Saturday, April 17, 2010

Farmers' Market

I wish we could get to the Farmers' Market before it gets so crowded and before the sun is so high. I just can't seem to get it together enough for us to be there before 9:30 or so. Robert needs to be fed, changed, dressed; the dog walked; the dog, cat, and chickens fed, before leaving the house. Since I am not going to wake the baby up any earlier than when he wakes up on his own, well, I guess we'll be fighting the crowds all summer. Sigh. Today I bought our strawberry plants. We've been outside all week, feels like. Yesterday I mowed 5/8 of our yard, moved the chicken coop and cleaned it out, and pounded the stakes for the inner chicken-fence. I don't think I mentioned this yet-- I'm putting in a little, 24" high chicken-wire fence on the inside of the garden beds to keep the chickens out while they're free-ranging. This after noon I finished the other 3/8 of the mowing (can't get it all done at once because it takes longer than how long Robert will sit happily in his stroller) and worked on the fence a little more. I love this time of year but it is exhausting, too. You ever notice how the old-timers you see working in their gardens are always skinny? I think this is why.

"I DO NOT LIKE THE HAT"... he seems to say.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Garden Tour

What's blooming in my neighborhood:

Bleeding hearts. I love these. If I ever have a shady garden, they're high on my list.

Creeping phlox. It's planted like this all over my neighborhood, since so many houses have steep drops from yard to street. Most of the year it's just a nice, unobjectionable ground cover, but every spring it puts on a huge display.

And my all-time favorite tree, the Eastern Redbud. Also, the lilacs and dogwoods are in bloom. I love this time of year!

Monday, April 12, 2010

What Don did this weekend

In order to finish the Retaining Wall in Ditch project, as well as finish filling the raised beds with topsoil, Don rented a tractor. Lucky I'm not the jealous type, because I think it was love at first sight. (I now pronounce you Man and Kubota?) He spent the weekend moving dirt and building walls, grumbling something about starting projects you can't finish grr grr grr, while Robert and I stayed in our nice, air-conditioned house and took pictures.

In this picture, he has either just conquered the gravel pile or is auditioning for a Captain Morgan commercial, I can't remember. Does he have a little captain in him? Why no, he is filled with Magic Hat!

After his typical, seventy-hour workweek and two days laboring in the backyard, he re-built this raised bed for me. I think he really does love me. You can kind of see the arrangement of the two walls filling the ditch in this picture. We still need more back-fill behind the taller one, and each wall still needs the row of capstones that finishes it, but otherwise, mission accomplished. In between the two walls I'm going to plant strawberries, and the bed that Don is working on is going to be raspberries. I guess it's the fruity end of the yard.

In other news, I cleared out the tiny closet, have the fridge half done, and other small accomplishments crossed off The List. Robert can suddenly hardly get enough to eat; I'm feeding him every few hours around the clock. Big people-food meals during the day, breastfeeding in between times, and he still wants to nurse several times during the night. He even ate the green beans that he refused a few weeks ago. (Not the same ones, of course, but the other half of a two-pack.) I think he's going through a growth spurt. According to our scale, he is now 25.5 pounds. He understands the words for 'dragon' and 'dog', as in 'where's the ___?'; likes to imitate sounds, facial expression, and movements; and has started creeping along the furniture when he pulls himself up to standing. I guess it's a growth AND development spurt, really. At lunchtime I was blowing on each bite for him, and when I offered him a bite, he tried to blow on it too. SO cute.

...because it's not a blog post without the obligatory baby picture!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Finally Something Finished

My marathon cleaning isn't going quite as well as planned. I should be at least one-third done and I am not. Whine whine whine, it's haaaard to get anything done with a baby, bitch bitch bitch. I know. It's lazy. But I got the first item from the kitchen sub-list, "clean and organize hutch" done yesterday. I know it looks over-full, but this hutch serves as most of my pantry and a good bit of my counter space; it's never going to be spare and minimalist the way it would be in a catalogue. Among other things, it holds fourteen one-pound boxes of dried pasta. I'm not a hoarder, honestly! The store was having a buy-two-get-THREE-free sale on the brand I already buy. What would you do? (Correct answer: pay for four boxes, walk out with ten.)
Zoom-in on my 'Never Trust a Skinny Cook' sign, which I love but would love to invalidate by reskinny-fying myself... or at least losing seven pounds or so. Today I will get more things done.

Monday, April 05, 2010

First Time at the Park

I suppose the title says it all. There is a playground near our house, and yesterday we took Robert there for the first time. He is just barely big enough to use the little-kid swings. We actually went twice; just me, the dog and the baby in the morning, then all of us in the evening. This was partly because I knew Don would want to be a part of the Baby's First Swings experience, and partly because I was disappointed with the photos I'd taken in the morning. Time of day makes a huge difference sometimes: the top picture here was taken mid-morning, when the light was really bright and harsh. The others were taken at sunset.

Here, Don is playing I'm Going to Eat your Feet!, swing version. It's one of his favorites. We were kind of hoping that these people would invite us to their barbecue, the aroma of which was permeating the whole park, but no such luck.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


...with the baby on my back. In the background: compost heaps, chicken house and run, straw bales. I think we might be That House in our neighborhood.

Don took several pictures, but apparently it is not possible for both of us to look at the camera simultaneously. Perhaps it violates a law of photographical physics, I don't know.
Working on my marathon-list with varying degrees of success, but it's only the 3rd. We'll get there.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Which came first?

The girls have fun scratching in what will soon be the raspberry bed.

I could also call this, why we grow our own. Grocery store-egg to the left, backyard egg to the right. And these are supposedly the really good store eggs, cage-free and all that. There's just no comparison.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Today I:

Mucked out the chicken house.
Did a sink-load of dishes.
Walked the baby and the dog to our coffee place.
Went to both the grocery store and Bed, Bath & Beyond (with baby, of course).
Folded and put away two loads of laundry (from yesterday).
Organized out-grown baby clothes, stored away.
Re-organized Robert's dresser.
Moved all my seedlings outside to take advantage of this warm sunshine.
Made dinner.

I've been dealing with some fairly bad insomnia lately, and spent more time last night staring into space than actually sleeping. So the above may not sound like much, but considering the three-hours-of-sleep situation (multiplied by days and days now), it's pretty damn good. I'm trying to get outside, get things done, and avoid lounging around the house, in an effort to tire myself out.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April Spring Clean Marathon

This is my to-do list for the month of April. It is essentially a deep clean, organization, and baby-proofing of the entire house. I realize that last month would have made more sense, what with the Official Last Date of Frost being April 28 in these parts (hence all of April being a gardening frenzy), but my time-turner is broken so, oh well. My reasons for wanting to do this are as follows: My mom, my sister, and my sister's boyfriend are coming in early May. My sister and her boyfriend are moving here (Yay!), and our mom is making the drive with them in order to help out (and to see us, of course, only grandchild and all that). They are both the kind of naturally tidy and organized people that probably secretly wonder how I'm from the same gene pool; the sort that, if they remove a sweater, hang it on a hanger or put it in the hamper, rather than dump it on the floor, which is what seems normal to me. Neither is judge-y, but I will feel much more comfortable knowing that the place is presentable through-and-through. The baby-proofing is obvious, what with having a crawling, pulling-up, mobile little monster rambling about the place, and is also to help my mom sleep more easily, knowing that our cabinets are latched, our outlets covered, and our carbon monoxide detected. Second, our Stuff is, once again, starting to grow larger than the available space. So, some things must be disposed of via the dump and Goodwill, and some better-organized and hidden away. Third, our little house only requires a big ol' cleaning every year or so (at least to my eyes, see above), so once I get this done, I can breathe easy and just do the usual mop-and-vacuum-and-dishes routine for the rest of the year. (The last one was shortly before I went into labor, so yep, about a year.) Since I plan on spending copious amounts of time this summer out in the garden, this thought makes me happy. With a better-organized, cleaner, and more child-safe space, everything will be easier once I'm through. So, what I will do is come back to this post every few days and edit to indicate what's been done. Obviously some of the things on the list will need to be done regularly, like scrubbing the stove, so those I mean specifically for right before everyone gets here. I'm actually hoping to finish several days before said family arrives, so I can cook and bake up a storm as is usual for me, rather than thinking about cobwebs. So here's the list:

Laundry Room
Empty shelves of everything random
Reorganize what's left
Move doors down to shed
Return top of washing machine to proper place
Scrub floor

Clean and organize hutch shelves
Ditto hutch drawers
Scrub fridge interior
Scrub fridge exterior, including top
Organize freezer
Check liquor bottles for viability
Organize over-stove cabinet
Scrub stove top
Scrub oven door, knobs, broiler door etc.
Fix kitchen sink faucet
Scrub sink w/ baking soda
Polish kitchen window, inside and out
Organize three lower cabinets
Install baby locks ditto
Wash all cabinet door and drawer fronts, etc
Clear off table, find home for random table orphans
Scrub floor

Organize medicine cabinet
Organize under-sink cabinet
Scrub area around toilet
Polish window in and out
Polish mirror
Get Don to scrub tub
Replace shower curtain
Scrub floor
Floor mat into washing machine

Clear out and organize tiny closet
Clear out bookshelf
Move books to living room
Throw away many magazines
Clear desktop
Organize three desk drawers
Polish both windows
Bundle computer cords with wire ties, make inaccessible
Organize upper shelf of main closet

Replace smoke detector
Install carbon monoxide detector
Clean or replace air-filter cover

Living Room
Move ADT system box
Shift left-side bookcase
Check that bookcases are still attached to wall
Go to IKEA, get bottom doors for bookcases
Install said doors, add baby locks
Staple speaker cords to wall
Polish window, door window, and screen door
Buy new blinds for window
Install blind-cord wind-upper thingie
Ask next door about baby gate
Vacuum sofa
Reorganize bookshelves

Figure out how to reinstall closet door
Get rid of random electronics via Craigslist
Flip mattress
Replace pack'n'play with child mattress?
Obtain more under-bed storage bags for baby clothes
Transfer current storage things to closet top shelf
Sort through baby clothes again, out-growns into new unit

Vacuum cobwebs from ceilings, door frames, etc
Dust everywhere, especially ceiling fans, light fixtures, etc

Front Porch
Don's job.

Random Errands
IKEA: bookshelf doors, kiddie mattress, sheets to fit
Lowe's: staples for staple gun, dowels for closet door, kitchen sink parts, new window blind, blind cord thing, more baby locks, smoke and CO detectors
Bed, Bath & Beyond: under-bed units
Take truck-load of stuff from shed, laundry room, to the dump
Take boxes to Goodwill

There are approximately sixty things to do here, but naturally it will not be a two-things-per-day kind of project; more likely a bunch of stuff one day, and nothing the next. Some will obviously only take ten minutes, some just require equipment or supplies I don't have yet. My goal is to hit about three per day whenever I can. Wish me luck, energy, and a baby who wants to be in a backpack!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What else I've been up to

Because believe it or not, it's not just all baby, all the time. I have big gardening plans for this year, very exciting. (To me.) In what was last year's vegetable garden, we're putting in raspberries. It's a bed along the south edge of the backyard, about 18' long. Raspberries are pretty much my favorite fruit (hard to say as I love them all but definitely up there in the top five) and they're always expensive, even in season. I'm so excited about having my own! According to The Garden Primer, once they're established I can expect "up to a quart of berries per foot of row". Eighteen quarts of raspberries! Not this year, of course, but still. Along the back (eastern) edge of the yard, we've* built a raised bed that's about 35' long and 30" wide, that will be this year's vegetable garden. (Next year, I'll be planting asparagus there.) Nothing fancy, just the basics like tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, salad greens, herbs, and flowers. Lots of flowers. To decide what to plant, I thought about what we bought the most often or spent the most on at the Farmers' Market last summer; we were always buying salad greens, zukes, and bouquets of flowers. So, in addition to edging both raised beds with alyssum, nasturtiums, and marigolds, I'm planting zinnias, cosmos, calendula, ageratum, and sunflowers for cuttings. No more spending $7 for a handful of zinnias this summer**! Don built me a plant light so that I could start seeds inside for the first time. I'm starting all the flowers ahead, since they're expensive to buy as plants, and I wanted a lot of them. I plan to buy some plants still, especially tomatoes. My logic is that I only want about six tomato plants, but I don't want all six to be the same variety. So I could either buy 3-4 different seed packets and use maybe 2 seeds from each one, or just buy the plants themselves from the Farmers' Market and get all the variety I want, with no waste. Right now I have 144 seed cells started, two trays of 72 that I'm running alternately under the light.

This is the first tray, three days after planting.

And here it is after one week. At least a few of everything has sprouted so far, and they're growing fast. I had one little problem with the marigold seeds I ordered from Seeds of Change, as the website described this variety as growing 2-3" tall. Turned out to be a typo as they meant 2-3', which luckily was correct on the seed packet itself. Since I wanted to use them to edge my garden, I had to buy more seeds from Lowe's, and use these elsewhere. No big deal really, although I'm still kicking myself for believing that any marigold could be only three inches tall. (I sent them an email in case someone else makes the same error, and they wrote back saying they'd fix it.)

The girls are doing wonderfully well, even after one of the snowiest winters in old-timer recollection. They seem to be perfectly healthy and happy, which reinforces the fact that chickens don't need much pampering to get by. Their house is unheated, and a bit airy (I was more worried about ventilation than insulation when we built it) but it's dry and out of the wind. I took this picture from the kitchen window, which is upstairs and many feet back from the backyard. I really like my new camera, and its 10X zoom feature. Gimpy Girl (to the far right) seems to have finally hit chicken sexual maturity, as her comb has grown larger and turned red, and she has laid at least two eggs. One was this tiny little thing, like a robin's egg but brown, but the other was a small-ish but normal chicken egg. The other day when I went to collect, there were four eggs nestled together, simple as that. She may have laid more than that, it's hard to tell since they all lay in the same place. We get anywhere from none to three, generally, with two being the median.
If I keep on with the blogging, expect many more boring posts about gardens and chickens.
*i.e. I design, Don builds to my specifications. Except when he doesn't, and I end up with something funky. Like the raspberry bed that's about 16" wider than I wanted, which is OK because I'll plant a row of onions in there too.
** Don't look too deeply into what the garden itself is costing... These things should be amortized over a few seasons anyway.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

10 Months Old Today

Pretty cute, if I do say so myself. This is his "Oy, enough with the camera already, paparazzi lady!" expression. It used to be so easy to take his picture... most of our early photos look like this one, from when he was about four weeks old:

He slept a lot. And even when he was awake, he couldn't really move around but stayed where he was put. Of course, as he gained in mobility, he also developed a bit more expression; now, I get a lot of pictures like this one:

... which wasn't cropped at all. "What's that? A camera? Let me see! Is it for tasting?" (He seems to say, as it all sounds like AHHHHhhhh to me.)

All in all, I think he's a keeper. Only two months until he's a year old, who can believe it?
Arrgh looking through his newborn pictures has me thinking about teensy tiny little newborn babies. Bad Mara. Stop that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baby Food

We're feeding Robert a mix of store-bought baby food and homemade. Most of the homemade is just whatever we're eating, cooked down more and pureed. Easy, except that he's still scared of the food processor.

Chicken and carrots cooking in scratch chicken broth.

Salmon and kale.

Portioned out for the freezer.

Sometimes, it's even simpler: his favorite food, cut up and saved for later.

He approves mightily of the chicken blend.
I also blend up a lot of fruits, and mix them into either his infant cereal or plain, whole-fat yogurt. Bananas or applesauce with blueberries or raspberries, stuff like that. They taste good enough to add to my own yogurt or oatmeal. Regarding the infant cereal (an organic, heavily fortified wheat/oat blend), I've got mixed feelings. His pediatrician recommended using it at "two or three of his meals" for the iron, while explaining that many infants (especially breastfed infants) start to have lower iron levels at this age. I personally don't think that grain cereals are a very desirable food at this age, since without the added vitamins, they don't have much going for them. I'd rather he be eating fruits and veggies; meat, fish, eggs; and a little dairy (I mean other than the mama-dairy, of which he still takes copiously.) Having oatmeal three times a day seems excessive, so I compromised and included it in one meal per day. Then the doctor called back with the results from his blood work* and his iron was perfectly satisfactory, and that was before he'd been having any kind of cereal or fortified foods so it seems he was getting plenty before. (I guess my diet is satisfactory, too.) By then I was seduced, though, because with this stuff you just add plain water and stir! So easy! But something he was eating was making him sort-of constipated. I say sort-of because it didn't seem to be causing him any discomfort, but he was pooping very hard golf balls every few days, which just didn't seem right. I nixed the yogurt, nothing. Nixed the cereal, it got a little better. Finally went on a 24-hour all-breastmilk fast, which got him pooping like a baby again, but left me exhausted. Geez but this kid can eat. Now we're going to slowly reintroduce the cereal to see if it creates rock-poop again.
*This office checks iron levels and for the presence of lead as part of their nine-month routine. Robert turned up positive for lead (!) but that's another post.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm still here.

So hey! Hi! It's only been like three months since I last posted anything here. That's not a long time or anything, no. Apparently, writing in a blog is like working out: the longer you go without doing it, the harder it is to just get up and do it. I guess there are many reasons for my long absence, including but not limited to Robert's short nap times, my own insomnia, a bout of depression somewhere in February, and the beginning of gardening season. Not that any of those are real excuses, of course. But they add up. It's not like I don't spend plenty of time on the computer; I do. But it's all little chunks: read a blog, play a game, update Facebook. Nothing that requires any real time, thought or energy. Often when I'm laying down with Robert, I'll think of things that I'd like to write, start drafting in my head, but when he's finally asleep... I don't know, I just don't. And I'm sorry about it, mainly because I think I'll regret having let a big chunk of my baby's first year gone undocumented.

As always, his sleep is all over the map, but I think it's slowly, slowly starting to improve overall. His naps have sort of coalesced from many little sleeps into two long-ish sleeps, or at least into sandwich-style naps (i.e. he sleeps for twenty minutes and when he wakes, I nurse him or otherwise convince him to return to sleep, putting him down all over again.) We have an official bedtime routine now that goes dinner--bath--bed, hitting the bed part right around seven. Sometimes, he sleeps all evening and night, only waking to breastfeed. Other times, he bounces up at 8:30, wide awake. Or, worst of all, at 4:00am. But, as I said, it's ever-so-slowly getting better. I think the amount of people foods in his diet is helping, as is all the crawling. I've completely given up caffeinated coffee, which helped some, too. Plus maybe just getting older.

He's crawling like crazy, can get from room to room no problem, gets into everything. When he's on a mission, he crawls very fast and makes this funny "eh-eh-eh" sound to himself. It's quite amusing but I haven't been able to capture it on video yet. He pulls himself up to standing. He waves hello-goodbye, says 'mama' (or 'mamba', depending), is still toothless, but has had a lot more hair come in. He has made the predictable shift from social butterfly to shy mama's boy. At his nine-month doctor visit, he was declared the picture of health, as well as still enormous-- 85th percentile for weight but off the chart still for length. He is wearing size 18-month onesies. He nurses maybe six times a day still, as well as eating three people-food meals. His favorites are avocado, anything mixed with mango or apricot, and a chicken-carrot combination I made, but he'll tolerate pretty much anything. He likes egg yolk, but only from a fried egg, not hard boiled.

I have become a master at over-easy eggs, and as Don says, if you can do a good over-easy, you can do any kind of egg.

I am not making any promises about posting more, but I am going to try.