Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Garden Zooming

This last weekend had us out in the garden quite a bit. We've managed to plant corn in 8 pots -- our experiment continues. This was the only way we could grow corn due to space limitations (I still don't have the OK to rip out half the lawn) and we can move them later in the season if we find a better spot for sun.

Many of the plants are doing well. This is a tomatillo. These are usually the most beautiful plants in the garden. We've had good luck with them in the past so my fingers are crossed.

The blueberries seem to be going crazy. Just look at all of these:

No idea if they'll survive though... Some critter is coming along and eating the strawberries just before they're ripe enough to pick.

And, speaking of critters. I found a couple of these things flying around in the yard. Are they yellow jackets?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pop Door, Finally

I finally got around to installing a pop door on the enclosed run for the chickens. It's been a LONG time coming. For the last couple of years we've just been opening the regular, full-sized door whenever we want to let them out to run around the netted area we have set aside for them. The problem is that we have to leave the door open in order to let them go back in to the coop/run to get food/water and lay eggs.

And that meant having to rearrange the netting every time. Also the birds would make a huge mess kicking around their hay/etc. and then the door wouldn't close/etc.

Anyway, here it is. I was able to use the left over materials from when we built the run originally. The window lock is from some windows we salvaged. Unfortunately I didn't have hinges that would work so I had to go buy those.

I've had this project on my todo list for about two years now. It feels really, really good to cross that one off the list!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Want to help a new writer?

It's time to push on to the next step with my writing. Do you want to have early access to a book? I'm looking for some beta readers for my "middle grade" level book.

I've put together an ARC (advance reader copy) with all three books crammed together. Let me know in the comments if you're interested and I'll send you a copy. I can send you a .pdf. I also have a couple copies of the printed versions I can hand out, but I'm not sure the best way to do that yet. Maybe if you want a printed version you can make your case in the comments.

Anyway, I'd really appreciate your help. I've had these books proofread a few times, had an editor go over the first book, and have had them read to and by about 50 5th graders and a couple of teachers, so hopefully you won't be tripping over too many typos (though I'm sure I've missed a few). I think the books work well from 4th grade up through 7th or 8th; however, it should be fun enough to read as an adult too.

If reading through all three books is too much, I'd be happy with your thoughts on the first book (160-ish pages).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not Today/Maybe Tomorrow

Here at work today the CEO thought it would be fun to walk across the street to the park and teach juggling to anyone who wanted to come. Call it team building, or morale boosting, or whatever you like, but I think it was a great gesture.

The invitation actually went out a week ago. Everyone knew it was today. I was looking forward to going.

I would like to learn to juggle, but at the very last second I decided I would not attend today. I have a litany (like that word) of excuses: my allergies, I want to leave early, I have work to do, etc.

But when a coworker rushed back into the office to get something she had forgotten she saw me and asked:

"Are you coming to juggle?"

"Not today," I said, adding a thick layer of regret to my words.

She blinked, turned away and said, "Maybe tomorrow..."

It was a wistful and knowing "maybe tomorrow" -- she wasn't saying there would be a chance to spend an hour with the CEO learning to juggle tomorrow. There most likely won't. Instead, I think she was saying that there was NO lesson tomorrow. Why wait? Why pass up a one time opportunity? And with a lame explanation of "not today..."

It's too late to go now. But it's not too late to try to learn from this. I've spent my life spewing out Not Today's. That might even be my catch phrase. I'm incredibly shy and often I'll want to do something, but shyness will overtake me at the last minute.

What if I had said "not today" the day I asked my wife out on our first date?

Am I teaching this to my kids?

I need to do better. I want to do better.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Home Safety/Preparedness

Just last week we had a rather strong spring storm roll through over night. And when I say "strong" I mean "strong for us here in the Bay Area in California." But something like 750 lightning strikes were recorded and there was plenty of wind and rain to go along with it.

Anyway, the next morning we were talking with the kids and I said how lucky we were that the power didn't go out. And then I asked, "does everyone know where the flashlights and candles are?"

"Uh, I don't know... Bottom drawer?"

Not exactly the confidence inspiring answer I was hoping for. For the record, I know where several flashlights are because I put them in a pile in the garage recently in preparation for coming up with a plan for where to mount two of them and stash the rest. Uh... Guilty!

Fast forward to the weekend. I went and mounted a couple of flashlights and the fire extinguisher.

And we showed the kids where to find the others. Also, we have a lot of candles around and inside the fireplace, so we're golden there.

Next up is showing the kids how to use the fire extinguisher (I haven't forgotten!).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Writing Milestone

This week I sat at my desk during lunch every day and wrote. I've been working on the third book in my little trilogy I wrote for my daughters. I started the third book back in November of 2010 and finished it just now, 12:55PM, Friday.

I set it down several times in that period and honestly wasn't sure if I'd ever finish it.

Of course I have a long way to go before it's really "done" -- but the first complete draft is here and now I'm relieved. This one is about 10k words longer than the first two. I've been adding in so many missing scenes. I think I really didn't want to write the ending. I suppose that might say a lot about me and my feelings about many things. OR, it might just mean I'm lazy. Or tired. :)

Next steps include: more proofreading, editing, then bundling the three and finding a way to publish and distribute. Create ebooks/etc. Give printed or digital copies to various people/etc.

Now I'm free to start reworking last year's nanowrimo story. I've been excited to get back into that world.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good People

The compost pile hit 140F and started steaming this AM. The smell, unfortunately, hasn't gone down enough. I'm eternally grateful that our neighbors aren't upset (well, enough to come talk to us about it anyway).

Today my wife went to her usual coffee shop, a tiny place wedged in between two Starbucks and a Pete's (in a downtown street that's less than a mile long). She's been going there for 20 years.

The owners gave her two old burlap coffeebean sacks today. We'll throw those over the pile to hopefully keep the flies and smell down. They're very nice people and they're always happy to see her when she comes in. They give our kids little treats, too. If I drank coffee, I'd get mine from there.

Anyway, this weekend I'll get out there and stir up the pile all over again.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Garden Momentum

Things are starting to heat up (literally) around our tiny garden.

Yesterday we mucked out the chicken run and coop. Last winter we had issues with puddling in the run. Our solution was to pour in a bunch of pea gravel and then cover that with our traditional thick layer of hay. We thought that would solve the problem. Of course, the hens were not on board with our plan and they proceeded to dig all the way down to the mud and generally make things worse. After the hay began to break down, we had a kind of adobe/cement-like substance with mud, gravel, and hay.

Not our finest moment.

So yesterday we dug down to the dirt again. This resulted in an overflowing compost bin. I dumped the muck in one 5-gallon bucket at a time, thoroughly wetting each layer with the hose. The finished pile was about 3 feet tall, 4 feet long, and 4 feet deep. I put the thermometer in and it read 70 degrees. I checked again at 5pm and it still read 70. But at 8AM today, it was over 100F! Unfortunately, the yard reeks as the composting begins and I hope my neighbors forgive us. I know this happens every time, but I always forget how bad it smells the first day.

We have two components in our compost that seem to refuse to break down: egg shells and pine shavings. Any idea how to get those to break down more quickly? Our garden has a layer of egg shells on top from where we dumped in some "finished" compost a few weeks ago.

Speaking of the garden.

That's arugula sprouting between those tomatillos. That's the small box. The larger box has some peppers, carrots, two kinds of onions from last year, turnips, peas, and a shallow bowl of salad greens that we'll share with the chickens. Everything has sprouted and I still have some garden motivation going.