Warming up.

It’s only 70 today. We’ve already had our first 90 degree day. The lakes are full for the first time since 2007 such that they’re talking about opening the floodgates.

The grackles, mostly, benefit from my feeder. Pecking order became quickly apparent. They’re quite colorful, in their dark way.

The jays, doves, and cardinals come next, in that order. Finally the finches and sparrows on clean-up duty if there’s any left to clean.

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I’m warming up as well. Stretching my limbs and strengthening the sedentary after weeks of stillness. My eyes, even, need to stretch having been restricted in their view to the near and dear.

So the beds have some fish fertilizer

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The tomatoes were well cared for in my absence.

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And the unwanted crepe myrtle is making a stand.

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We’d been wondering if our backyard’s central tree (the type of which we’re not fans) had died. Last year it was budding on the heels of the hackberries behind it.

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Alas, or at last, life unfurls.

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Are there China berry trees that don’t look like China berry trees? If so, this is one.

Learning to cook.

My husband is an amazing cook. Countless times I’ve been asked where he studied. Countless times I tried to explain that he hadn’t. Then one time I remembered a line from Goodwill Hunting about how Mozart could just play. I appropriated the explanation. “You know how some people never took lessons but can just play music? He’s like that with cooking. He just does.”

These past months, our schedule is such that four nights a week he is gone to class during the time to cook and eat dinner if we’re to hit bedtime on schedule. So he’s been prepping what can be prepped, texting me instructions, and coming home in time to hopefully sneak a few bites before “splash splash” and “pjs” and “nilk.”

This means that inadvertently, I’ve been learning how to cook.

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Let’s back up a little…

I’ve always baked. I remember my brother and I kicking our parents out of the kitchen to make cookies by ourselves. I wasn’t yet four, he wasn’t yet six.

Cooking…never my strong suit. Overdone or raw, too much or too little, and without fail: underseasoned not seasoned.

When we first moved in together I was 18 and he was 19. It was our first night in the apartment and we’d just gotten home with dinner fixin’s. I went in the kitchen to start making whatever it was (probably rice and beans, we were painfully poor) and he came in the kitchen to ask, “what do you think you’re doing?”

“Making dinner.”

“Get out of my kitchen, silly,” he teased.

I obliged. I think I made dinner three times our first year together.

In the many years since then, I’ve acquired a few pony tricks. I can make chicken soup without a recipe. I can make a chicken/rosemary/bacon thing in the oven. I can usually manage to steam vegetables appropriately (and remember to salt them!) without them turning to mush. But that’s honestly about it.

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So fast forward back to now, and I’ve learned a lot in the recent weeks. I now know you don’t sear scallops in butter because the lactose makes them stick to the pan. And the (steel) pan needs to be heated empty, oil added, heated, and then scallops (that have been patted dry – and seasoned!) I know many things I didn’t.

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Tonight was the night I applied my lesson about scallops. It was also the night I didn’t overcook the squash (“turn it off when some are looking cooked and some still look raw.”) I did want some greens, and without his guidance ahead of time my intended serving for four ended up quite under-sized (but seasoned!)

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Try as I might…

I cannot make spinach happy. I try sowing it in the fall with the chard and kale…nope. I try with the winter lettuce. I try with the spring beans. It doesn’t take. I still try, but have nearly started to think of spinach seeds as a soil amendment.

And then there’s this guy. This guy can came up in the shade of a Thai basil and I didn’t even notice him until the basil wilted in a freeze months ago. Since then he’s grown, greened up, and gained a richness to his sheen.
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I last sowed spinach in this bed two autumns past.

And they say seeds don’t last long!

Put your feet up…

I had many plans for today. Beans and peas in the soil. Brassica family starts from the farmer’s market into the shady new bed…

Plans are funny things. I like plans. Perhaps as much as I like surprises. (I make sense. Promise.) I do well with plans or surprises. I do not do so well with plans that change or fall through or are otherwise lost. In becoming aware over the years of this facet of myself, I’ve found ways around it, or through it, or on occasion, standing straight up in it until it passes overhead like a thundercloud threatening that never delivers. So today is not full of digging in the earth. Nor is it full of getting ready for a short work week. Or making a blackberry pie as planned for a Labor Day Feast.

Why?

Well, let’s just say that instead, I’m holed up on the sofa, crutches close at hand. My ankle lost last night in a soccer match against a leg stronger than mine. Thankfully it wasn’t broken. I went down this same road almost fifteen years ago now. Air cast. Ice. Elevate. Aggravate your other leg’s knee with your hopping about because I’m-only-going-right-there-and-don’t-need-crutches-for-such-a-short-distance.

So instead, I’ll say hello to you all. I’ll draft the plans for the brassica and other winter garden tenants, maybe. I’ll see if there’s a leftover Premier League match on the internet, maybe. I’ll poke at the swelling, definitely. And I’ll ponder on how a work week will look with only manual transmission cars at my disposal…

I did manage a few things before becoming a one-legged-stubborn-hopper…I made a sidewalk.

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When we first moved here, the 6″ wide strip between the sidewalk and the house was full of St. Augustine. Mowing and edging 6″ of grass seemed silly. Out it came. The grocery store had soft fuzzy sage specimens for $4. I picked up two. One went in this strip of soil to be baked in its concrete confines and watered rarely. It housed an Anole (who has since moved to the compost pile) and provided shade to the toads. It also grew from about 6″ tall and 3″ wide to about 3′ tall and 5′ wide. Oops? DH has been missing the sidewalk (that leads to the back patio, that houses the grill, that rains down delicious food like mana from the sky) so I figured it was time to make a sidewalk.

In so doing, I found a few things. I found another melon growing on the vine that gave me this delicious morsel.
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I found a spinach bouquet where I had forgotten I’d sown spinach.
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And then I realized I needed someplace to put the large cubic volume of sage. The garden could use a little mulch…but I’d lost the battle against the mealybugs for the tomatoes and didn’t want to mulch them in for the winter…so out they came.
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And in went the sage mulch.
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I’m hoping the strong smell of the sage will confuse any leftover mealybugs enough that they don’t move in on my peppers (hiding in the sage). I feel like each August is a battle against the mealybugs. Last August I won. This August I lost. Year before I won. Year before they did…perhaps next year will be mine again.