April (snow) showers bring May flowers?!

Image may contain: snow, tree, outdoor and natureUsually, around this time of the year, I start spending much of my free time in the dirt – planting, preparing areas for planting, repairing and updating garden structures, and yes, even weeding.  This year however, the muddy paw prints on the kitchen floor are the only sign that a garden exists in our life.

Enough of the snow and cold weather already!  I can’t really call it winter weather, because our winter’s are often bitter, grey, and miserable.  I’m really not a fan of them, and every winter I wonder, often quite vocally, why I still live here.  But this current weather pattern isn’t really what I’d call winter weather, and it’s most assuredly, not spring-like.

It’s still snowing, but since it’s not frigidly cold, the snow melts fairly quickly.  As you can see from the photos taken about a week ago, when it does snow there’s still enough of it to be measured in inches.  It’s heavy enough, that should you need to clear a walk-way, a broom just won’t suffice.  Same for our windshields, we’re still brushing and scraping it off as it’s too heavy for wipers.

And even though it’s warm enough to melt the snow, the temperatures are still low enough that most of us are still donning warm coats, mittens or gloves, and covering our  ears – especially when the wind blows!  We’re still wearing warm sweaters and layers, and despite Easter having been and gone, I don’t know many in the area who have switched to their “Spring/Summer” wardrobe (do people still actively do this in climates where the temperature swings aren’t so drastic?).

Anyway, all that to say, the peas have not been planted.  Nor the lettuce or any other crop that’s tolerant of cool to cold weather. The ground is still frozen and feels sharp due to the muddy ice crystals.  I’m not sure I’m going to get much gardening done in a timely manner this year.  I’ll try, but it’s likely by the time I am comfortable planting a few of the hardier crops, they’ll bolt because the weather will warm up so speedily.

I bought some paint to touch up a few rusting and deteriorating garden accessories – things like trellises, plant posts, raised beds, and ornaments.  But I’m not sure I’m going to be able to paint them before we need to use them as intended.  Take the hop trellis for example; the hops we grow on it are hardy here, and they are sprouting through the snow.  At the rate they grow, it’s likely they’ll be wrapped around the trellis before I get a warm 2 day span to paint it!

I have big plans for the garden this year – not the type that can be measured in bushels of produce, rather, these plans are more of the reorganizational kind.  Since Charlie Brown the Airedale came into our life last May, the way our garden gets used and abused has changed.  And those changes need addressed.  Beds need reorganized and possibly moved, pots and ornaments need relocated,  and the entire mess needs a great big overhaul based on his pouncing and trouncing.

But again, I’m inside writing this instead of outside reworking our garden.  Right now as I look out the window, the sun is shining, the patches of snow are receding, and birds are chirping.  But when I sat down to start this blog, giant puffy snowflakes were falling, the wind was whipping between our house and the neighbor’s, and the sun was hiding behind grey ominous clouds.

These crazy weather swings have many of us acting a bit edgy.  I can’t even recall how many times over the past few days I looked out a window or opened a door and said, “What?!  It’s snowing again!”,  usually with a few expletives in there.  If someone is within earshot, they often a reply along the lines of “Are you kidding me?”, and depending on the person, this includes a few expletives as well.

So I know I’m not alone.  Others are also expressing their desire to get into their garden.  Or go hiking without layers of winter attire.  Or ride their bike without getting mud frozen to it.  Or sit on a porch.  Or grill without freezing their hands while firing it up.  You get the idea.  And a few of these people like winter.  It’s this weird in between state that seems to be lingering longer than usual this year that’s making us all stir crazy.

I can’t decide if I should designate a pair of winter gloves as gardening gloves and just accept that they will never not be muddy again, find a heavy old sweatshirt and flannel shirt,  and put some long johns under my jeans and head out into our garden or stay in here and snuggle with the dog.  He looks pretty cozy right now, I’ll pet him for a few minutes and then decide…



If you’re lucky…

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“Do what you love or what you’re good at.  If you’re lucky it’ll be both.”

That’s what my dad always told my sister and I.  I’m not monetarily successful yet, but since I’ve recently felt like my professional life has taken over my personal life, I’m either getting close to the lucky bit or heading for a “made for TV” downward spiral of waking up one day and wondering what happened to my life.

You can stop reading now if you’re expecting some great tale of woe that shocked me into realizing how much I’m missing.  I’m not even close to the breaking point that punctuations hundreds of books, movies, and TV shows when, usually successful people,  notice that they’ve missed out on life, there’s a decision made, and then there’s a feel good moment where they do the right thing and hang out on a swing set with a small child.

Basically, my personal life has started revolving around my professional life.  And again, most of us do this, so this isn’t really earth shattering news.  We often plan things around our commute, work schedule, and days off.  It’s all quite logical, really.  Why wouldn’t you choose the convenient store, vet, salon, or gas station?  If you can run an errand on the way to or from work, why wouldn’t  you?  What’s the point of going out of your way if it doesn’t save you time or money?

But recently, just how much time I spend thinking about, planning, and actually working, has been buzzing in the back of my brain as a reminder that I need to take notice and figure out if, and where, I need to draw some lines.

The truth is, I simply live two lives, and recently, they’ve been clashing a bit more than usual.  There’s my personal life, this includes The Goat, Charlie Brown The Airedale, our little urban jungle,  the cycling community in which we participate (The Goat much more actively than I), our families, and a close knit group of friends.  I’d throw many other peripheral people and places into this group too – the clerks at the grocery store I regularly frequent,  the receptionists at the doctors’ offices, the waiter and staff at our favorite restaurant, the other students in doggie school, and even our neighbors and those we see regularly on our dog walking adventures.

My professional life consists of my business and the community in which it is located.  While geographically small, this circle may be extended to include my customers, other shopkeepers and staff of other businesses in the community, a few locals who make a point of checking on their local merchants, and the neighbors who live in the surrounding buildings.

It may seem strange that these two circles overlap as they do, especially because they are physically separated by well over 15 miles.  But the truth is, there are days when those miles feel like I’m traveling between two distinctly different worlds.

Part of the reason this recent revelation is creating a dilemma for me is that I try to maintain a certain level of professionalism by keeping much of my personal life out of my professional life.  Let’s face it, my customers don’t need to know who my friends are, how The Goat is feeling, or if I’ve got car trouble.  But in reality, the stuff that affects me personally often affects me professionally too, because I am the face of my business.

For example, when I am ill and unable to get in and open the shop, I need to share that information with my customers.  I need to let them know when the shop will be closed because I’m out of town for vacation.  Due to his size and the fact that not everyone likes dogs, I like to let people know when Charlie Brown’s at the shop with me.  Also, in this age of internet shopping and big box stores, part of the reason people often shop at small shops like mine is because of the personal touch and individuality of the smaller shops.

However, my attempts at keeping my personal life out of my professional life has recently become more difficult and the direction of my effort seems to have reversed.  I find myself working on shop samples at home and my personal fiber projects are set aside indefinitely.  I am unable to find the time to work in the yard, around the house, or on other artistic endeavors because I’m teaching a class or the weather when I do have the time isn’t cooperating.  My grocery bags end up being seperated into “home” and “shop” instead of “fridge” and “pantry”.  Social events are considered based on the shop’s schedule.  Friends and relationships get neglected.

Is this a bad thing?  I haven’t yet decided, I guess it depends on the individual situation.  Some of it’s easy to readjust.  Some it’s a sign of success.  Some of it’s a sign of over-working.  Hopefully it’s all lucky.







The Evolution of Our Urban Jungle

We’re coming to the close of another year, and once again, it’s been a year full of ups and downs, with the former seeming fleeting and the latter feeling overwhelming at the time.  Regardless, it’s been a busy year for many of us, and for some reason, it’s at this time of the year that we often look back and contemplate the events of the past while looking forward to the events of the future.

This past Spring, The Goat and I drove to Cincinnati and brought home Charlie Brown the Airedale.   Charlie brought his own set of ups and downs.  He’s a typical Airedale, smart, silly, and  active.  But The Goat and I had forgotten what it is like to have a young Airedale in the house.  The Jasmanian Devil had lived a long life, and having been sick, for we don’t really know how long, she had “mellowed” with age and illness.

Also, Charlie’s personality is quite different than Jasmine’s was, which is welcome  because being the same breed, it’s nice to be able to distinguish the difference between the two so easily.  No one ever wants to replace a beloved pet, so different personalities are helpful in these situations.  But, because of his different quirks, he’s forced us to rearrange a few things and rethink how we do things around the house.

Because I’m continually working towards simplifying and downsizing/ minimizing our possessions, Charlie’s been helpful in this overwhelming task, unfortunately.  See, if it’s not in a cupboard, drawer, above nose hight, or behind a door, he will lick and/or gnaw on it.  He doesn’t seem to want to eat it, unless it is a food source.  Like a small child, it seems that he just wants to learn more about every object he can through taste and smell.

That means that we’ve had to rearrange the kitchen, switching what’s in which cupboard or on the counter/shelves.  We had to figure out how to get the few soaps and shampoos that populate our shower shelves and sink counter higher than his reach.  We had to relocate 2 trash bins – one in the kitchen and one in the bath.  Laundry bins had to be elevated.  Baby gates and barriers have been strategically placed around the house.

And then there’s the garden …for the foreseeable future, we will not have grass.  Due to Charlie’s aggressive playing, most of the grass has been ripped up by his four speeding, and quite large, paws.

The Jasmanian Devil, if you recall, loved the brassica family – broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc. .   At planting time, we didn’t have a brassica munching four legged family member, so I planted a few of them inside the fence.  I thought, mistakenly, that since Charlie let them be when he first arrived that he wasn’t going to develop that habit.  Then one nice Fall day, I went out to harvest some kohlrabi and there he was, standing in the large pot, eating all of them.  All. Of. Them.  So much for that.  If you recall from an early post, he’s an avid tomato muncher too.

Which brings me to the year end pondering of what the next year will bring.  Once again, or maybe I should say “As always”, I will be trying to simplify our life by minimizing, sorting, and organizing the stuff in our house.  This year however, we’ll be assisted by a nosey four legged critter with a penchant for slobbering on everything.  As frustrating as it’s been (“Where did you find that tubing?”, “Stop drinking the dishwater!?”, “Why is there a dog toy in the laundry basket?”), I’m pleased with the clean lines of the empty hallway, the uncluttered look of the spaces we’ve already had to tackle, and the routine vacuuming schedule I’ve fallen into.

As for the garden, each year it gets a bit more difficult for me to manage and keep it up.  And each year I plan to up my game and be a better gardener.  I continually try to grow veggies and herbs, and some years I’m successful, others not so much.  (As a side note, our summer weather has been a bit erratic over the past few years, which doesn’t help either.)  And I have been moving towards container gardening – at least for the veggies – but haven’t had much success yet.

Now with Charlie tearing up the grass and eating every vegetable he can, the decision to move to containers, mostly outside of the fence, has been made for me.   But that’s going to come with it’s own set of issues, mainly the chipmunks and squirrels that inhabit that area of the yard  because it’s dog-free.  But I’m going to give it a try, again.  At least I know of a few CSA’s we can join to be sure of our local and fresh veggie consumption this next summer.

Moving to container gardening, also creates a few challenges in the current garden – like what do I do with it?  We have three raised beds that are still quite usable, I’ll have to decide what to plant in them – maybe I’ll expand my herbs this year and plan on harvesting and preserving more of them.   I could also look into crops that are more biennial or perennial than annual.  Since they are just outside the door, formatting it to look more like a traditional English-style Herb Garden might be fun.

Regardless or what I decide, and how I manage to accomplish it, one thing is certain, 2018 will be an interesting year in our Urban Jungle, hopefully it will be positive, restorative, and  energizing; and may whatever 2018 brings you be positive too.

Oh, and if you have any extra serving platter or bowling ball sized rocks you don’t need, feel free to drop them off at our house.  Our embankment could use some landscaping.


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