Monthly Archives: July 2016

Potatoes, and Onions

Taking pictures of the deck has become difficult. The perspective does not come through.

013

But things continue to grow well. I need to fertilize on my next day off. That will not be until Tuesday. The growth is doing well and with my husband home for a week or two I decided to pull the potatoes and onions.

Potatoes I will continue to grow. We got about six pounds this time. They are almost silly in their simplicity. Onions, I think I will skip from now on. They are not hard and planting them early has given me lovely bulbs. But, I need to cut back on the insanity that is my garden. It is amusing to say so but it is true. I’m going a bit overboard.

 

008

009

015

016

Raising Puppy

132

The attempt to take a comparison picture looks like a forced perspective. It is not. Intuition is much, much larger than Autumn. We are ordering him a bigger crate. A much bigger crate. He is cramped and uncomfortable in the crate size that has done me justice for the last seventeen years.

Times change.

At almost eight and a half months old, Intuition is well into his teenage phase.  He is busy, hyper, unable to settle. He bothers things, pokes things, wants to mouth and eat everything. Every command is pondered. Things must be worth his while. Anything that is not what he wants equates to the end of the world. Crying wakes me up most mornings. Barking accompanies us when we go outside in the backyard. His eyes roll back in his head and sanity dribbles out of his ears every time he gets free access to Autumn and Sage.

He is an utter terror. This too shall pass.

Nine months is when a lot of puppies get re-homed. It is for reasons like this. He does not look like a puppy in that picture. Yet, I can see all the signs that he is. He is strong but not muscular. His chest is still coming in. his eyes are still slightly rounded and puppy soft.

011

It is easy to forget how young he is. But, you cannot. Otherwise it is frustrating. That is why, after he tried to steal my crossstich pattern I put everything down and at 2200 hours took him out on a walk until he slowed down. It is hot this July. Today was around 97(36c) and when we stepped out the door it was a cool 85(29c). The heat smothered my mortification and I wore a pair of gym shorts to compliment my t-shirt. My hair was clamped to the top of my head and we went to hit some local PokeStops until I had taken the edge off of him.

I could brag about what a good owner I am. How I take my dog out late due to the weather. But, I’m not wonderful for it. I’m just doing what needs to be done to keep some basic level of sanity in my home. If the puppy has energy to burn it must be burned. It is part of what you sign up for and sometimes it sucks.

When people see me with my dogs they sometimes tell me what a great mother I would be. I can but shake my head. I’d not be a good mother. I find the entire process irritating. I want little more then to sit in the quiet and crossstich this fascinating pattern. I don’t want to sweat in the middle of the night while fighting a rampaging, hyperactive creature.

But, things often do not go as we wish.

Another night. Another walk. We came back and he settled down. He drank water and came and slobbered over my arms, legs, and shorts. After that was done, he laid down for about five entire minutes. Then, I messed up by deciding to wash the slobber from my arms and legs. That got him back up as he followed me into the kitchen.

For all of his horror, Inty is also becoming more affectionate. He follows me around. He leans against me as a matter of normality. I love the Doberman lean. He often wants one of my free hands and delivers a steady stream of kisses and nuzzles. With my hands freshly washed, he immediately wanted them again. Some more slobber, kisses, and cuddles later he decided to start poking Sabrina.

Sabrina is one of my husbands two old, rickitey kitties. At seventeen she is foul tempered. She was never nice however and age has just refined it. Intuition pokes her. She growls and hisses and swats. He dodges, ducks, and comes back in to nudge her again. Hiss, spit, swat. Dodge, poke, hiss swat, dodge… until I snatched him up and put him in his crate. With a cookie.

He ate his cookie and passed out because he was exhausted but he cannot turn off.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. He is the first dog in a long time I’ve not been able to bring to sleep with me at this age. I don’t trust his mouth any further then I can see it. His propensity for eating anything he can fit in his mouth is amazing. We go through cow hooves, toys, and bully sticks at a tremendous rate in an effort to keep those jaws focused productively.

But that is raising puppies. It is sometimes great and often awful and very, very exhausting.

I have no idea how people manage children.

Ancestry DNA Kit – Part 2 (Speculation)

My kit arrived at their ship on the 5th of July. It takes 2-5 weeks for processing on average so I should hear something back in August.

I’ve decided that I will make a paid account to ancestry.com when it is closer to time. This is because my family history is supposedly well charted on there per my mother. One of my Aunts (my father’s uncle’s wife) has spent a good deal of time on there mapping out that side of the family. My mother says that she did what she could of her family a few years ago.

Interesting in its own way but I did not think much of it until a few evenings ago. I was reading in the tub when a bolt of enlightenment smashed into the back of my skull.

It started with the realization of my grandfather’s parentage. Somehow a very simple fact had escaped me. My paternal grandfather was not a black man. As someone who has always casually checked the ‘black/African american’ box with the understanding that there was some native american tossed in there, it was a startling moment.

To step back:

My parents are from very different areas. My father’s family for the last few generations is heavily situated around the Maryland and Washington, DC. His mother’s side dips down into Virginia.

My mother is from the Caribbean. Her mother came to the states when my mother was a baby to make a better life for them. Chunks of their family had moved to New York and Canada which is how my mother wound up growing up in New York and spending her summers in Canada.

They met in Baltimore. My mother was going to Catholic boarding school. Not because she was bad but because my grandmother did not want New York to consume her daughter. One of the nuns was an ‘Aunt’ of my father and introduced them.  My mother did complete school and go to college.

To move forward again:

My father was a light skinned black man (or so I thought). I look like a female version of him. This has always caused a bit of confusion when I am with my brother. My brother is tall and slim, darker and looks nothing like my father. It was as if my mother had a child that mirrored her side of the family and one that mirrored my father’s. It is hard to tell that my brother and I are siblings except for the family nose inherited from my father. That was even passed down to my brother’s unfortunate child. As I age, I look a bit more like my maternal grandmother in head shape but it takes a lot of intimate knowledge of the family to know where these things come from.

Another aside is my cousins. My mother is an only child. My father had two siblings, one older and one younger. To stir family skeletons, his older sister is a half sister by his mother. She was given up for adoption when his mother was a teenager and had her. His younger sister is a full sister but family rumor is that she is also a half sister. His/their father was ill and dying with tuberculosis when she was conceived. She is the exact image of a cousin their mother was very friendly with.

I bring this up because the dichotomy of my brother and I not looking alike extends to all of our siblings.

My father had two children. My brother and I. We look nothing alike.

His older, half sister had two children. Both female. They look nothing like each other. The older of the two girls and I could come from the same family if someone told you.

His younger sister has 4 children. Her oldest has a different father from the younger three. He looks nothing like any of them or us. He favors his father. Her next two are boys. They look nothing alike. The older of those two resembles her mother’s line. The younger kind of her. The youngest also resembles our grandmother’s line. None of them carry any characteristics or features of my paternal grandfather. Not that they have to but genetics are genetics.

If you lined up the eight of us, you’d never guess we where related to each other. I’ve always found it odd. Maybe they will join in on the DNA tests one day.

Let’s wade out of the dirty laundry and look at ancestry. The realization of my father’s ethnicity came when I realized that his grandfather (who was in the mob at one point) was a man from Puerto Rico. I remember the stories of him passing as white. He was blond and blue eyed with creamy skin. I assumed he was a very light skinned black man from this. It does happen and the few cousins that I have met where often red haired and blond or very golden brown with blue, green, and hazel eyes. I always felt quite the dud. Golden brown skin, dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. My only glory was that my hair turns red when it gets some sunlight.

My grandfather, however was not black. He was Latino. That wide web for those born in Latin America. He married a woman who was from the Cherokee Nation. They had nine children, and one of them was my grandfather.

It means my parental grandfather was not a black man.

I asked my mother about my paternal grandmother’s parents.

My paternal grandmother’s father was a man who was half black and half white. He would have been born in the early 1900’s. Her mother was a woman that was quarter white, quarter black, and half native american.

Run the numbers and that means my father is 1/8 black from his parents and gives 1/16th to myself and my brother. So my father, who I have always thought of as a black man, was very much not.

It seems quite odd that I’ve gotten his ethnicity wrong for so long. It does not ‘matter’ in the big world of mattering. But, I find these things curious. I assumed and did not question which isn’t like me.

As we held this discussion I asked my mother if she was any weirder then I thought. She smiled. Her father she knows little of. Getting birth and death records in the Caribbean is hard. She does know that he has 60+ children. She was one of the illegitimate ones. Her had two wives who both knew he had the other one. One had ten children. One had nine. The other forty some are illegitimate.  It still makes my head spin as it did the day that she discovered all of that.

Then she told me that her grandmother was Pakistani.

I find all of this fascinating. Nothing about me has changed. I am even more of a mutt then I thought. But, as someone who grew up as a colored person in a predominantly black area, I assumed that I was just like everyone else. Now, perhaps thirty years to late to be helpful, I discover that I was actually always the odd man out.

Sometimes I think my family background is enough to make me crave boredom in my life. Around every corner is scandal and wild crazy things like having 60+ half aunts/uncles.

My brother by the way married a woman from the Ukraine and had a child with her. His daughter has my coloring and looks like his wife and my mother. Genetics are so weirdly fascinating.

And that’s how I learned that I’m about half black by the numbers. The genetic test will be interesting to see what passed on to me and what didn’t. To my amusement, the accusations that rang through my childhood of not being black enough have a strange truth to them.

 

 

 

Helping people through tomatoes

071

My counter has more tomatoes on it right now then this photograph from a few days ago suggests. About this number again. While I sauce a lot of the ripe fruit and all that we cannot eat, I also give away ziplog bags full of them at work.

One young lady simply enjoys eating tomatoes. But one guy is making tomato sandwiches.

“You’ve never had a tomato sandwich?” I’m asked.

“Nope,” is my response. “They are made with mayonnaise and that is not something I eat.”

“I love them,” he responded as he popped a cherry tomato in his mouth. My normal tomato gift bag is a few large ones and a mass of small ones to snack on. This person, whos diet is often crap, finds his desire for cheap sugars and greasy fast food satiated by the cherry tomatoes he snacks on.

It makes me smile. It isn’t all year but there is something pleasant about sharing this bounty.

Time to pick cherry tomatoes

This year, my brilliance caused me to move the cherry tomatoes into the interior of the deck. I was well pleased with myself and today proved why I did it.

020

This wild jungle is three interlinked cherry tomato plants. Sun Gold, Red Currant, and what I believe is Supersweet 100 but was supposed to be Sun Gold.

021

About fifteen minutes later…

027

And weighing in over a pound of just cherry types.

023

So pretty.1610

Giant Beet

I have a container of beets shoved between the tomatoes and the potatoes. My mother occasional picks one for beet greens and the beet itself. Today, I noticed one had grown huge.

024

The lumps at dirt level are the shoulders. You will see shoulders in beets, radish, and carrots as well as a few others. I could see how big that beet was so I pulled it before it got to large. If it gets to large it will become tough and fibrous.

025

A little beet came with it.

026

Almost a pound with the top. Not bad.

 

 

Ripening Study

Ahh, the complexities of fruit. I was in class on Wednesday, trying to explain to a co-worker that they had powdery mildew. I failed but that is okay.

Blushing is when a tomato shows faint color.

021

But vine ripened is better! You may have heard. The answer with tomatoes is that there is no difference between picking when they blush and when they are fully changed. The chemical process is the same. All that happens is that the plant may add more water to the fruit. Once the fruit has started to blush the skin thickens. The added water causes the fruit to split. I’ve read a hypothesis that it helps the seeds to scatter. Maybe! But it isn’t the fruit that we want.

003

On the 11th I picked these tomatoes. All of them are blushed. Many of the cherry types are showing some green. Also, in the right lower corner are three funky looking tomatoes that are VERY ripe green tomatoes.

006

I decided to do a study of the tomatoes, taking pictures as I could each day to show their change. Then, I realized that they on top of the dish washer and the heat from the dish washer may cook them. Irritated, I found my casserole dish and took pictures each day.

012

014

018

The color change, once it starts, moves quickly. 12 hours will show a noticeable difference.

This does not work for all fruit. Lemons and limes for instance do not become sweeter once they are picked. But tomatoes? Tomatoes can be picked at blush and allowed to darken.

Tomato Sauce

When I say tomato sauce I mean what is classified as spaghetti sauce in the US. Finely blended and seasoned tomatoes in a thick sauce.

Last year, with the overwhelming bounty of my tomatoes rapidly clearing all of the room from the kitchen, I learned to make sauce. There are many ways to do it but this way is mine.

First, I don’t remove the seeds. They don’t bother me.

Second, I make different types of sauces depending on tomatoes. I also make a generic ‘sauce’ as I did today when all the tomatoes go in one pot.

If I have enough yellow tomatoes, I will make a sauce of only yellows. This sauce is light and sweet. One might call it fruity. It does not go well with beef but it is a lovely accompaniment with chicken.

But making sauce is both easy and hard. I read a few recipes and saw people saying they had sauce in a few hours. How, I have no idea. It takes me all day to make it and reduce it down to an actual sauce.

012

002

The victims are a mixture of Black Krim and cherry type tomatoes. This will make a solid sauce. The Black Krims are richly flavored tomatoes and the cherries are all super sweet.

003

Tomatoes go in hot water. You are not cooking them. You are getting the skin to separate.

004

As soon as it splits, pull them out and let them cool.

008

Cherry types are smaller and sometimes they do not split. What they normally do is float!

010

As they float top the surface, I skim them off with a ladle. Not all will float, but by the time 50-75% have floated up, they are all ready to come out.

015

Once they are cool they just pop out the skin. I use a small knife to detach them from the stem connection. It takes a while but its mostly just a simple squeeze. If they have not split I will make a small slit in their underside.

016

A potful of tomato innards are your reward. Now I just cook it down. I do not add water nor do I drain the juice. The juice is from the tomatoes and it is full of sugar and flavor. Reducing it intensifies the taste. Hours over a low fire with regular stirring not only gets rid of the water but it thoroughly cooks the pulp. From here I can blend it into sauce or just bag and freeze it for later.

This will all reduce into about 4 servings worth.

Another View

I grow tomatoes on my deck.

“How big is your deck?” people ask me.

“Normal size?” is my response. I live in a town house. Its about 25 feet across. My deck is about 18×15 due to it having steps.

The normal pictures that I post do not do it justice. The two rows of tomatoes and the assorted other plants. I had to add another layer of dirt to the potatoes for instance. They are growing quite well. I’ll pull them when my husband gets home. I try to make him participate.

However, tomatoes, being vines, like to escape. I’ve noticed a cluster of tomatoes hanging down from the upper deck when I’m outside with the dogs. I’ve tried to keep the plants inside the deck this year but as always, it is quite the battle and one that the plants start to win.

“This year,” I said, “I am not going to drag out the ladder to pick tomatoes.”

017

It seems as if I am going to lose that battle. I have over a dozen large tomatoes (over 8oz) hanging from various plants already.

Sigh.

018

The second set I can probably drag back in and save my neighbors from the fruity invasion.

All in One

A fascinating thing one can do on the internet is to become someone else. A new identity can be made. An old identity can be hidden. Split personalities can be maintained. It is the internet’s gift to society and it runs amok in fascinating ways.

When I started playing Eve Online, I made a new persona. The reason that I did this was simply to separate the growing number of Eve and video game focused things from my day in and day out. Who wants their bills and shipment notices to be buried under e-mails begging for subscriptions or bragging about the latest game or expansion?

Later, when I joined the CSM, I was glad for my split personality. Not because I had anything to hide. My skeletons are very boring and not shameful. It was because the internet is full of cruel people and I was putting myself out in a way that I never had before. I didn’t want someone calling my job because I refused to support their efforts on assault frigates. I was not ashamed to explain to my job why that call came in. In fact, my supervisor and direct co-workers know about my video game hobbies. it was a scary thing, placing myself out there like I did.

I’ve been blogging or writing journals off and on since I was eighteen. At thirty seven, that gives me almost twenty years of writing. It has not been an every day thing. Some of the journals that I wrote are long gone into old hard drives and deleted sites. But, some are still around and today I decided to start building my history into the history of this blog.

My writing has varied over the years. For the longest time I wrote about nothing but work and the depression of being very poor and struggling with life. Then it was all about dogs. When I hit thirty my father died and that event unbalanced my life in the strangest ways. I wrote about that, but I wrote it as a memoir instead of a journal.

Still, looking at my old live journal posts and my off and on efforts at writing travel blogs, I’ve decided to try to start building my past into my now. I have no shame in what I have done. I was a waitress for a while. I worked at a vet clinic as well. Later, I joined Facebook but never truly became addicted because I wrote to much to properly enjoy those avenues. Plus, so many baby pictures.

It may be the entry into my late thirties that makes me think of my past and the potential future.  The question of who I am and what I mean does exist for me. Have I done okay so far? I feel moderately successful. I have no children or desire for them. My life is my own in so much as it can be considering that I am married and have obligations to my husband. If I wanted a new car I’d tell him before I went to get it instead of just going and getting it. I do not want one. Four more payments and my CR-Z is paid off.

These thoughts have greeted me today. I decided to try cross stitching because, why not? Tuesdays are also the days that the cleaners come. I said to my mother that I don’t often mention the weekly cleaners because it seems to anger people so. How dare I spend money on that! But, I do dare. I also stay silent. Silence that comes not from shame but from not being in the mood to justify myself to others or sit and ignore them while they scold me. And, that made me wonder why I don’t condense my history into one place.

I wonder how easy it will be to import them?