Sunday, August 15, 2010

Crazy Couple of Weeks

It has been a crazy couple of weeks. Jason got called to the Bull Fire in Kernville, CA on August 4th so I was a fire widow for 12 days. Some of the fire workers bring their significant others with them to the fire, so we decided that I would drive up to Kernville and see him for the weekend August 6-8. It would be nice to get out of the city and into the mountains and then we wouldn't be separated for so long.

In the meantime I was busy working both jobs-leaving the house at 7:30 am and getting home at 10:30 pm. On Tuesday August 3, I got a phone call from the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District asking me to come in for an interview on the 4th for a 60% Spanish position. I went to the interview the next day and honestly didn't think that it went so well. The principal and vice-principal seemed nice but not very enthusiastic. On Thursday I got a phone call as I was leaving my morning job offering me the position which would start the following Monday August 9th. So I quit my morning job, telling them that Friday morning would be my last day and later that afternoon quit my evening job, telling them that Thursday would be my last day. I felt bad about giving them NO notice, but I couldn't pass up this opportunity for a real job.

On Friday after my morning job, I met with my new vice-principal so that I could get keys, get a tour, see my classroom, get my text books, etc. The school is in Spring Valley, which is about 45 minutes Southeast from where I live. Then I left to go see Jason in Kernville. Because I went to my new school first, I didn't leave San Diego until 4:45, this is a BAD time to drive north through Los Angeles. I didn't get to Kernville until 10:30pm. But I got to meet Jason at the local Brewery where I had delicious pear cider and got to meet the rest of the "fire guys."

On Saturday instead of hiking around the river and mountains, I sat at the Blue Bear Coffee Shop and read my new text book. I got lots of ideas and took a lot of notes. I decided to go for a walk and check out the river when I saw a sign for a garage sale. You know how I LOVE garage sales, so I started following the signs. About 2 miles later I came upon a whole street filled with garage sales. It was a bit more of a hike than I had planned on, but one house had boxes of vintage patters. I limited myself to 5 because she had cut out the smallest size so I will need to figure out how to alter them, but it was a great find all the same. As I was walking back towards the hotel, Jason called to ask if I wanted to go to lunch, so he picked me up and we went back to the brewery.

On Sunday I left Kernville early so that I could get back home and get ready to start work on Monday. It was a much quicker drive and I got home with plenty of time. I had oodles of tomatoes from the week so I made a tomato sauce for pasta and froze it. I didn't have time to can it. I did some laundry and started exploring Spanish language podcasts, websites, and books.

This week was all about getting ready for school. On Monday I spent the morning with Human Resources filling out all the paper work. Then I went to my school to work on my classroom and getting things ready. I had to get a pre-work physical so I left school at 2. The clinic was really busy, I didn't even get into the exam room until 4pm. I had planned on going back to school so I left all of my things there. When I got there at 6pm there were only 2 cars in the parking lot and all of the gates and doors were locked. I yelled until Johnny (one of the custodians) came out and let me into my room. I got my things and went home. It was tough having Jason gone because I still needed to water the home garden and take care of the community garden while freaking out about the new job.

Tuesday we had meetings in the morning. I got to meet many of the other teachers in the school. Everyone seems really nice so far. My administrators have been really nice and supportive, always asking if I have any questions or need anything. On Wednesday we had kids!! Since I am just 60%, I only teach 2 periods and an advisory (kind of like homeroom) every day. They school is on a block schedule, so there are just 4 periods of 80 minutes every day but there are alternating A days and B days so the students see me every other day. On each day my 3rd period consists of 7th and 8th graders and my 4th period has only 6th graders. My third periods are big (42 and 39 students). I am not used to having such big classes! They are also a weird mix. About half of my students speak Spanish at home but don't know how to read or write it. The other half are native English speakers who only know the Spanish they learned from Dora. I am hoping to work with the counselors this week to see if I can have 2 different classes, a Spanish-literacy class for the native speakers and a Spanish 1 class for my native English speakers. Hopefully it will work out in the schedule.

Finally this weekend came. Jason got back into town on Thursday. It was nice to see him, but the poor guy didn't get his usual welcome home because I was stressing about the first week of school. On Saturday I needed to do something with the cucumbers and tomatoes that I had picked all week so I made 2-day dill pickles and spicy tomato salsa which I canned. I did some laundry and relaxed around the house. Jason unpacked and worked in the garage and in our home garden. We then compromised lazy internet TV watching. He likes Whale Wars while I am getting through season 1 of Vampire Diaries. It was a fun, relaxing evening.

I will be back to being more crafty and posting more regularly.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jason cooks Dinner

I am very lucky to have a partner who enjoys cooking. He also really likes to make the plate look fabulous. I don't have that flare when I am cooking. The other day Jason made pork chops with onions and peppers and jelly bean tomatoes. It must be love!

TMI Post

If talking about menstruation freaks you out, read no further.

I have been trying to find ways to live more simply, reuse more, have a more sustainable our local natural foods store, Jimbo's (great name, eh? I miss Mississippi Market), they sell reusable pads for women for something like $20 a pad. I took a look at them and thought, "Hey, I think that I could make them from cloth scraps." I had some old fabric that originally were bedsheets. I used them to make workout pants in a previous post. I cut them in pad-like shape and added velcro for the "wings." They worked nicely for last month's visit with Aunt Flo and washed easily for next month's visit. Each pad took about 15 minutes to make and because I used fabric scraps cost mere pennies.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Surprising Find-Peas!

At the beginning of the summer, I planted peas along the fence that separates our yard from the front yard of our town home complex. That area doesn't get much sun, but I thought that I would try it. At first they seemed to grow all right, but they never got very tall and started turning yellow and I just assumed that they were fated to die. Imagine my surprise then when I was watering the raspberry vines planted along the wall and I saw this:

All told there were 10 pea pods on about 12 plants. Not a huge crop but a nice, sweet, surprise.

Worm Composting Bin

One way that Jason and I try to be more sustainable is by composting. We have a tiny yard (made even smaller by our 4 garden beds) and no good space for a regular compost bin. Plus we brought with us when we moved my worm bin that I had in my apartment in MN. We can feed all of our food waste to the worms and our yard waste gets picked up by the city.

I got my worm bin from one of my favorite authors, Ellen Sandbeck, from her company LaVerme's Worms.

Ellen has written many books but two of my favorites are Organic Housekeeping and Green Barbarians. After reading Organic Housekeeping and sending it to a few friends, I happened to see the book at a stand at the Minneapolis Green Expo. I told my friend Tanya how much I loved the book and crazily enough, Ellen, the author, overheard me. I had never met an author that I loved before. Anyways, buy her books and check out her worm bins. Back to the blog post...

It was nice because it came fully equipped with bedding and worms so I didn't need to figure out how to get the right pH and all of that stuff for the worms. We mentally split the worm bin into 6 quadrants and each week we feed a different quadrant. By the time that we get back to the original quadrant, all the food has been eaten by the worms. The liquid left over from the food gets filtered to the bottom and out a spigot. "Worm Juice" is a great fertilizing tea for our garden.
I use unbleached paper and sewing scraps as dry bedding since San Diego doesn't get many fall leaves

The worm bin after moving the dry bedding

pouring in the food for my worms

Lately I have been blending all of our food scraps. Since in the summer we eat a ton more vegetables, we have lots more food scraps for the bin. By blending them, I can get more food food in each quadrant and the worms can eat it quicker. Jason says that I am coddling the worms, but I am just making it work. It's a little gross, but worth the effort.

Putting the scraps in the blender

Although it looks gross to us, the worms say, "YUMMY!"

Monday, July 5, 2010

First Tomatoes of the Season!

Summer is here! Today was the first day that I got more than one or two little currant tomatoes. I got about 10 yellow tomatoes (the sharpie had worn off the label so I am not sure what kind of tomato), one orange banana tomato, and 6 of the red currant tomatoes. The yellow ones are really sweet. Although I could have eaten them all, I brought them home to an excited Jason. I can't wait for more tomatoes!
There are the tomatoes that lasted long enough we could photograph them, they were so yummy they kept disappearing into out mouths!

Jason was excited for our 1st tomatoes!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Canning Happens

Happy 4th of July! Today I slept in, finished a book that I was reading, fed my worms (the compost was getting a little stinky), and planned for my new class that starts on Monday. Then with the rest of the afternoon ahead of me, I decided that it was time to do some canning.

I know that the experts say that you should only can produce that was picked the same day, but since I am canning the produce that I have grown, I need to wait until I have enough to can. So my produce has been picked all week and may be up to 7 days old. I figure that if I went to the grocery store to buy produce, it would be at least that old. I guess we'll see how it tastes. I had 1 lb. 10 oz. of pickling cucumbers and 2 lbs 6 oz of green and purple beans. Not enough for a full batch of anything, so I decided to make a half batch of dilly beans and a half batch of dill pickles. To make the dill pickles, the cucumbers needed to sit in a brine for 2 hours, so I set that up first. My in-laws got me a pasta put with a colander that fits in the pot. It was perfect for keeping the cucumbers under water.

Next I had to get the water in the boiling water canner boiling. That can take 45 minutes if it is full of water. I put 7 pint jars inside the canner to sterilize them. Then I started the pickling liquid for the dilly beans. My dilly bean recipe comes from my aunt Cindy, but I add more crushed red pepper because Jason and I like spicy pickles. While the pickling liquid heated up, I sliced the ends off of the beans and cut them so that they would fit into a wide-mouthed pint jar. My recipe calls for fresh dill, but I only had dried dill. I hope that it works all right.

All of my ingredients ready to go

Once the water in the canner started boiling, I could fill the jars. I packed them full of beans, with a piece of garlic and jalapeño in each one (they both are from our garden as well) and then filled the jar up with the pickling liquid. I had a minor set back with the dilly beans. One jar broke when I put it back in the canner. I couldn't fish out all of the beans so I did the rest of my canning with beans floating through the water. Oops! Once the jars were filled and the lids were on, I put them in the boiling canner for 15 minutes.

Filling the jars with beans

The boiling canner with sterilized jars

Oops, one jar broke!

Filling the jars with pickling liquid

As the dilly beans were finishing, the 2 hours that the cucumbers needed to sit in the brine was up. I quickly prepared the pickling liquid for the dill pickles. I needed to sterilize more jars and add some more water to the boiling canner. After filling the jars, and processing them for 15 minutes, I had 4 pints of dill pickles.

Jason and I get to spend the rest of the 4th together, watching movies and hanging out! He get's the day off tomorrow, and I only work in the morning. I hope that everyone has a fun time with friends and family!

Letting the jars cool

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ripping out the Beans

The next few weeks I will probably not be posting during the week. I will finally be working full-time (yay!), but I will be working crazy hours. I will be teaching an intermediate ESL class from 9am-12:40 M-F, a private class from 2-3pm, then an evening beginning ESL class from 5:30-10pm M-Th. I have weird breaks in there that I will use for lesson planning, working out, and going to the community garden, but it might be hard to find time to blog as well. We'll see what happens. This crazy schedule will only be through August, then I will either have found a better job (cross your fingers) or I will go back to working my evening class and subbing for the morning school.

The last 2 weeks or so my purple stringless beans have been slowly producing less and less. I looked at a bunch of websites and I think that the plants are just finished, so after work on Friday I went to the community garden and pulled out the 4 beans plants. I also decided to trim any tomato plants that were taller than I could reach. I think that because I have been tying the tomatoes to the poles, they are growing taller than they normally would if I were just using a tomato cage. I had a wheelbarrow packed full of plant matter by the time I was finished. In 6 months or so, they will be good compost for the community garden.

On my way home I stopped at Walter Anderson Nursery to look at what plants I should put up the trellis to take the place of the beans. (We have been trying to grow eggplant from seeds, but they haven't grown). I bought an eggplant seedling and a loofah gourd seedling. They will be shaded by the tomatoes a little, but I hope that they will grow nevertheless. I'll keep you posted on how they do!

Today Jason and I are volunteering at a garden build for Victory Garden San Diego. We'll help someone put in 4 raised beds, an irrigation system, and plant all the beds. It's a cool organization that helps people put in gardens through coordinating groups of volunteers. It's our 1st time volunteering. Hopefully Jason and I will meet some cool people. We need more friends.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Domestic Weekend-gardening, preserving, and sewing

Jason and I have not been home, together, for about 6 weekends, so we decided to make this weekend about staying home, doing projects, and being together.

Last week the HOA (Home Owners Association) decided to paint the exterior of all the houses in neighborhood. They told us that they were going to do it, but not the dates that they were going to do it, so we didn't have a chance to move all of our outdoor garden stuff until they had already started painting. HOAs are one part of this "suburban" lifestyle that I can't wait to be without. The painters trampled our lettuce bed, painted on plants and trellises, and crushed various other plants that were planted along the sidewalk (amaranth, calendula, and poppies). The first thing that I did on Saturday was work on fixing those garden beds. I trimmed the parts of the plants that were covered in paint. Pulled the plants that were dead from the painter's footsteps, spruced up the plants that I think might bounce back, and replanted the lettuce bed. Jason helped put our gardening table, the potted plants, and our bird bath back next to the house.

This lettuce plant got painted and had to come out. I don't think paint would be a nutritious amendment to our diets.

This branch on our raspberry plant had to go. It was totally painted!

We left the strawberry plants. Hopefully the pain dusting they got won't affect the berries.

After putting the garden back together I decided to sew some pajama/workout pants. I have made this pattern three times now. The first time I made it the way the pattern said with a drawstring waist. I didn't really like the way they fit. The second and third times I just used an elastic waist. They aren't the prettiest or most flattering pants, but they are super comfortable for lounging around house, working out in, or sleeping in. For my next pair I want to add pockets (I have never made pockets before!). I got the red fabric for the pants from a twin sheet set that was 25 cents at a garage sale. The fabric is faded but soft, but was really warped and hard to sew with.

My new red workout pants!

Jason worked on my kayak (yep, he's building me a Greenland Kayak, I'm so lucky!). On Saturday night Jason and I watched The Taking of Pelham 123 on Netflix instant (well, I fell asleep on the couch).

On Sunday I woke up with lots of energy. I cleaned up the kitchen from Saturday's dinner and decided instead of making dilly beans to dehydrate our green beans for our next backpacking trip. So I washed our beans from the community garden, about 3 pounds worth, trimmed the ends, cut them into smaller pieces, and put them in the dehydrator. It took about 18 hours for all of them to dehydrate. I put them in an airtight ziplock and the next time that we go backpacking, we will either add them to another meal or eat them alone. We often rehydrate our foods by adding water during breakfast or lunch and then heating them at dinner. They are not quite as good as fresh, but after a long day of hiking, it's nice to have veggies with dinner.

Washing the beans-green and purple

Putting them on the dehydrating tray.

Leave them for a long time.

After getting the beans ready, I decided to go for a workout. After my shower I decided to work on a dress that I wanted to make. When we were in Vegas for father's day, Jason's mom helped me pick out some fabric for a dress and I wanted to get working on it. I have a lot of difficulty visual and spatial tasks. I can't "see" what something will look like when it's put together. This makes sewing sometimes really hard for me. I also get frustrated with patterns because they never quite fit me right. I got a book about pattern alteration when I was in DC with Sarah and decided to try and alter the pattern. I shortened the pattern at two places to more accurately represent my body style (although the dress was still a little too big for me in some places, while fitting just right in others, someday I will figure all of this out).

I have never sewed anything that had so many pieces to it. It took 3 3/8 yards of fabric and included and yolk, a bodice, front and back pieces, ruffles for the bottom, ruffles for each sleeve and a tie. I was really proud of myself because I knew how to do each task on the pattern instructions (I think this was the first pattern where I didn't have to scratch y head and figure out how to put it together). I worked from about noon until 1am with breaks for lunch and dinner. But in the end I have a dress. It turned out allright. I think that if I make it again, I will make it in a fabric that is lighter than cotton because it is very heavy. I think that I will either take in the sides to make it more fitted or make a smaller size because it hangs on me and almost looks like a maternity dress. But I feel like I am learning about sewing and finally making clothes that I would actually wear!

Dress Front

Dress Back

Friday, June 25, 2010

Community Garden Update

Today was my day off and my first chore of the day was to go to the community garden. Every time I get there, I am amazed at how much everything has grown and its easy to lose track of time while puttering around the garden.

My first chore was to tie the tomato plants to stakes. Instead of cages, we bought 8 foot tall cedar stakes and we are tying the branches to the stakes for support. The only problem with that right now is that our tomatoes are taller than our stakes. We have one big bushy variety that is growing horizontally, but the rest are growing taller every day. I have been trimming them back to try and encourage fruit growth instead of plant growth, but so far there is just a little bit of green fruit. Since this is my first garden, I am not sure how much fruit I should be seeing so far.

After trying the tomato plants, I decided to try tying the cucumbers and butternut squash. I had been wrapping the stalks up a trellis as they grow, but they were busing out and getting in the way. We don't have a lot of space in the garden, so when a branch is in the way, it often breaks when I am walking through the garden. I used the twine to more securely fasten the vine to the trellis. I think that the cucumbers will be easier to pick this way as well.

We planted purple string beans this year and some of their leaves has been turning an ugly shade of brown. I am not sure if they have some sort of disease or if a pest is getting them, but I decided to remove all of the affected leaves. I found a couple of grasshoppers sitting on the bean leaves. According the my garden book, they are voracious eaters, but so far the leaves don't look chewed on. I am not sure how to get rid of grasshoppers.

After trimming and tying, I picked my harvest. I picked half a bag of green and purple beans, 2 zucchini, about 12 pickling cucumbers and one jalapeño pepper. I ate about 5 currant tomatoes.

Next it was time to water. I have volunteered to water part of the exterior community garden every time I go, so watering takes about 30 minutes. When I got back to the car, I realized that I had spend almost 3 hours working in the garden without even realizing it.

I am hoping that I have enough cucumbers to make a small batch of pickles (I have more from earlier in the week) since to be perfectly honest, I am getting sick of raw cucumbers. I will also make another batch of dilly beans this weekend.

I have included some pictures of the community garden!!

I wish that I didn't have to wait for my tomatoes. This one is an orange-banana tomato (I think). We have lots of different varieties, but the sharpie ink has washed off the labels that we wrote.
Here are some pickling cucumbers. I am hoping to one day get enough to make pickles. We get about 15-20 a week and since they are small, they would fill one or two jars. My gramma suggested making refrigerator pickles though and I think that I will try that this weekend.
Tomatoes growing out of the ground squirrel fence. They are about 7 feet tall. Crazy!
We are still getting about 2 zucchinis a week from the plant!
These are some type of hot pepper from the hot pepper blend we got from territorial seeds. Maybe habaneros?
Here is another view of the fence Jason built to keep out the ground squirrels and the beans and squash growing up the north wall.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My First Blog Post

For the past few months, some of my friends and family have suggested that I start a blog. I am not sure if I really have anything to say, but my friends seem to think that keeping a record of what I am doing would be in my best interest.

Last August my boyfriend and I moved to San Diego to try and start a new life together. He had a transfer with his job and I was sure that with my teaching experience and Spanish language skills, that I would have no trouble finding a good teaching job here. Boy was I wrong! So now I am an underemployed woman, trying to create a life with her boyfriend, while trying to take the blessing (curse) of extra time off to pursue other interests.

I have been working hard at gardening. We have a few small raised beds in our yard, but they are mostly shaded during the day and not so great for most vegetables. In April we got a community garden plot where we are growing the majority of our vegetables. I love canning and preserving and am hoping the grow enough vegetables to get us a year's worth of salsa, spaghetti sauce, pickles, dilly beans, and anything else I can imagine canning. We also got a food dehydrator so I am experimenting with dehydrating as a food preserving technique.

About 5 years ago I thought that it would be a cool idea to learn how to sew. I hate going shopping and it's always been tough to find clothes that fit and look good. While at Target with some friends, I found a Singer sewing machine on clearance for $50 and bought it. With some help from my gramma and some classes at Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul, MN (oh how I miss that store), I started to pick up some of the basics of sewing. Since moving to San Diego, I have had more time to sew and I am finally feeling more confident following patterns. I would like to learn more about alterations and tailoring and fashion in general-like what kinds of fits are best for my body type.

I have also been experimenting with creating my own lip balms. Through various San Diego listservs, I met some people who have hives and more beeswax than they know what to do with. So far I have made three different batches of lipbalm to give to friends and family and I am working at perfecting the recipe.

Jason and I enjoy camping and backpacking and have made a 2010 resolution to go backpacking 12 times this year (once a month, although we are a few months behind). So we are exploring the areas surrounding San Diego.

Jason and I eventually would like to get some land in a beautiful place, probably in or near the mountains, where we can have enough land for a big garden, chickens, goats, maybe some alpacas (Jason really wants them...). I feel like now I am developing the tools that I will need to live the sustainable life that I dream of having.

I can't promise that this blog will be focused because my life isn't focused at all. I can't promise that I will be diligent about posting because sometimes experiencing life is more important than recording it, but I think that this will be a good exercise for me. I often feel like since I am not making anywhere near to the salary I made in Minnesota or working in a very meaningful job, that I am not doing anything with my time. Hopefully this will help me make sure I fill my time with meaningful things and help me feel like I am doing something useful.