Monthly Archives: June 2016

A level gained

There are moments in life when I feel deeply entitled to a level up. There should be deep, booming music or a soaring symphony that drags you into ecstasy. The moment should ignite the flight or flight reflexes and cause a shudder of adrenaline.

My level up occurred when I paid off my student loan. I had taken it out in 2006 as an attempt to make myself more appealing to the job market. I wound up getting a job two months later. I am still at that job.

The payments have not been high.  They where still there. A handful of hours worked each month towards the repayment.

It was last year that I realized both my car payment and my student loan would be finished at the same time. It was this month that I looked at the small balance of a few hundred dollars and decided to gift myself an early conclusion.

I didn’t level up. It was pleasant. The screen was irritatingly bland. It looked just like any other payment screen except for the small note that they would send out a satisfaction letter for the loan once it was done. I printed it out anyway.

A bit of success.

Growth in June

Growth is speeding up. The plants are much taller than I am. They make an arch over the walkway I struggle to keep carved between them.

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The cucumbers have slowed down. My mother was concerned but I told her that they had to take some time to grow their burden of fruit. We’ve picked most of it and I expect to have another cucumber explosion soon.

I will say that the lemon cucumbers are amazing. Their size is perfect. They are crisp and taste boldly of cucumber.  I will be keeping them in the garden.

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The tomato plants are out of control. They are growing over the balcony. The railings. And everywhere. We had a hail storm and the hail was knocking tomatoes off of the branches. There was not a lot of damage.

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The hail melted quickly but it is not something that you want to see hitting your garden. Beyond that, the plants are just burdened with fruit. I will say the plant spikes have helped.  I need to go out and put in another round. I also weekly fertilizer and sometimes do liquid fertilizer when we have a lot of rain.

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The drip system on the automatic timer may have taken a bit to get perfect but I am glad that I did. The plants almost never experience any wilt. They rarely dry out. The constant flow of water also cools the roots. They are very happy plants and my deck is a jungle.

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Harvesting

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I finally had some time to go out and tend the plants. My one that dried out looks as if it is dying. I’m not going to pull the plant because it may recover with a secondary set of shoots.

The one that drowned is recovering. I expect to lose most of the fruit. Blossom end rot is starting to develop. It comes from uneven watering and the plant not being able to properly use its calcium. It is disappointing but it happens.

The spread in the above picture is lemon cucumbers at the top, a bowl full of sungolds and red currants and to the side are the little unexpected visitors. I pull them as they ‘blush’ their color. You can see the ones pulled in today (on the counter) vs the ones that have ripened.

I do this for a few reasons.

1: To stop splitting. As the tomato grows and water is added they can start to split. If we get a rainstorm your ripening fruits may just split open and become ruined. The taste will not change if you pluck it at first blush. The ‘vine ripened’ theory is bullshit. There are some fruits that only ripen on the plant. Lemons and limes are one of them. That is why they tend to taste so wildly varied depending on the season. Tomatoes, once they change color, will taste as they are supposed to taste. Pull them early to stop splitting.

2: Pests. The pests in this case are birds. The birds can spot the flash of color in the green. They come and take a bit bite out of the fruit.

3: Waste. I work long hours and fruit can turn very quickly outside on a hot day. I prefer to bring them inside and give them several days to ripen. This lets us consume the older fruit first.

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This is a black krim that started to change. It is fully ripe now.

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I’m also in love with my lemon cucumbers. They are delicious.

The Unfortunate Circumstance of Time

Plants are a bit like pets. They require less care but they do require care.

Yesterday, while preparing for work I noticed that one of my tomato plants looked a bit wilted. I had cut back their water on the previous day due to the rain we had on Friday into Saturday. Not thinking much about it, I figured I would check on it today, when I was off work.

This morning, as I am doing the morning rodeo, made worse by Inty deciding not to be reasonable, I realize that it is wilted. Completely wilted. I turned on the drips and realized that its drip had been ripped from the pot.

The answer to what happened was simple. My mother when squeezing between the plants caught it, probably with the hose. I closed my eyes. It seems that I will lose plants anyway. I have to stop overcrowding when the garden is not mine alone. She never sees the path of destruction that she leaves behind.

I have no idea if I am to late to save this plant or not. It is in full wilt. I saturated it. I have to be out of the house today. I planned on tomorrow being my gardening day. I need to prune them back and strip dying lower branches.

This will be my second plant struggling to disaster and my work schedule. I work 10am to 10pm. The morning start with Inty screaming as if he is dying. I get him tended and settled. Some days I can check the plants, others I cannot. I get home around 10:30-11pm. Its dark. I often make dinner. Wash, rinse, repeat. I really need to break Inty out of his morning tantrum. I know he is ready to be up but I just don’t care and I am so tired of losing sleep.

My other is the only yellow stuffing pepper that made it. The plant I thought was a yellow stuffing pepper turned out to produce small, green stripped, red tomatoes. Its problem is that it drowned during a heavy rainfall at the end of last week.

Again, this happened during some work days. One morning I notice a mild wilt. The next day I realize the plant is full on dying. This time the drain holes plugged and the pot filled up with water. I pulled its tray and let it drain for several days without a reservoir. The good news is that I believe the plant is recovering. I have probably lost most of the productivity on it. That is disappointing but an unfortunate consequence. Hopefully, after all of this, it can still produce a few fruits. I was pretty excited about this plant so it is disappointing.

Cars, Drama and Long Stories

Unfortunately, I had to take the car in for its inspection. This rarely goes well.

Being a woman around vehicles can be frustrating. Old fashioned ideas churn to the surface. I am a girl. What do I know about cars? I am a particularly stupid looking girl. I’m over weight, large eyed, and look stupid. My friends will rush to me and tell me that I do not look stupid. But, at thirty seven, I have accepted the fact that something about me looks as if you can come and get one over on me quite easily.

This is why my husband has taken over the basic car maintenance.  I always have problems. It is not that I fall for these problems. As helpless as I may look, I am not helpless. At our old home, I cut through the paperwork and just changed the oil on our cars and bikes on my own. That always surprised people. The task is not particularly hard. My first car was prone to breaking down and I hated feeling helpless.

My time with cars has not been smooth. Car dealers treat me poorly. I was once cornered in an office and told that I was lucky that the manufacturer was willing to give me a loan. That I had to take it and buy the car. I told them to give me my keys and left. I’ve been bullied by car and motorcycle dealers. Bullied and lied to. I stick to independent shops or learned to do my own maintenance.

When my Jeep’s engine went out, the first thing I was told was, “You have to change the oil.” The Jeep had 90k miles at the time and I later learned that it had an engine that was prone to problems. My vehicle was well cared for but the first assumption is always, “Girl doesn’t take care of her car.”

Fast forward to my current problem. I have a 2011 Honda CR-Z. I purchased it to replace my 2007 Dodge Charger. Many people cannot understand why I’d go down to a tiny hybrid from my big monster hemi. The answer was reliability. At 50k my Charger had eaten through the cheap ass continental tires they put on it, and was starting to have ball join issues. It had developed dash rattle and in general was turning out to be a beautiful piece of shit with an amazing engine that drank six quarts of synthetic oil a change. It was an expensive car and when the notice came from our instance company that its insurance was going up by 50% due to the large number of crashed Chargers, I traded it in and swore off American manufacturers.

My CR-Z was amazing. It sips gas (9 gallon tank) and needs an oil change once a year. Its small as well. I had begun to hate how large the Charger was. I missed my 99 Eclipse something fierce and the CR-Z settled that itch. Its insurance was also a quarter of the chargers and the payments were less.

Over the last five years, the CR-Z has been flawless. We’ve busted tires on potholes twice now. It is paid off in October of this year. It isn’t even ready for a tune up per its manual. However, we failed state inspection in February because of a busted fog light.

A broken fog light is a silly thing to fail inspection for but rules are rules. The Honda dealer quoted $500 to replace it. That is where things got ridiculous. My husband told them, “No,” and came home with it. “Let’s just find a shop to fix it,” he said after looking into it and seeing we could not fix it at home. The reason we could not fix it was that the bumper needed to be removed. There are some sensitive electronics (such as the airbag sensor) that run through that area. We decided to have it properly lifted by a garage and replaced.

Some searching showed us that the Honda CR-Z light costs about 200-300 dollars. A second search showed us that the CR-Z and the Civic share the same fog light. They are in different plastic mounts. You can replace just the light and keep the mount. The Civic light costs $40. We ordered Civic lights and my husband decided to order amber/yellow. We had discussed it before. The Amber/Yellow lights do better in the fog. We are silly people that want our fog lights to be useful in the fog. A quick search showed that amber/yellow was allowed in our state.

The new lights arrived. We made sure to buy DOT approved lights. I spent a few days researching local shops and settled on one that had good reviews for being human beings. I called them for an estimate on the work. They’d never seen a CR-Z. Often people think I mean a CR-V which is the popular little SUV that Honda makes. Once corrected I got a quote for around $150 to do the work. Based off of time. They didn’t question me about the lights or make any demands as a few other shops had. They’d just do what I asked.

That was more reasonable then $500.

Finally, life and business merged and my husband took the car in. An hour later he was done and they only charged $100. The lights fit perfectly. It looked wonderful. My car was adorable. I was happy.

We scheduled the car to get serviced during my husbands week off work. We managed to schedule that on the same day that we scheduled his motorcycle to get looked at. We cancelled the car appointment but we regretted that. His bike was dropped by the dealership during a test ride after brake and clutch fluid was changed. To the tune of several thousand dollars and a ruined helmet they are currently fixing and replacing.

We scheduled the car for my day off. That was hard. June has been a rough month for me. In may I switched shifts with one of my co-workers to maintain coverage while he attended his sons graduation weekend. It was for a good cause but it caused me to work three weekends in a row and have a tattered schedule further complicated by all of my overtime duties. Finally, the free day comes. I picked an early appointment and we decided to go see a movie afterwards.

The Honda dealer has a bay that you drive into and they take your car. I drove in, ten minutes early, and stepped out. I was immediately greeted by a lady. She had a heavy Spanish accent. This matters. She asked if I had an appointment. I said, “I have an appointment for 12:45 for an inspection.”  She took my key. Filled out a card. Handed me a ticket with something scrawled on it (maybe a signature?) and said something rapidly that sounded like cashier inside.

Okay. I went inside and sat down. My car was driven away fifteen minutes later which upset me some. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. An hour went by. I wondered what was going on. People came and went. Another half hour drifted by. We had missed the movie. Finally, mad, I got up and tried to figure out who I should talk to. I eventually wandered out into the bay and asked someone by one of the computers if I could have an update on my vehicle and why it was taking so long.

“Who is your adviser?” I was asked.

“My adviser?” I responded. “What are you talking about? A lady took my information and they drove off with my car.”

“Did you just go in and sit down?”

“Yes.”

“You were supposed to come to one of us and get checked in.”

I stared at him. I was flabbergasted. What? I was? How the hell was I supposed to know that? Someone by a computer took my stuff. But I was supposed to go to someone else and get checked in. There are no signs that say, “Please talk to an adviser about why you are here.” There was nothing. A sign pointed inside for pickup and the cashier.

“I had an appointment. I was asked what I was here for. I said it. I have no idea what she said next to be honest.  What happened to my car?”

“They park them,” he said.

“I’ve have been left here all day if I had not asked?” I was super livid and he could tell.

“We’ll expedite this for you. I’m sorry about the confusion.”

I don’t raise my voice at customer service people. Even when I want to. I should have asked sooner. I’m not pushy enough and that is why I wind up in situations like this. I should have asked the lady to repeat herself. I honestly thought that what I was doing made sense. Maybe I had missed a sign. I stepped back and scanned the bay. Nothing. “That is fine. I won’t be returning.” Maybe I didn’t need to tell them. But, I was not going to come back. My car is out of warranty. I don’t like their setup. I don’t feel cared for in their ‘care center’.

I’ve never taken the car to this dealership. My husband has. It has been going here since I got it. I had no idea how they worked. I am used to parking and going inside, handing over my key, and waiting to be called.

Anger. I was angry at myself. I was embarrassed. I hate looking stupid. I was mad at the lack of information. I am not good at interacting with people in these situations. I do not want to talk to anyone. My mother laughs because if she goes to ask someone for help I tend to run away so that no one talks to me.  I can handle my social fears and anxieties most days. I just avoid talking to people. I had put myself in this corner and as angry as I was at the unclear process I owned that I had made a mistake and been to passive and assumptive. Only, I couldn’t shake the feeling that dropping off a car for service should be a clear experience. I doubt I was the first person that walked into that waiting room without checking in. No one flagged me down or noticed me and they had been free when I arrived.

I sat down. I told my mother that I had been stupid. I was so, so angry. I got up and went to the bathroom. Some lady took my seat. Of all the open seats she took the one beside my mother. I was just livid. I stalked around. I glared. Everyone avoided me. I can’t blame them. Something about my eyes when I am angry makes people uncomfortable. I also have a super direct stare.

Twenty minutes pass and a different person comes out. He is my adviser I discover. He tells me that my car isn’t going to pass inspection.

This was my secret fear. I had convinced myself it wasn’t going to happen.

“I see you have a rejection sticker. Your lights are not legal lights,” he tells me. “They are after market lights and not legal in Virginia.”

“Even if they are DOT approved?” I asked.

“They are not DOT lights. They are also yellow and yellow lights won’t pass inspection.”

I was shaking. I doubt he noticed it. It was that shake that comes from an adrenaline rush. Everything slows and becomes more intense. I hate conflict. I know he is wrong. The lights are DOT stamped. I checked them when they arrived. Yellow fog lights are permissible in my state. I read the code section that said so. There is also a state police inspection form that has a marking for amber lights. Unless he is saying that the yellow does not qualify as amber which is incorrect.

“We can take them out,” he tells me. I found it interesting that he did not offer to replace them as they did my husband. “It will qualify as a vent and it will pass inspection. ” Now, last time we were told that the fog lights would have to be capped if they were removed. because they were not proper vents. “It will be $150 and we can do it right now.”

“No thank you,” I said. “Please give me my car back and I will leave.” I was so angry. So very, very angry. My lights were legal. I fully believed that I was being fed a line of bullshit.

My car is pulled back around. I tap my mother and say, “Let’s go.” I step outside as a guy gets into my car. I’m puzzled. I spin around to find someone to pay my inspection fee and leave. Then they drive my car off.

“We’re going to wash it,” my adviser tells me.

“No! I don’t want a wash. Give me my car. I want to leave,” I said.  A car wash is not going to make me happy. My car is filthy. Just filthy. It is a black car and its dirty. It is covered in pollen. Birds poop nonstop from my horrible ugly pear tree all day and night and coat it. I just don’t care. I want to leave. I’m shaking I’m so angry.

They don’t charge me for my inspection. They bring my car back and I stalk out to it. I turn and stare at them and say, “Thank you for your help. I hope that you have a good day,” in my most politely cold voice. I drove off at full speed. I was choking on my anger. “We are going to go to another inspection place. The afternoon is already ruined.”

Down the street, about two miles is a service station. It is a regional company with 13 locations. I figured that a second opinion was for the best.

I drove up, parked, and went inside and asked for an inspection. “Are you in line?” he asked.

“Line?” I said. This was my day for not understanding anything. “No?”

“It’s first come first serve,” he told me. “Just pull into the inspection lane and we will get you registered.”

That sounded good to me. We returned to the car and pulled into the lane. The car in front of us moved. I noticed no one was in the car in the oil change line. I started to wonder if I was supposed to go in and just leave my car in the line. I’d last used a line like that when I went to Jiffy Lube back in 2001. It’d been a while. I asked my mother to go check.

After several minutes she returns and says, “They have to do a full inspection because you have never been here for the lights.”

I stared at her. “What? Do I need to register in here or wait for them to come here?”

“I’ll go check.”

I’m already mad and this made me madder. She was babbling who knows what to them about why we where there. That was not what I wanted. The incident at the dealer was none of their business. I didn’t need them predisposed to my inspection. She came back out with a folder that holds the ticket and the key. “Do we go inside or not?” I asked her.

“She gave me this.”

Holy shit I was ready to explode. I shouldn’t have sent my mother. I thought I could for this. My mother is a lovely woman but a total airhead. She is terrible at asking questions and organizing things. Anything. I threw the thing on my dash because my temper was gone. I stormed inside and had to wait. I must have looked like a thunderstorm because the girl at the desk eyed me kinda scared. I was hissing to my mother, “What did you tell her?”

And she just doesn’t know what she said or what is going on. I just wanted to know how their damn line worked! The desk cleared and I take a deep breath smile and go, “Hi! I haven’t been here for this and need an inspection. I don’t know if I park and come in or park and stay.”

“Park and stay,” she said. “You are all set and will be next.”

“Okay!” My mother sat down and I went to the other side of the waiting room. My anger was to strong to do anything else. I didn’t know what I’d say to her. I was upset. I just wanted something to be clear when it came to my car that day. I didn’t want lines and stuff that had no directions and everyone but me seemed to understand the unspoken, unmarked code or conduct.

Fifteen minutes later, my car had a new inspection sticker on it. Because nothing was wrong.

We’re going to file a complaint about the incorrect information with yellow fog lights at the Honda dealer. I hate assuming that they are trying to scam me. Yet, I feel that way. I know that Honda does not make a yellow headlight for my car. After market modifications do not mean they are not legal. There is nothing that says I have to only use Honda parks on my car. Fog lights are optional equipment. The only reason I failed the first time was because the lens was broken and it must be whole for the inspection.

I hate doing car things. I like cars. I like motorcycles. I wish that I looked less stupid and incapable. It seems my life would be easier. Perhaps I should develop a bitchier persona. One that makes people want to get me out of their way instead of screwing me over. I don’t know but something has to change.

 

Intuition at 7 months

Tomorrow will be Inty’s 7 month mark. How he has grown.

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We weighed him on Wednesday and he was 68 pounds.

I’ve had his ears down for two weeks and they are still standing without any problems.

I am glad that I skipped the last puppy class instead of having an hour of humiliation. He is doing very well working with me on a slip collar. We’re just going to have to wait until he is not obsessed with other dogs.

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I hate taking pictures of the dogs that have me in them because it reminds me of how fat I am. As if to just shove a knife into that discomfort, I always have my head down looking at the dog. This allows me to look like a frog. I hate pictures. Hate, hate, hate, hate them. Of me. Inty photographs well.

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I need to get my husband to take his shots a bit lower to balance the dog better.

Earlier today, while dealing with him, I was thinking about Nox. Nox was my GSD (German Shepherd Dog) and he was born in the September of 2001. He was my 4th dog and the first one that I got for myself. Nox was a handful. He was not mild mannered like the Pyreneese. He nipped, he jumped, he was an asshole, annd he wanted his way. We went through a lot and by the time he was eight or nine months old he was an amazing dog.

Inty is that type of dog. It is not the same as Nyx, who was focused on me to an almost unhealthy level from the first day. Inty just needs to grow up. He still wants to do things like eat random wads of hair and he believes that the cats swatting and hissing at him is amazing!

He is young. I need to remember that every time he frustrates me or I chase him down to drag something out of his mouth. Youth passes.

How does the garden grow?

Things are going well. The tomatoes are taller then I am.

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Even with my efforts, the deck is a dense forest. I am out there weekly pruning away extra branches. This is something I did not do last year and I had some issues with density. This year I am pruning and pruning but it goes nowhere.

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I’m sticking to my guns and we are starting to get ripe fruit.

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The sungold were first followed by the green tomatoes. I have also identified my mystery plant!

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I did not order this tomato. It is a Pink Boar Tomato. I seem to have shit luck with buying seeds and planting that one seed that is not the tomato plant I wanted to grow. It is a beautiful tomato. I will try to take a picture in the sunlight but the streaks are metallic and glitter.

We are still fighting our bug problems. I’ve had to go heavier with the treatment. I’m trying to spot treat and not just full on bomb the deck so that I don’t kill the pollinators. The ants are taking care of the cucumbers for me. But these little white bugs and the hard round tan ones are causing me to wage a steady battle with them.

I’m winning but I think I’m losing some flowers to them. Of course, my plants have been producing grotesque amounts of flowers so it may just be to much for them. I’ve upped my feeding regime and hopefully that will help.

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The Sad Lettuce Story

Some days, I just don’t understand. On Wednesday, I had a very full schedule. I had to be at work at 0700 on my day off for a recertification class. From there, I came home, grabbed lunch, and had to head back out for a meeting. Days off quite often are not.

When I got back home, my mother had cut down all of the red lettuce. “They where drying out!” she told me and she decided to save them.

“Did you water them?” I asked. The weather has been in the 80-90’s (26-32) for the last few weeks. The plants need to be watered earlier in the day.

“No. I didn’t know what you did.”

I stared at her. She knew I left the house at 0600 to get where I needed to be at 0700. That I am not a morning person. The soil was dry which means the plants need water. She often waters them mid day. Yet, for reasons I am struggling to understand, she cut down the plants when they were wilted instead of watering them.

I picked up the sad, sad, wilted lettuce and put them in a cup of water like they were flowers. They had been cut at the base of their stems. It took two days but by Friday they had recovered about 90% and were crisp and edible again.

Sometimes she confuses me.

First Tomato

I’ve been good about documenting the produce. As good as I can be with my mother involved at least. Our ideas of pictures are very different. She plucked a head of broccli and brought me the stripped head to take a photograph of. I’d prefer to show it in its fully leafy glory. The idea being to share not just the end plate product but what goes into the plant and what we also throw away.

Greens have become more popular so broccoli and cabbage and even beet greens are no longer being cast to the side.

Cabbages are enormous.

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This is my best cabbage. It also decided to come up on its own in the wrong part of the lettuce bed. It is a seed from last years attempt to make a fall crop.

But the tomatoes. We’ve been fighting a war. I’ve beaten the aphids back for the most part. I found a group trying to infiltrate the peppers and I took care of them. I now have a tiny white insect that may be a white fly or thrip. Not sure which one it is. They all are treated the same. What causes the change this year I wondered. My mother did as well. The only major difference is my neighbors have started a ‘fairy’ garden. Around the same time I started to have these pests visit me.

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My husband could not find it. I’ll forgive him since the tomato is at the bottom of the plant. These are the results of my very first flowers from April when I planted them out. I’ve been waiting for them to ripen for some weeks.

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Sungolds are said to split easily. We’re due rain. Unexpected water when ripening causes splitting. I plucked it and placed it on the counter to finish ripen. Its sitting beside some basil that is drying. I clipped the flowering heads off of my plants.

 

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Out of the twenty one tomato plants only a few are not yet productive. Or they are not very productive. I’ve had a good bit of flower drop in this last week. I believe it may be that I’ve not been fertilizing enough. Normally, I have to fight with nitrogen burn because I over do it. I stepped back a bit this ear and I believe that has been a mistake.

I also have a lot of blossoms. To many for some of the plants. As long as some fruit is setting, I am happy. The Brandywine Pink is not producing much so far and one of my yellow stuffing peppers has dropped more blossoms then anything else. Some are late season plants so I am trying not to expect to much of them this early in the season.

It is still early in the season. The plants are maturing.  The sun is improving.