Five hours! I didn’t know I could do that. And then I did it again the next weekend and the next.

The new, the old, the perennial.

So many intersections, so few red lights.

Apparently, I can do that now! But this weekend, I did a few different things. On Friday, I set up croissant dough, because I can! Yesterday, I did the complicated rolling and folding after working at the bagel place. I smoked eggplants in the backyard smoker. Today, Pete and I rolled out and folded pain au chocolat. I whipped up baba ghanouj. We baked off the best pain au chocolat of our illustrious careers, which is to say the last year. This afternoon, Pete and I made breakfast sausage from scratch and stuffed it into natural casings. You should see me standing atop a kitchen ladder, stuffing raw pork into a hopper. Ridiculous! But, even a year ago, I couldn’t have done all this in one day, even with good planning.

Progress in life takes different forms. In my case, progress takes the form of cookies and sausage and space camp. Five years ago, I could not have imagined it.