Call 911

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.01.00 AMAlmost called the ambulance for Granny Grammar a little bit ago.

She was happily browsing the Internet while sipping her third cup of black coffee when her eyes bugged out, then she let out a shriek and fell off her chair to the floor, where she lay twitching and moaning.

I went to call for help, but she sprang up and grabbed the phone out of my hand. “Stop! They don’t like it when you call in an emergency for imaginary people.”

“But Granny! You seemed to be having a fit of some sort. What was I supposed to do?”

True, with her grip on my arm like a vise and beady eyes flashing behind those wire-rimmed specs, she seemed pretty healthy again. But criminy, she’s old as the hills, and when someone so ancient keels over like that, it’s a little alarming.

“I’ll be okay.” She sighed, and the energy that had propelled her from the floor seemed to swirl away like water down a drain. Her grip on my arm relaxed and her shoulders drooped. “I just need… I’ll go lie down for a bit. Don’t worry, I’ll be all right after a rest.” She shuffled off, and I haven’t seen or heard from her since.

Curious as to what had caused her apoplexy, I looked at the computer. Here’s what she’d been reading:

Now I understand. Poor Granny. I hope she’ll pull through.

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Strolling Through Life’s Garden

2013-09-24 11.13.13I’ve been keeping busy lately with a number of tasks (none of which included updating this blog, as you may have noticed). But this afternoon, I decided to take time to stop and smell the zinnias. Or at least, show them to you, along with some other scenes from the recent goings-on around the old house. Next month, I hope to be able to show you some updated scenes from the new house.

I started these little mini-zinnias from seed late last winter then put them out in the garden in May. I’ve never grown them before, but they surpassed my expectations, and I plan to try them next year in Maryland.

Last year, our beans didn’t do well. Though we planted them three times and picked them all the way into October, I wasn’t able to freeze enough to last all year. It bothered me that I had to buy canned ones to get us through. They’re not all that expensive, and I don’t mind canned beans. But I don’t like having to buy something I can grow myself. So this year, I was determined not to run short.

I needn’t have worried; now I have more beans in my freezer than Craig and I can possibly eat in a year–and I’m not sure how well they’ll travel. I tray-freeze them then store them in large zipper bags. Using that method, I can grab a handful if I want just a few, or cook more if we have company. The problem is, we have to carry them 200 miles from one freezer to another, and I’m concerned they’ll thaw enough that when they’re put back in the freezer, they’ll all stick together. Not a big deal–they’ll still be useable. But I didn’t go2013-09-24 11.06.47 to the trouble of tray-freezing them just so they could re-freeze in one big gob. (Okay, so it won’t be one gob, but a bunch of gobs. But you get the idea.)

In order to insure that we’d have enough, I put in a late crop again this year. But by the time they started ripening, I realized I didn’t need them. I’ve picked this last batch a few times, but this morning decided enough was enough–I pulled all the plants. There were weren’t many plants, and they were a little past their prime. But it’s still sad to uproot healthy plants that are still producing.

Speaking of plants, do you see all those little green growing things on either side of the pulled-up bean plants? Those aren’t weeds; they’re radishes. Tillage radishes, that is, planted as a cover crop. We tried these for the first time last year and found them to be remarkable things. The purpose is to benefit the soil, as explained in the link. But for us home gardeners, a secondary benefit is fresh, edible radishes from the garden even after several freezes. They’re gigantic white beasts similar to a daikon, and they have a 2013-09-24 11.08.13crisp, mild flavor perfect for sandwiches. It’s sheer delight to enjoy fresh radishes in the winter when everything else in the garden is gone.

On the subject of giant vegetables, our jalapeno peppers did extremely well this year, as you can see from this picture. Yes, that’s a jalapeno. And it’s as hot as it is big. I made poppers yesterday, and they were almost too hot to eat (in my opinion). Our new house has a small yard, but it should be big enough for a few tomato and pepper plants, as well as a couple rows of beans.2013-09-24 11.07.24

I have one more canning project ahead of me: applesauce. Our apple trees were over-achievers this year, and I’ll have to freeze some of the sauce because I don’t have anywhere near enough jars for it all. Frozen applesauce is okay, but I prefer to can it because it’s convenient to just open a jar when you want some. I don’t like having to thaw it before I can use it. Moreover, I’d rather pour it from a jar than from a bag; a plastic bag is too messy.

Either way, though, the apples are there, and I don’t want them to go to waste.

Remember my onions? This spring I showed a shot of them when they were just little sprouts; later, you saw them as they were
maturing. This is their 2013-09-24 11.15.46current state (on the right):

Now, let’s go indoors and see what sort of trouble I’ve been getting into there.

In a word, packing. I ran out of boxes this morning and will have to acquire more before I can continue, but we’ve made a good start. The big walk-up attic is empty; everything upstairs is packed except for our clothes and the bedding on the beds. On the main floor, all that’s left in the office are the things on my desk I use regularly, and everything in my curio cabinet and display hutches is also 2013-09-24 11.31.22packed. Furthermore, Craig’s finished in the garage.

Though we’ve been plugging away at it for an hour or two a day for the past week or more, there’s still a lot to be done. In fact, we haven’t touched the kitchen or the basement yet.

The pic on the left is a little dark because I forgot to use the flash, but I think it’s clear enough that you can get the idea. When the real estate agents were showing our house every few days, I had to keep it spotless; now, it’s going to ruin. Though my most comfortable state is something in between, I can live with the chaos temporarily. Good thing, because I have a feeling several of these boxes will have to sit around our new house for quite a while before I figure out where to put the stuff.

Finally, on the writing front: I’m still working on that too. Book #3  (Ransom in the Rock) is still in limbo, finished but waiting to be published. I’ve also finished the first draft of Book #4 (The Last Toqeph) as well as the first round of revisions. Now, I’m running it through my marvelous critique group (love those ladies!) and they’re helping me polish it to a delightful shine. I’m super-excited about the way the series wraps up; there are some twists in Book #4 I hadn’t anticipated, but they bring it all to an eminently satisfying conclusion.

When I’m finally settled into my new little house, I’ll get busy figuring out the best way to get these last two books published. For now, my three or four faithful readers will have to be content knowing that the rest of the series is, in fact, written and will be available for sale some time in the future.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read the first two, I invite you to fly through the Gateway to Gannah for some serious sci-fi adventure!


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Playing House

file000636360260It was circa 1980, and my friend and neighbor, Suzanne, was more than a little peeved.

Her son, the pride and joy of her life, who throughout his childhood could do no wrong, had gone to college full of hope and promise. Before the first quarter was over, he dropped out of school to marry the freshman girl who carried his child.

Suzanne was not pleased. She and I worked together in her garage that winter, wrapping and labeling the meat from the hogs our husbands butchered. She chose a small roast and wrapped it for her son and his new bride, saying, “Here’s a little toy roast for the kids playing house.”

For some reason, I find myself thinking in those same terms about my own upcoming move. Not the sarcastic way she meant it, but happily. After weeks of house-hunting in multiple states, we’ve made our decision and put in an offer on a place in Cumberland, Maryland. Ever since, I’ve felt like a kid preparing to play house.

It occurs to me that being empty-nesters is just like being newlyweds — except without the energy.

But I also remember a comment my mother-in-law made about that same time. We’d moved out of the Cleveland area into the country, and my father-in-law suggested he and his wife do the same. She turned up her nose at the suggestion, saying that dragging her out into the country would make her feel like an old horse put out to pasture.

Last week, after making our decision as to which house to buy, Craig and I drove back to Ohio, our minds full of questions and anticipation about the future awaiting us. As we left the highway and headed for home through some of the most scenic countryside the US can boast, I was overwhelmed with the thought that one day, I’ll have to leave the beautiful countryside in order to go home to a place in town.

It’s a nice town; and the country around it is lovely. But since leaving the city in 1978, I have never hankered to move back to town. There’s seldom been a day that I don’t revel in the scenery around me and am thankful to live in such a place as this.

I don’t feel like an old horse being put out to pasture; I feel like I’m being moved to a file6431234669588retirement community.

Our offer hasn’t been accepted yet, and none of this is a sure thing. But whether we buy the place in Cumberland or choose a different location, I’m looking forward to getting settled into our new playhouse–wherever it might be–and participating in whatever sort of old-folks-appropriate activities are available.

Notice that the rockers are empty; that’s because we’re too busy having fun to sit in them.

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