mellowtigger: (Default)
2017-05-08 11:36 am
Entry tags:

last of the updates

I realize that my posts have been mostly of the "inconsequential" variety during the last 2 years or so. I've been preoccupied by the new house, of course. I intend to change my practice soon. I have important posts in mind (with photo documentation) that I've put off for a very long time. For now, though... one last update.

homesteading: I drove to downtown Minneapolis this morning to turn in the affidavit for my homesteading. It will make a big difference in my taxes. They didn't receive my full documentation last year when I dropped it off at the Hennepin County office. That was the address on the documentation, but apparently they didn't pass it along to the City as they said they would. I lost homesteading status for 2017. With this affidavit, however, the City gave me back a letter from the Assessor's Office that they "will notify Hennepin County Taxpayers Services to send the correct property tax statement. They will recalculate the 2017 property tax due." Good news. Strangely, they didn't ask for all the supporting documentation again, so... did they locate my lost files in a bin somewhere, so I only had to sign the affidavit this time? Strange.

my leg: The wound has scabbed over solidly. It's clearly healing well. I can tolerate touching the surface of it, but it's still painful if I put any pressure at all on it. While gardening, I occasionally forget, and I kneel on that leg. One quick yelp, and I'm back trying to awkwardly position myself safely for digging in the ground.

fence: It still hasn't arrived. I knew it would be many weeks, but I'm still looking forward to it impatiently.

trees: I'm also waiting for the service to remove two trees from my back yard. Thankfully, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority is paying for it, since the trees are technically on my neighbor's property, which the Authority owns. With those gone, and 2 more that I plan to cut down myself, the other trees that I've planted in my back yard will finally get some decent sunlight.

garden: It's coming along nicely still. I plan on going to the Quaker plant sale on Friday morning to pick up some ferns to put under the shade of the neighbor's tall pine tree. Here's a quick video of Mason bees using their bamboo home. It shows some obvious wear after a few years. I need to hang it more securely.

Amongst the perennials I have planted already that will keep producing food in future years, I have:It's amazing that a lot of fruiting plants will grow nicely in zone 4, although sometimes you do have to look for appropriate varieties. Some of them went into the ground just this year, so it may be next year before I see any food from them.

A decade from now, I expect to enjoy some lazy afternoons just sampling the fruit in season.
mellowtigger: (Default)
2017-05-01 09:24 pm
Entry tags:

camping and other updates

injured leg still not sealed upIt's now day 9 since I scraped up my leg, and it's still oozing.  I bought more gauze pads at the grocery store today, so I could keep up with the daily replacements.  I stopped adding ointment a few days ago.  The red swelling hasn't gotten any worse, so I think it's still healing normally.

It's been cold (near freezing) and rainy, so I haven't made any more progress on my gardening.  I have plants that need to go into the ground. Maybe tonight will be the last night that I leave the heater running on the patio.  The forecast is for warmer days and nights starting tomorrow.

And a few days ago, I had another camping dream.  It was as brief as the one from two weeks ago.  I was camping with someone I knew (different from the previous dream).  There were lots of other people camping in tents near us this time.  We were all camping under a massive canopy.  It was sort of a tent city... within a giant tent.  Strange.  I have no idea what event drew all of us there.
mellowtigger: (we can do it)
2017-04-28 03:50 pm

busy day

Politics. If you live in the state of Minnesota, please call the office of Governor Mark Dayton now. He's waffling on an important veto. Just leave a message on their answering machine, as I did, and hopefully you can help persuade him. Our state legislature passed a bill that forbids cities from raising their minimum wage or other protections above what's already granted as minimum protections by the state. That's right, the minimum protection would also become the maximum protection. The bill was taken from the corporate group ALEC, in case that's sufficient information to provoke you to action.

It's being called the city preemption bill. You can read the House HF600 text here and the Senate SF580 text here. You can find at this Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing For Change page the Governor's office phone number and sample text you can speak.  If you use Twitter, you can also use my Tweet's text if you'd like.  I've called.  I've tweeted.  Please add your voice to the swell.

yellow leafed cornGardening. It's literally freezing in Minnesota. I haven't planted my garden yet. On Wednesday  morning, I had a small pile of slush on my car windshield when I drove to work. I should have put a heater on my patio to keep my sprouts from freezing, but I didn't think of it until too late.  I lost a few plants.  On Thursday night, I did put the heater out there, and the plants survived much better.  I think I'll need one more night of extra care for them.

I have a very strange corn plant with leaves that are entirely yellow.  Not variegated yellow-with-green, but just yellow.  It's been growing for 2 weeks, with only a slight hint of green at the very tip of the leaf.  I've never grown an "albino plant" before.  We'll see if it survives to produce any corn this year.

blueberries front yard newly planted or transplantedI've also got a whole row of blueberries in the front yard by the neighbor's fence.  I planted 2 last year, I transplanted 2 this year, and I added 2 more this year to help fill out the row.  We'll see if I keep up with the soil amendments necessary to keep a low pH.  If I fail, and the blueberries die, then I'll just replace all of them with Juneberries.  They're much the same as blueberries, apparently, but slightly taller, and they're not picky about soil.

I'm also concerned that this freezing weather (round 2 of 2017) will keep my apple and apricot trees from fruiting.  I'd be disappointed to have to wait yet another year to see any fruit from them.  Last year, I received them while they had blooms on them, and the blooms fell after the shock of being planted.  Maybe I'll have to wait for year 3 before they produce.

I also asked the city of Minneapolis about rules for building a raised garden in my front yard.  I want a raised bed, so I can grow carrots and leave them planted until they finally produce seeds in their 2nd year.  I learned last winter that where I intended to put the raised garden was completely shaded from our low-on-the-horizon sun by my neighbor's tall house.  The bed wouldn't gather any warming light to keep the carrot roots thawed.  I'll have to put the raised bed in the front yard instead.  I just have to stay 5 feet from the property line, and I have to stay under 4 feet tall.  I've got the area marked, and now I have to buy more bricks to build it.

I wrote a large check today for the nice fencing that I want. I'm poor again, but it'll be worth it. A month from now, I hope that I have successfully enclosed my yard within a good fence. I'll need to learn how to work with Quikrete concrete, so hopefully I don't mess up anything.  I'm sure that I'll "feel" better with my yard and windows enclosed.  I could also easily get a dog for additional peace of mind, after I have the fence in place.  We'll see how it goes.

Health: My leg has almost stopped oozing.  It's easily pained, though, if anything touches the area where I lost so much skin.  I've had to skip doing much gardening this week, and maybe a week more.  I'm not happy about losing such rejuvenating exercise time.  I definitely heal slower now that I'm older.

I'm looking forward, though, to see what my yard looks like after this season of gardening is done.  It should be even nicer than last year.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
2016-10-08 12:12 am

gardening at midnight

Chalk up another activity that I never expected to accomplish: gardening at midnight.

harvest pumpkins, cayenne peppers, and spaghetti squashIt is currently just barely above freezing here in Minneapolis, with frost warnings for early this morning. I wanted to get some things indoors before any freezing weather had a chance to turn them into mush as the plants unfroze. I went outdoors with a flashlight to make my way through the vine patches.  I brought in all of the pumpkins, all of the cayenne peppers (that were red and ready), and a few of the spaghetti squash. That cat doesn't know quite what to think of all the new smells that are clearly inedible (to a cat's nose).

Why wait until midnight to harvest them?

I was already at the Gaylaxicon 2016 sci-fi convention today (here in Minneapolis this year) before I realized that frost was forecast. I spent much of the day and evening enjoying the panel discussions. It was a trip down memory lane during the 9:30pm discussion about online gaming.  They had 2 panelists who worked on Everquest 1, which I played heavily when it first came online back in 1999.  I even helped create a gay guild there, which was an exciting thing to do back in those days because it seemed so rare.

I left the hotel before the next panel that was scheduled to start at 11pm. Yes, it's a busy day and night on their convention schedule. Overall, though, it's a nice, non-stressful convention.  I'll be back for more activities on Saturday and Sunday too.

I left early to come home tonight and get this harvest indoors. I especially want the pumpkins to survive in good condition to Halloween. Our local "block leader" is hoping to organize some kids on our block for a jack-o-lantern carving activity, and I intend to donate pumpkins to the cause. I just want to keep one for myself to use at my house. The rest are intended as donations for neighbors.

I used the central air/heating in my house this morning for the first time in many months.  I wanted to be sure it was ready for cold weather.  It worked fine, so I'll be turning it on again before I head to bed now.


mellowtigger: (gardening)
2016-08-22 04:38 pm
Entry tags:

back yard during the late summer

I have mason bees, giant (apparently) spaghetti squash, and now a fire pit.

fire pit back yard, 25 feet from back of houseI checked the Minneapolis website for rules about fire pits, then I measured 25 feet from the back of my house.  That distance pretty much put the fire pit in the middle of the back yard, which is farther away than I would have liked, but I don't want to give the city or my neighbors any reason to complain.

I wanted to put some fire damage onto that metal ring immediately after setting it up today, thinking maybe it will help reduce the temptation of anyone to simply steal it from the back of my yard.  I still very much want a fence, but getting rid of (at least some of) those trees is the priority expenditure for September.  August money went to pay off the electricians for the air conditioning that never got installed.  At least I no longer need the a/c for this year.

I plan to get a chain saw that uses the same batteries as my lawn mower and edger.  It'll require a special order at Home Depot, but I'll finally be able to get rid of these horrible box elder trees.  It seems their only purpose is to attract carpenter ants (I've seen the large black ants on at least 2 of them) and fill my house with box elder bugs.  They're back for a 2nd season this year.  At least the bugs now are not as bad as earlier this spring.

singed arm hairsI still want to do some more work on the fire pit: put some sand and rocks as a bottom layer, which will raise it up another inch or two.  That metal ring gets very hot, so I might consider putting some thin cinder pieces on top to make it suitable for sitting on the edge, away from the searing metal ring.

I also need to get a proper poker for the fire pit.  It came with a mini-version that is much too short.  I noticed some strange white fluff on my arms, and it took me a few moments to realize that I'd singed the hairs on my arm.  They were all in various stages of melting away.  Oops.

mason bee houseI moved my mason bee bamboo home from the old house.  It appears to be well used this year.  Lots of the holes have been filled up by a mother bee putting one of her larva into each tube then sealing it up.  I call it a bee "home", since mason bees are not social, so they don't form a "hive" together.  They're also quite sociable around humans and not territorial at all, since they don't have an expensive hive to protect.  Yay for helping out a few more pollinators in the city!

You can tell from the top photo that the "small vines" (not like the huge pumpkin vines taking over the front yard) are flourishing in the back yard.  I wasn't sure they'd get enough sunlight because of the huge box elder trees lining the southern edge of the property.  So far, all I can tell that's fruiting is what appears to be the spaghetti squash.  It's making squashes much larger, maybe twice as large, than the stuff I usually buy in the grocery store.  I'm not sure I want one that's so large.  Unless I've lucked out, and it's actually one of the watermelons that starts pale and will look more watermelony in a few more weeks.

I'm looking forward to much cooler weather, sitting in the back yard by the fire pit, and contemplating plans for more changes to yard layout for 2017.  It's slowly getting closer to what I want.

mellowtigger: (gardening)
2016-07-31 01:41 pm
Entry tags:

what a difference a month can make

I spent some time in the garden today and yesterday. I got eaten by mosquitoes both times. I'm one of those people that mosquitoes favor, which can make life annoying here in Minnesota, "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" (and 10 billion mosquitoes).

A month ago (pictured left), I had a few pumpkin plants in the top right corner of my front yard. Now (pictured right), those same pumpkin vines have taken over nearly the whole front yard. I already see 2 pumpkins, although they're still green and not ready to harvest yet.  The dwarf sunflowers are also nicely lining the walk to the front door.
front yard 2016 June 28front yard 2016 July 27

The flowers by the front patio are also finally blooming.  It seems a little late for these plants, but I got them into the ground late too.  Next year, I'll move them elsewhere, so the rose bush has more room to grow unimpeded by taller plants throwing shade.
flower by front patio 2016 July 31 Sunday

I have cucumbers. I've been eating them in salads, and they're tasty. I have golden zucchini; it tastes good, but somehow because it looks like gold squash, I expect it to be something other than zucchini. I think I'll grow regular squash (or regular zucchini) next year. I have celery, but it's a little bit "woody". I may try a different variety next year.  I took some of all 3 to Marie today, an old retired black woman across the street and a few houses north of me.

I still have no air conditioning.  I'll call the installer one more time on Monday before giving up.  At least July has now passed, which is traditionally the hottest month for Minnesota.  I've slept in my bedroom during the last few nights, instead of the basement where I had spent the last 2 weeks or so.

I still have no battery chainsaw (to cut down trees) or fire pit (to burn the cut down trees).  Maybe in August.  For now, I'm just glad that the weather is cooling off a bit.  I walked for a few blocks around my house today, and many people were enjoying the relative cool while sitting on their porches.

Pokemon Go has been in the news a lot in recent days.  I have it, but I can't say that I'm a regular player or a good one.  I caught Krabby as soon as I walked out to the sidewalk today, which surprised me, since Pokemon Go creatures and sites seem quite rare in this poor neighborhood of the city.  Still, this game seems a good excuse to go take a walk... which is a good thing.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
2016-07-03 10:53 am
Entry tags:

a peaceful morning

Last night wasn't peaceful, but this morning certainly is. I walked out to my side deck and listened to the church bells and the birds singing for a few minutes.

spaghetti squash (flowering, lower left)The gardens are doing well. I picked my first yellow squash (it was huge), then I stir fried some of it with a jalapeno from the store then added an egg. It wasn't a bad breakfast, but I think next time I'll aim for migas by adding some stale corn chips at the end. Squash grows with huge leaves that would be nice as a landscape item, if only they were perennial plants.

In the back yard
, I'll have plenty of spaghetti squash this year, which is good. You can see it flowering at the bottom of the picture here. It keeps for many months with no effort, so I'll be eating it this winter. I use it in place of anything that normally calls for pasta.

Since the vines are doing well, I also expect at some point to have some Minnesota Midget canteloupe, Blacktail Mountain watermelon, and luffa for dish scrubbing in the kitchen. Slugs nearly destroyed all of my red popcorn by eating long strips from most of their leaves, but some of them recovered and are finally growing again.

In the side yard, the Painted Lady runner beans and the black cumin are very pretty. Those beans could be grown purely as an ornamental vine and do nicely in any yard. I have my first Collier cucumber, and the Shortcake raspberry is starting to fruit after transplanting them from their old garden. They are a dwarf variety that is also thornless, so I'm glad to see them doing well.

runner beans (Painted Lady)black cumincucumber (Collier)raspberry (Shortcake variety, dwarf and thornless)

In the front yard, the dwarf sunflowers are blooming, so they make a nice border to the walkway to my front door. The rose also is showing its first bloom after it nearly died. It had black fungus when I brought it from the store. I dusted it with sulfur, every last leaf dropped off, and I thought I had killed it. It put on a lot of new growth, though, and it's all free from black spots. So I think I'll have a fragrant and pretty front patio in a few more years. It was blooming when I first bought it, a very nice purplish color which the label identified as a "deep lilac" hybrid tea rose named only 'Heirloom'.

dwarf sunflowerrose

I need to repurpose some of my pots soon. I want to get a thriving specimen of both lime basil and peppermint that I can bring indoors to use during winter. I use them in some yummy recipes, and I don't want to give them up throughout the winter. I've also placed the peppermint near the front porch and side deck. I'm hoping they will eventually grow underneath and discourage mammals (and maybe some box elder bugs) from sheltering there.

I always feel better when I'm out gardening, and I'm doing a lot of it this year. I already have enough changes in mind to keep me busy next year too, but I was originally intending to focus on house repairs next year instead. We'll see how it turns out.
mellowtigger: (Green Lantern)
2016-06-28 09:32 pm

a typical sunset in an urban neighborhood

front yard after wateringI walked onto my front porch this evening, and I immediately noticed how pungent it was. I've kept the windows there open for ventilation since I will remain without air conditioning for a few more weeks.  They really let in the smoke from whatever the neighbor teens were smoking. I don't mind that, and I support total legalization. This is the house with the death threats that woke me up a week or two ago, though, and I just hope the drama isn't related. That, I don't support at all.

I started weeding the strawberry and flower beds, then the guys left their house to go walking. I watered the front yard while the sun slowly dropped farther below the horizon.

Meanwhile, a few houses south, I could hear a guy trying to discreetly (not shouting, thank you) chew out someone, regarding what I think was the drama a few nights ago where someone drove their car very slowly and backwards down the whole length of the street, scraping many cars along the way and knocking over a fire hydrant.  Yes, I called 911 for that one too.  Strangely, they missed my car this time, but the officer came to my door and gave me a case number just in case I noticed something later.

Anyway... back to this evening.  The older guy (almost my age? from the house I mentioned above) walked over and talked with me for a few minutes while I was watering plants. They're getting rid of stuff for an upcoming property inspection. Indeed, they are, as I noticed on my patio.  I let him know that I planted the strawberries along the sidewalk because I intended for people to pick them and enjoy them.

I'm hoping that a foraged snack might add a non-zero amount of peace to someone's day, making the drama and the self-medication a little less necessary.  I wonder if I could surround the plants with green bricks and call them a "Greenstone Grocery", then get other neighbors to do the same, slowly turning the area into an appealing place for a neighborhood walk.  Imagine a stroll while eating a strawberry here, a blueberry there, a mulberry across the street.  Or, all this stuff just makes me an appealing soft target. I binge watched 4 seasons of "Orange Is The New Black" during the last few days, so I'm feeling pessimistic again about the harm that people do to other people for no good reason.

But I have strawberries.  The dwarf sunflowers are starting to bloom, and the pumpkin vines are poised to sprawl across the front yard. So let's just agree that life is good for the duration of a sunset today.  And hope that I don't get woken by nearby sirens again after midnight tonight like I did last night.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
2016-06-06 03:13 pm
Entry tags:

working in the yard

Locals know that I've been spending a lot of time digging in the yard this year.  It's slow progress, but you can notice the difference now.

front yardback yard

The front yard has strawberries, pumpkin, and flowers; the side yard has the vegetable garden, raspberries, and blueberries; and the back yard has an apricot tree, apple tree, some large vined foods (spaghetti squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.), and bayberry.

Coworkers gave me some native plants, and they're in various stages of recovery or outright thriving.  Also thriving this year is some bergamot that another coworker gave me 2 years ago.  It's nice working with other nature afficionados.
native plantsbergamot and mason bee home

It's very slow progress.  Digging in the ground here means more than just lifting up the sod.  It means sifting through all of the dirt and sod to shake out the "dangerous bits": broken glass, rusted nails, sawed off bolts, and lots of other stuff.  My bucket of "stuff that shouldn't be in a yard" is full, and I still have a lot of sifting to do.  I've been throwing a lot of sod into a makeshift cinder block compost heap, where I'll take it out next year to use for filling up a raised garden bed that I plan for next year.  All of that material still needs to be sifted for dangerous bits.

This weekend, I dug up some bones that weren't obviously leftover dog food.  My collection now includes these 5 samples (plus smaller bones or things that seem like bird bones).

I emailed this photo to the Minneapolis 311 service to ask for help in identifying this stuff, and to ask if my property was ever once a dumping ground.  I'm finding all of this stuff (bones, glass, rusted metal) in any area of the yard and at any depth.  When I water the new apricot tree, the standing water develops a faint blue oil sheen on it.  I want to know if this property was once a dumping ground 100+ years ago, before the house was built.

And I need the giant box elder trees in the back yard to come down.  I noticed carpenter ants this weekend.  They have to go.  Whether all these trees are on my property or the neighbor's though... is an arguable point.
mellowtigger: (liberal frustration)
2016-03-28 12:54 pm
Entry tags:

tough decision

I'm double-booked for all day April 2 Saturday, and I can't decide which event should take precedence.
  1. I signed up as an alternate delegate at the Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) caucus several weeks ago. Apparently some people were at the wrong location, though, and now I'm a regular delegate. It's important to me that Bernie Sanders gets the delegate votes from Minnesota. It's not actually decided yet, regardless of the preference poll results from a while back. In theory, the delegates vote to match the public opinion, but none of us signed anything to agree to do so. I want Bernie counted.

    Also being decided at this caucus is the DFL candidate for state representative district 59A. On Saturday, Fue Lee came to my front door. He was also at the DFL caucus a few weeks ago. He wins points for being active in the community. Later that same day, I got a phone call from our current representative. I had to look up the name just now; I didn't know it, since I'm new here. Joe Mullery seemed very knowledgeable about local programs and politics. I'm not sure who I'd vote for, but I think I'm leaning toward Fue Lee for his local participation, and it'd be nice to see representation of the Hmong presence here in my neighborhood.
  2. More recently, I signed up to attend the Minneapolis Community Conference. It's sort of a brainstorm session for the vision of what Minneapolis can become in the future. I want very much to attend this event. I'm trying to find some justification for ditching the DFL and go to this conference instead. Would Bernie Sanders understand and approve if I didn't give him my delegate vote in favor of local community involvement? Would Fue Lee (if that's my choice) still win the nomination for the November election ballot? Argh! I want to attend this conference, but I'm just not finding the justification. :(
It's also nearly time to start gardening here. I dug some sharp prickly weeds from the yard today (after getting more old branches and leaves into paper bags for pickup). The ground was soft, and I didn't strike ice with the shovel. I think I'll have to put seeds in starter pots next weekend in preparation for planting season here in Minnesota.

Just to put the question out there, does anyone have experience with throwing wood ashes (from a fire pit) into a garden? Good? Bad? I'm pondering what to do with all the limbs and leaves I collect from the trees already in the back yard. I don't want to buy (or haul/rent) a wood chipper, so I need to find something better to do than bag them for garbage yard waste collection. Any ideas?
mellowtigger: (gardening)
2014-06-23 03:57 pm
Entry tags:

gardening... slowly

gardenMy energy and enthusiasm haven't changed, but I've been forcing myself to do a bit of gardening. Progress is quite slow. At least everything that I'm going to plant is planted. That's good news, since we've already reached summer solstice. The main work left to do is to finish digging a trench to level and bury cinder block.  I'll use it to contain some invasive garden roots and also provide a barrier to the grass roots, then put some nice pavers for a walkway on top.

I'm taking 3 ropinirole a day now, but I can't tell much difference. I still have low energy and motivation, and I can't tell that my memory has improved much. I still have muscle twitches. I am at least playing computer games again, but it's rather scattershot. I'm playing several of them simultaneously: RIFT, Neverwinter, Wildstar, Archeage (beta), and my old favorite Arcanum. Progress, of a sort, but still not my usual pattern. Focus... focus.

I find it reassuring somehow to be out in the sun with the plants that I've tended. They've grown enough that they're really starting to look like what they should be: roma tomatoes, lettuce, thai basil, lime basil, thyme, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, spaghetti squash, quinoa, curry, sunroot, mustard, luffa gourd, bok choi, and carrot.

I'll watch more closely this time the progress of my blue bonnet rice. I've planted it before, but I think I ended up plucking it all because it looks so much like grass when it sprouts. This variety doesn't need to be flooded, so we'll see how it grows in plain soil. I'd be even happier if it went native and seeded itself annually. I'd settle, though, if it produces well but I have to collect the seeds each harvest for the next year.

My favorites this year, though, are newcomers that I bought at a local nursery. They are dwarf versions of raspberry (also thornless) and blueberry. They shouldn't grow but 1-2 feet tall and wide. Even after planting them a week or two ago, they're all still showing new leaf growth and continuing to ripen their existing fruits. It'd be awesome if they do well this year and next. I'd be a very happy camper to have fresh fruit for my nutribullet fruit smoothies.

dwarf thornless raspberrydwarf blueberry

I've never understood why the previous owners put a bed of solid moss by the west edge of the house. I'm hoping it keeps the blueberries happy with the acidic pH. Time will tell.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
2014-03-21 09:06 pm
Entry tags:

not so springy equinox

spring equinox snowbankYesterday was the spring equinox, but here was the view outside my window that afternoon.

People keep posting photos of sprouting plants or even blooming flowers in their gardens just to taunt me, surely.

Why can't I find a nice job in a warmer climate?  Or win the lottery so I can buy some land and build a long line of walipinis (maybe with a minor change or two) to keep me busy with my hands in the soil?

mellowtigger: (gardening)
2013-03-20 09:12 am
Entry tags:

not spring

snow not gardenToday is our vernal equinox, but I'm not feeling it. I see other people post their garden photos already, but the ground here is solid ice. We still have a lot of snow waiting to melt.

The cabin fever is bothering me more than usual this year, I think. I've been pondering moving someplace with a more welcoming climate. Almanacs show that Minneapolis has a 50% chance of being frost-free on April 30th, while Portland at nearly the same latitude is March 23rd.

Yesterday, I did something I haven't done before. I started applying for a job (in Portland) at a company that didn't even have a current posting for a position that I wanted. I've been eyeing the Oregon Humane Society for a long time. They do almost as much business as we do, but they appear a dramatically different company.

We post lots of job openings each month, and nearly half of them are only part-time. They have only 1 or 2 postings (sometimes none), and they're full-time. They have tech literate staff too, but they seem better integrated than we are. They have an interactive webcam in their cat colony room. Their job application page actually imports data from LinkedIn or TalentExchange resumes. Their frontpage is easy to view and simple to navigate. I want to work there. Filling out applications is a time-consuming project, but I expect to complete it this weekend.

I assume a programming job there would have to be full-time, which isn't great for my stress management. If it's someplace that doesn't blare page announcements 37 times a day (an actual count here; I'm not exaggerating) then it would still be better for me. I could putter in a garden in the evenings. If I could talk them down to a 4-day work week, that would be even better.

They don't have an open position now, but I might as well let them know that I'm interested. Maybe a year or two later, something could open up.
mellowtigger: (banking)
2012-10-25 11:50 am
Entry tags:

remote greenhouse

This Kickstarter project aims to help urban dwellers build a greenhouse and manage it remotely.  Think of it, a greenhouse that you visit only on weekends!  Of course, you still need some vacant land somewhere, but it could be a very small plot.  I don't have much money to throw around, but I still had to contribute to this nifty idea.

They need only a small amount of money, but they have only a few days left to fund the project.  And, for you Minnesotans, it's a project started by someone right here in Minneapolis.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
2012-10-02 08:15 pm
Entry tags:


I think I've found my Minnesota winter root-vegetable crop!  I got home early today, so I planted some garlic bulbs that were delivered by mail this weekend. While digging up an area to plant the garlic, I discovered something amazing.

Somehow, I got through the entire summer without taking a photograph of the giant (tall but skinny) sunflowers that had taken over a small area of the garden. They were so well contained that I thought for sure I must have planted them deliberately. I was intending that area only for "small" plants, not huge ones, but these plants grew much taller than I am. The bees enjoyed the small daisy-like flowers, but their enormous height was overshadowing too many other plants. I finally cut them down a week or two ago. I didn't give them any more thought.

While digging up soil for garlic, though, I discovered that they left behind a multitude of tubers. They looked quite edible, so I kept collecting them as I turned the soil. Eventually I discovered a small plastic label that had been hidden by the gargantuan stalks. It said those plants were Hellenthus tuberosus, "Jerusalem Artichoke".  Apparently I had misread the label as 10 " height while I was planting the seeds instead of the clearly printed 10 ' height.  Oops.

The plant is a sunflower, but looking at the huge amount of edible tubers they produce, you can see why the common name of Sunroot is more appropriate.


I ate a few of them raw today, and they are like water chestnuts but with a very slight sweet and nutty flavor. Yummy in their own way, plus quite soft and moist. I didn't even have to peel the skin because it was so thin and tasty. I already expect to use some in my homemade spinach dip instead of water chestnut bought from the store. Apparently they induce quite "gassy" side effect in some people, so it's good to test them out by eating one or two to see how you react. So far, I'm doing fine. If I'm still good tomorrow, I'll look for recipes for cooking up a batch of them.

Sunroot has plenty of Iron and Vitamin C.  Plus, it's good for diabetics because it stores its energy as inulin (like jicama) instead of starch (like potato), so it doesn't trigger a glucose response like the other carbohydrates do.

It's native to North America, so it should continue to do well in Minnesota.  The only thing I have to worry about is the aggressive tubers taking over the whole garden.  A few plants created this enormous mound of tubers.  I need to find a way to confine the roots in a limited area.  I transplanted a few of them in the garden today.  Hopefully they survive the winter after their ordeal.  I want more of this food crop.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
2012-09-30 12:19 pm
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garden decline

20120930.bokchoi.asparagus.mouseThis growing season is in its last days. We're forecast for below-freezing temperature beginning Thursday. I'm worried that I won't get any tomatoes this year from my Roma plants.  I got plenty of bok choi, since it naturalizes nicely to Minnesota climate.  I'm moving it next year, though, so it doesn't completely overshadow the plot that I had intended for asparagus instead.  You can see this year's spindly asparagus underneath.

There is also a small brown mouse somewhere in that frame, but I can't spot it it anywhere under the foliage.  I heard it squeak before I ever saw its fur by naked eye.  I couldn't find it in any of the pictures that I took with the camera.  Sneaky little mouse.

I'm planning to skip commuting by bicycle next year, hoping that I'll have more energy to devote to gardening instead.  The landscaping is almost complete, but I really need to finish it.  I keep experimenting every year with plants that require little effort to maintain.  I'm a big fan of xeriscaping for both environmental water-conserving reasons and personal stamina-conserving reasons.

Corn generates 1 or 2 cobs per stalk, and popcorn seems to work the same way. These photos show one of the stalks from the garden along with the cobs that I took from it. It had 4 cobs, but only 2 were useful.


I enjoy the appearance of red popcorn better, but I'll dry out these cobs and use them for a snack or two this winter.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
2012-05-13 02:42 pm
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the garden is planted

early growthSome plants naturalize to Minnesota quite well. Others, not so much. I got all the weeding and planting done for this spring, at least. My sinuses are protesting, though. I think allergies have prompted a sinus infection. I noted a 99.4F fever this afternoon.

Rutabaga did not survive the winter. I was disappointed. I'm trying to find a large root vegetable that naturalizes to Minnesota. I haven't resorted to potatoes yet, but I may have to.

Two carrots are growing already, so I thought maybe 2 of them had miraculously survived the winter. It could be the start of a new cold-tolerant variety! But, sadly, when I dug into the soil around them I discovered that the roots were quite small. Apparently they are just 2 seeds that failed to sprout last year but decided to wake from slumber after this year's thaw.

I don't know what's growing around the rutabaga corpses (in the photo, near the top). It's only in that location, so obviously I planted seeds for something there. I haven't been able to find my notes from last year, though.

Salsify is doing quite well in its second year. It's actually starting to bloom, so I should get seeds of my own this year.

Bok Choi is the big winner, though. It multiplies each year. It can easily take over an area if you let it. That's fine by me, since I like eating it.

Some of the fast multipliers are not as welcome, though. I tore up a lot of Dill to make room for other seeds. I left a small patch of Catmint (I think it is) but tore up everything else. If the catmint advances so quickly this year, I may just tear up all of it to avoid the frustration of combating it. I also tore up a lot of Canadian Violet elsewhere in the yard because it was killing off other plants that I preferred.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
2012-04-26 09:59 am
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dandelions for breakfast

I wish I could make some dandelion wine, but I've settled for battered dandelions for breakfast this morning.

I encountered this recipe a few days ago, and I decided I finally needed to try out dandelions as food.  I've wanted to do something like this for years.  That's why I've mentioned repeatedly over the years to my roommates that I didn't want any chemicals used in the back yard where I grow food.  Even "weeds" can be food.

dandelion flowersdandelions prepared

Comments to the recipe mentioned that some people can be sensitive (bitter, nauseating) to a chemical in the base.  I was careful while preparing the flowers to cut right across the "crown" ridge.  Any higher, and the flower just fell apart.  Any lower, and too much of the base was still intact.  I didn't have a deep fryer, so I just pan fried them after soaking them in the thick batter.

dandelions battereddandelions frying

They came out very well.  I think now that you can basically treat them the same as fried mushroom.  Honestly, though, fried mushrooms have more flavor to them.  I ate about half of them plain, and they were yummy.  How can you go wrong with deep-fried anything, though?  I dipped others in either ranch dressing (which didn't taste great to me) or yellow mustard (which I liked).  I wonder if something sweet would also make a great dipping condiment for fried dandelions.

dandelions for breakfast

I encourage other people to experiment with this dish too.  As long as there are no yucky chemicals (insecticides, herbicides, vehicle runoff), then please go out there and harvest some of the food growing in your own yard.  It's delicious.

mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
2011-09-06 09:27 am
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garden photos

full gardenI realized that I hadn't posted any good photos of this year's garden crop, so I snapped a few pictures during the Labor Day holiday this year.

I've been tired on weekends after bicycling to work all week, so I haven't done much gardening this year (again).  After finally pulling all of the overgrown grass two weeks ago, it's starting to look like a garden patch again.

I've already harvested a few small things for meals.  I've eaten strawberries, tomatoes, lime-basil, carrot, celery, dill, and oregano.  I'm waiting for the rutabaga to seed out before I pull those huge roots out of the ground.  They're hard to cut, but they cook up soft like potatoes.  I have no idea what to do with the salsify.

I've started work on moving the patio a small bit.  I need to pull up the bricks anyway to smooth out the sand again.  It shifted a bit during the winter, as I expected.  I've already done the hard part of cracking a corner piece of cinder block and moving the cinder block wall.  Now I just need to move the bricks, smooth out the sand, and lay the bricks back in place again.

carrot, asparagus, and bok choicelery and salsify

Left photo above: carrots, asparagus, and bok choi
Right photo above: celery (background) and salsify (long leaf blades in foreground)

peppermint, lime-basil, and broccolirutabaga

Left photo above: peppermint (left), lime-basil (left background), and broccoli in bloom (right background)
Right photo above: rutabaga, about the size of coconuts

I added slices of carrot to my homemade pizza yesterday, and it was actually pretty good as a topping.  I think it would be even better if the carrot were marinated with jalapenos first.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
2011-08-29 08:07 pm
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toasted tuna salad

I haven't posted much about the garden this year.  Unfortunately, I just haven't had much energy on weekends to deal with "outdoors" in general after bicycling to work each week.  The garden suffered for the neglect this year... again.  :(

But a few things produced.  On Sunday, I fixed myself a meal from some of what I had available.  The tomato, celery, carrot, and dill came directly from the back yard garden.  :)  I had to rely on store bought tuna, olive oil mayonnaise, and bread.

toasted tuna salad

Toasted tuna salad is always a very yummy meal.  :)  And it's so easy to prepare: just cut things up, mix them together, and toast them in a small oven.  "Fresh from the garden" makes it even better.