email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Monday, February 28, 2011

Various Stuff...

I help the cats blog so much I start to lose track of my own stuff at times.  So it is time to catch up a bit.

It is time to start my garden veggie seeds.  The basement is, quite frankly, a mess!  All Winter long, I just kept "doing things" and never mind the clutter.  There was always time to arrange things for the early seed plantings.  LOL, guess what time passed?  Yeah, it is time to plant seeds and I am SO unready for it.

Grandiose plans for better seed/light planting shelves are now forgotten and I have to make do with the old structures.  I have almost no southern light to help the plants, so I depend on fluorescent bulbs.  Even the best ones are inherently weaker than real sunlight.  I had thought to widen the shelves to increase the 2 bulbs to 4.  I had thought I might add mirrors behind the shelves and in front to increase the reflected light.  But I didn't.

So, what I did today was the best I could.  I cleaned and reorganized enough space in the basement to collect all my gardening seed-starting materials into one place.  I was actually leased with the results, though it is not worth a picture.  If you want to picture it, just imagine a workbench with 10 sq ft empty space where there was none yesterday.  :)

Well, at least I have THAT!  And I sorted through my various bags of soil amendments to see what I had for a good seed starter blend.  The local garden centers don't even have sterile soil-less mixes available yet.  I am thrilled to see that I do have vermiculite, milled peat moss, fine sand, and some sterilized loam left over from last year.  At least that will get me started!


On other news, Marley the cat is getting used to the new home.  He is the fastest adapter I have had in decades.  The others hid for several days, but Marley was ready to come out and find his place in the house after the first day. 

He plays  with Iza mostly.  Iza outweighs him 12 lbs to 6 pounds, but he is fearless.  It was a shock to Iza at first because she was "Top Cat" mostly by virtue of weight.  Marley pounces from anywhere!  At first, Iza was quite upset and poofed her tail and whapped him hard, but lately it has become more cooperative play with them taking turns chasing and then curling up together.

Ayla is the "odd cat out".  As a small cat (yet the oldest) she never has been one for aggressive play.  I think she is getting used to it though.  She isn't doing the "chase and wrassle" that Iza and Marley do, but she does a certain kind of "you can't catch me" game with Marley.  She hisses mildly, then provocatively hops OVER him several times then runs off.  I think she is showing him that he really can't pounce her because she is just SO much more agile than he is.

That doesn't stop him from trying, of course.  He's only 6 months old and braver than he is experienced.  Marley chasing Ayla is like Marley chasing a shadow.  When when she lets him get close, suddenly she is up on the top of the closet door and he is looking around for her on the floor.

The crocuses are starting to bloom!  Yay!  Spring is coming. 

I made a hamburger yesterday.  That may seem bland.  But I ground up the meat (short ribs) myself.  I sauteed mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, and some onion.  Then I made a mayo/mustard mix with some minced garlic.  What a great topping!  I've had worse (good) steaks!

Tomorrow, it is back to cleaning the basement.  There is so much more to do!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some Mid-Winter Garden Clean Up

There were a few days of warm weather here recently, and I took advantage of it to do some garden cleanup!  Most of the perennial flower stems get left up deliberately, as the finches really love getting at the seeds.  But most of those have been all eaten or broken off and on the ground.  And I keep a nyjer seed feeder filled for them all year, so they are fine. 

The other stuff (old tomato, pepper, asparagus, and corn) could have been cleaned up at any time, but I was too slow for the first hard freeze.  So when I realized the ground had thawed enough to pull them, I did so.

"BEFORE" PICTURES: 

Peppers...
Asparagus...
Tomatoes...
 Monarda...
 Herbs...
"AFTER" PICTURES: 

Peppers...
 Asparagus...
Tomatoes...
 Monarda...
Herbs.  Well, I only had to take the dead parsley plant out.  Actually, I think I will plant something else in that spot.  I hardly ever use parsley.  The others are perennial (sage, thyme, oregano, chives)...
There are still other parts to clean up, but it was getting dark and the ground will be frozen again for at least a week.  The sedum and baptisia need cutting razing, and I'll need to cut the butterfly bushes back soon. 

But I may replace the butterfly bushes.  They are 15 years old and seem to grow weakly the past 2 years.  Thinner branches come from the trunks.  I think there are better varieties available recently.  More compact, but with steadier repeat blooms.  And as my selection of other plants has changed over the years, the purple butterfly bush flowers don't stand out as well as they used to.  I think red would be better!

Also, you can see in some of the pictures that the soil level has dropped as organic amendments have been used up and some washout has occurred.  Fortunately, I have a good pile of mulch that have been composting for 2 years and is now friable "soil".  Time to add all that into the beds.

It's not that I haven't added good organic fertilizer to the beds the past years, but bulk counts too.  And nothing beats good compost for THAT!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Busy, Busy

I'm glad to see the weather getting a bit better and the days longer.  I am finally becoming more active again!  The warmer weather is a bit of an anomaly (will have gotten above 60 three days this week if the forecast is accurate); the normal is 45 and we have been below that all month!  I can't wait for daylight savings time to start in under 4 weeks.  I don't schedule my day by sunlight, I schedule it by TV.  Hey, I LIKE late-night TV, so it staying lighter by the clock helps me get more done.

I've gotten more done this week so far than most whole weeks in darker Winter.  I can't really say "Seasonally Affected Disorder" because I have never sought a medical diagnosis, but I know the symptoms and they fit me.  I just assume I have a moderate case of it.

So, it is Wed night.  What did I accomplish the past 3 days?  (This isn't a competition, just a personal list)

1.  5 loads of laundry.
2.  Make a quart of spaghetti sauce from scratch.  Well, OK, I didn't grow the vegetables.  If you really want to say "from scratch", you have to start with "1. Created The Universe".  You know what I mean.
3.  Found 3 bags of unused Spring Bulbs (crocus, daffodil, and tulips) and potted them up.  I used all the pots of various soils leftover from last Fall.  They are stashed outside covered against squirrel attack.  There aren't enough "chill days" left this Winter, so I will have to make room in the basement refrigerator in late March to make up for the delay in planting.
4.  Bought hardware to hang drapes across the Mews Room wall to hide vacuum cleaners, carpet cleaner, boxes of surplus linens, cases of cat food, boxes of old magazines I want to keep, my telescope-on-tripod, and "other stuff".  That doesn't mean just attaching a curtain rod.  I'll explain that when I actually install it in a few days.
5.  Cleaned up part of the basement.  Much more to go, but I made a good dent in it.
6.  Collected boxes to bring to the recycle center. 
7.  Tied up 5 bundles of newspapers to bring to the recycle center.
8.  Read a week's worth of newspapers (I get behind sometimes).
9.  Stacked 15 tubs of used kitty litter behind the car so that I can load it Thursday to bring to the landfill.  That's not as bad as it seems.  The kitty litter is tied in plastic bags in the tubs the new litter came in.  In the cold garage, in the tightly-lidded tubs, there is no smell at all. 
10. Took, uploaded, processed, cropped and resized about 300 cat pictures.
11.  Reorganized all my garden seeds in my "numbered vial system" to add the new ones and get all the scatterred types together.  Now all my tomatoes are together, my lettuces together, etc.  Retyped the entire list and printed it out in triplicate so there cannot be any confusion.
12.  Spent AT LEAST 1 full hour each night with 1 or more cats napping on my lap.  Equal amount of time tossing cat toys around and playing with the cats too.
13.  Wrote a long letter to Dad.
14.  Contacted 14 catalog companies to arrange for them to stop killing trees in order to send me paper catalogs I don't want.
15.  Visited home store to get prices and available materials for several projects:
- A.  Computer paper storage rack.  I have letter paper, copy paper, card stock, photo stock, color paper, small paper, lamination sheets, etc.  Currently all just in one big stack.
- B.  Pressure-treated plywood for making new sides for the hauling trailer.  It has an open metal frame, but to haul topsoil, mulch, etc, it needs solid sides and bottom.  I used exterior plywood 5 years ago, but it is about rotted.
- C.  Hardboard/masonite for topping my workbench and radial saw top.
- D.  PVC for making a cat hammock frame.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm Still Here!

Sorry I haven't posted here very much lately!  Many causes... 

1.  I've been focussing on the cat blog most days trying to post every day AND visiting all my cat blogging friends.  That has become important to me; I really like seeing what other people's cats are doing.  And I have learned that MOST cat bloggers are really clever and creative writers. 

2.  I just tend to stop doing anything interesting in Winter.  The temp outside is 30 and I just think "I don't wanna go OUT there.  That's kind of shameful; I grew up in Massachusetts and (as kids), we used to make tunnels UNDER the snow!  I have become a WIMP...

3.  You would think that Winter would be the perfect time for wood-working activities.  But the basement is 58.  I just try to avoid it in Winter.  Besides, who wants to wear a coat and gloves while building stuff?

4.  Daylight matters, too.  Doing projects is easier during the daytime.  But in Winter, I tend to stay up late at night and get up at Noon.  By the time I feed the cats, make lunch, and read the newspaper, it is 4 pm and getting dark. 

5.  I have discovered MSNBC!  Progressive talk TV to counter Glenn Beck, Hannity,  and Fox Channel in general!  On weekdays (they don't have the talk shows on weekends), I am locked to the TV from 6pm to 10 pm.  I DO some stuff because I listen more than I watch (and as a consequence, the house is actually cleaner than it used to be and I prepare food better).

6.  And I like to watch both Daily and Colbert on The Comedy Channel.  I have a deep and abiding love of intelligent sarcasm.  Its the Johnny Carson opening monologue on steroids!

7.  I have a good list of projects for this year once the weather improves.  Nesting end tables, sturdy TV trays, a dictionary stand, enclosing the patio below the deck with 2"x3" mesh fencing so the cats can go out without danger, replacing the 4x4 posts under the deck with 6x6 posts, relining the pond and regrading it so the rain flows around it rather that into it, and building a boat shelter so the damn boat doesn't fill up with rain and falling leaves.