Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kool Kollege Katering

I have been busy with one of my new jobs - college catering.  Our oldest son's friend's mother (follow that?) owns Mountain Kettle Korn Katering.  They started off popping kettle corn for weekend Farmer's Markets, which Winter Park, Florida's market has become their staple.  The business grew from that to a variety of other things that makes Miss Denise some good money.  She is a single mom in a nice house with a booming business and a host of employees, of which I am one.  College Student Governments pay for our services, for which their ever grateful students line up for freebies.
Here are some of the other things we do:

  • Multi-Grain Rice Cakes -  popped before your eyes!  These things are addictive!!  Farmer's Market mostly.
  • Deco-ware - college students line up to glue gems and sparkles onto wine glasses, water bottles, and little glass piggies.  Oh, NOT wine glasses - - - water goblets!  Get real, they're wine glasses.
  • Moose Mix - college students line up to fill their pan with kettle and caramel popcorn, swirls of melted chocolate and a variety of candy toppings.  Gummy bears fly off the table!
  • Chocolate Fountain - a monster sized stainless steel fountain circulating 26 pounds of premium chocolate for college students to dip a variety of cookies, fruits, and cakes.
  • Make Your Own Caramel Apples and pretzel sticks -  college students line up to receive a dipped apples or pretzels that they roll in a dozen or more toppings.  Chocolate sprinkles, mini marshmallows, and crushed candy bars are the favorites.
  • Flash Frozen Ice Cream - more college students in line.
  • Cotton Candy - big machine, fluff flying in the breeze, coating all the workers with sugary sweetness.
  • Make Your Own Soap in a Loofa Slice - college students, microwave, drippy messy fun.

So? What have I been up to??  Lots of trips to the many colleges in Tampa Bay, Gainesville, and all around Orlando.  Most recently, I flew to Baltimore, rented a car, drove 2 hours to Frostburg, MD where I hosted about 300 students at the deco-ware table.  Stayed overnight, drove back to airport and went home.  I love traveling, so this was a ball to me.  Also, I work for another company that makes funnel cakes and  fried oreos (I plate them and sprinkle with powdered sugar, then hand out to hungry college students).  They also make photo mugs and ornaments, which I will learn how to do next week in Miami.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sew, What's New?

I had the material for a couple of years and decided it was time to get stitching on a quilt I meant to make myself ages ago. Once I totaled all the different fabrics, I noted that I was a yard and a half (!) short on the base/white material. It is the prettiest white on white print, and for those of you that aren't sewers, fabric changes like the weather! To find additional of the same print two+ years later is a shot in the dark, but I did it! Ebay is my friend!! I paid $17 for 1-1/2 yards, similar to the original price. For those of you that aren't sewers, fabric is also expensive! I first checked Craigslist, and lo and behold, what popped up when I put in sewing fabric, but a bunch of 1960's sewing machines.

 I have more than one (blush) sewing machine. I have a little $100 plastic table top portable that I picked up at Walmart for emergency sewing jobs and keep this in the closet of our North Carolina home.  I made some drapes for the downstairs bathroom and quilted a few little projects on it.  

First and foremost, I have a tiny portable 1950 Singer Featherweight 221 and the original case. Momma bought it for $5 at our neighbor, Mrs. Scott's yard sale when I was a little girl.  It sews forward and backward.  I made my first quilts on this machine.  Here's one that looks just like mine:
I bought a Brother CS-80 at Costco for $199 with all the bells and whistles after I made a couple of quilts on the little Singer.  I was excited to have 85 stitch options, but in reality, I really use forward, backward and zigzag, plus it can sew buttons on and has a built in buttonhole maker.  The coolest thing?  It threads itself!  I bought a cabinet, but it is the type that you sit the sewing machine on the table top, not a flip down and hide it in the cabinet type.  I wish it were, as it tends to bounce a bit when it's running at full speed.  It's plastic and lightweight.  The bobbin re-winder broke after a year and after researching online, learned this is a major flaw in this machine.  Rather than spend $100 for repairs, I bought a $25 portable bobbin re-winder at JoAnn Fabrics, which works just fine.  I have made the bulk of my quilts on this machine.
Because I was a bit disappointed in the sewing machine cabinet, I kinda/sorta had my eye peeled for a cabinet that the machine is attached to and flip down when it's not used, flip up when you need it.  I spied one in the window of Goodwill, and went in for closer inspection.  $25 for a pretty ugly cabinet, but hey, I can refinish it!  On closer inspection, whoa...A sewing machine was inside!  A 1973 Singer Stylist model 734 looks alot like the one pictured below, but it doesn't have the drop down plate (model 744).  I had it cleaned and the man said to never ever ever get rid of this machine, as it is one of the best ones out there.  It is as heavy as a boulder, has eight utility stitches, a built in buttonholer and is one heck of a machine.  It hums like a sewing machine is supposed to and sews smooth and perfect.  Wow!
So I guess you can see that I have a little collection.  I don't want to get rid of the Brother...what if I ever need one of those fancy stitches?  And never the Singer 734!  And never ever the Featherweight!!  So what did I come across on Craigslist?  Another antique Singer sold at Habitat for Humanity for $30 including another beat up 1960's cabinet.  What is it with cabinets being so abused??  Here is is:
The design on it is called Tiffany or Gingerbread.  It is a 1910 Singer Model 15 (an early 15, according to an online site)  It looks exactly like the old treadle machine, but it has a little motor on the back and is run by a rubber belt. It appears that the silver light on the backside was an add on. It is clean inside and runs like a top, but the belt is old and needs to be replaced.  On closer examination, so do the electric cords.  Not a problem, I have a man that specializes in old Singers and he'll have it cleaned up and ready to roll in a jiffy.  I couldn't not buy it at $30 and may sell this one for a profit.  Isn't it pretty?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Popcorn Lessons

I sometimes work at the Winter Park Farmer's Market selling MultiGrain Rice Cakes. (check out CoCo B2B for video on the machine).  Free samples!  Delicious MultiGrain Rice Cakes - freshly made! All natural, no fat, no sugar, no cholesterol, less than one Weight Watchers point and only 15 to 20 calories each!  Free Samples!   I feel like a carnival barker:  Heya heya heya!  Step right up!!

This and the Kettle Korn booth are both owned by a lady that I work part time for, and so our booths are side by side.  Yesterday I sold a record number of bags of rice cakes and in all my free time while I watched the machine for logjams and as I hawked my product, I watched the guy next to me cook pot after pot of kettle korn in a huge copper cauldron.  My booth can be run solo (two is better when the machine is running), but the kettle corn is a four person job, and they move about like worker ants wearing long sleeves and sunglasses and cowboy hats.  The giddyup get up isn't a fashion statement, but for safety, as an errant kernel of sizzling sugar coated corn can put a hurt on a person.  Every now and again, one would come my way, but those few extra feet of air travel cooled it just enough to sting for a second but not burn.  

This is how it's done:
First a ladle or two of oil, then a giant cup of corn, give it a swirl, add sugar, stir stir stir as it pops, dump into pan, add salt.

I usually bring home a bag, but it was such a busy day, they ran out of product and I was left empty handed. Sigh.  Today as Mark and I watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose to the Saints, I took a kitchen break and whipped up my own version of kettle korn.  Here is my recipe:

You will need-
mid-sized pot with lid
popcorn oil
popcorn salt
big bowl
large spoon


  • In a mid sized pot with lid over high heat, swirl enough butter flavored popcorn oil to mostly coat the bottom of the pot.
  • Add 4 kernels of corn and cover.  Wait to hear four pops.
  • Add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, cover and swirl just a few seconds to moisten the corn.
  • Immediately add 2 teaspoons sugar.
  • Cover and shake pan over high heat until popping stops.
  • Dump into big bowl and give a few shakes of fine popcorn salt (to taste).  Stir well with a large spoon.
I have a glass top stove and it worked fine.  In fact, I think shimmy-shaking the pan was much easier on the smooth surface.  David came in and liked it so much, I taught him how to make his own batch.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

On Writing a Book

On Labor Day morning I woke up with a start, gasping for breath at the depth of what I had just dreamed.  And from this I began to write!  Mark came in and I gave him one of those talk to the hand, I cannot be disturbed motions and he knew I was on a roll.  An hour later, he approached me as I continued to bang away at the keyboard and asked, "What are you doing, writing a book??!"  My talk to the hand palm goes up instantly and I nod.  This is my husband, who wants to talk to me, so I stopped, saved my work, and answered with a definite YES.

After many revisions and more dreams and a two week vacation and hiatus from writing, I now have a 30 chapter draft that is 53 pages long.  Each chapter needs many more pages added to it to make a true book, but my friends that have read it say my story a page turner.  EL James had better move over!  I have a winning book on the horizon and this one is clean!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Getting the Garden Bug Again!

It has been a hot and humid summer in Central Florida.  After my last big eggplant harvest, I pulled up all but one plant that still had flowers and threw in my gardening gloves.  Three weeks ago I checked the sweet potatoes and have left them to grow on their own, surrounded by marigolds that flower in wild abandon. I was confident that the regular summer rains were enough to sustain them.  When oh when will my potatoes start cracking the soil?  I'm ready to harvest!

I'm wishing for freshly picked vegetables and tonight have begun planning for late September!  Pull up the potatoes, compost the plants, compost what's left of the eggplant bush and then all vegetable plants will be removed.  If I remove ALL of the marigolds, I can start fresh with a clean clear 4'x16' slate, ready to be turned under with additional composted soil and earthworm juice.

There is a stink bug problem at the vegetable garden co-op, and we are not supposed to use poisons/chemicals.  According to the bug repellent list, petunias are what I need.  Should I pull up every single nematode repelling marigold and replace them with petunias?  I planted a few marigolds in early summer and they took over, but I suppose if me, a pretty flower lover, would stay on top of things and dead head the flowers, this would stop the prolific marigolds in their tracks.  Currently I have a garden full of tall and mini marigolds in an ocean of of yellow, orange and reddish colors that are blooming their little hearts out and I am wondering how strong those roots will hang on when I start pulling?  It's gotta happen, there is no room for vegetable gardening!

This a list of some vegetables I am considering in my late September planting (prone to change at a moment's notice):  broccoli, spinach, peppery endive and variety lettuces, bok choy, kale, sweet peas,  lima beans.   They won't all fit, so I have to make some decisions, probably cutting the peas and beans, and possibly broccoli from my list.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making Waffle Cones

I bought a $20 Bella Waffle Cone Maker for Mark.  David and I whipped up a batch tonight.
The instructions were a little awkward and I think they were translated from another language, as it called for two eggs, then said to mix the yolk and the egg white with salt, etc.  Who discusses the parts of an egg?  You just put two eggs in.  The ingredients also called for 1/3 cup milk, but the instructions never said when to add it.  I looked at other recipes online and added it at the end, choosing to use evaporated milk as it was suggested in one of the online recipes.  The cooked batter was wonderful, but as crumbly as a potato chip.  Getting the lid to snap closed on the batter was impossible and although I put the required amount in, it overflowed and the waffle didn't cook evenly.  And it was too hot to work with AND even with the instructions, the cooked waffle kept slipping off the plastic cone form when I was trying to transform it from a flat pancake into a cone.  Needless to say, making cones was a failure and David and I ended up pressing the last three in bowls, which worked well. 

David scooped some softened ice cream and when he plopped it into a big cone, the cookie shattered.  Mark liked his cone, but we all agreed that I should take this back and get my twenty bucks refunded.

We ruined three and the picture below are our somewhat successes. Our fingertips are burned.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Clogged Drain Cleared!

Our bathroom sink was slow to drain, probably from years of soap buildup.  We have a septic tank and I am not a fan of pouring in harsh chemicals like Drain-O, so I looked online and found this clog busting recipe of things I had on hand.  

1 cup baking soda
1 cup white vinegar
1 gallon of hot water.
First put the baking soda into the drain. Follow it with the vinegar. It will react with the soda and fizzle. Let it stand for a couple of minutes then pour the boiling water down the drain.

I put a gallon of water on the stove to boil and went straight to work. Our sink has a permanent drain stopper, so I pushed what I could down the little opening and then poured the vinegar, using my fingers to push the bubbling baking soda down the drain.  One more slosh of vinegar was all it took for the mixture to clear the sink.  While that rested, I waited for the big pot of water to boil, maybe five minutes.

When I poured in the hot water, I could hear bubbly noises from the vinegar-soda solution, but I didn't get that big whoosh of water drainage that I expected.  Maybe the hot water needed to sit in the trap for a while to melt the clog, so I put another pot of water on to boil and tried again.  The second pot of water went down a little faster.  The third pot was the charm!

I wonder if I could have saved my soda and vinegar and just flushed the pipes with boiling water?  I hope I didn't hurt the PVC.

Yes, we could have taken out the trap and cleaned it, but that would have involved emptying the storage stuff from the cabinet.  Plus - YUCK - who wants to do that??

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bear In Our Yard - video/pictures

We heard the trash can fall over at 9:45am, pretty late in the morning for a bear.  We don't keep the can in the garage, because this attracts bugs and mice, which frankly creep me out worse than bears.  It's the trade-off for living near woods (paradise).  I was taking pictures from our driveway between our son's car and Mark's giant Snap-On Tools truck.  We wanted the bear to feel trapped.  Mark went to the front of his truck and banged on it, scaring the bear enough to run past me.  Hopefully she will remember this and not return!   I estimate this big bear to be a 5' tall and 200 pound female.  We would only be in danger if cubs were involved.
Go away bad bear!
She sees Mark as he bangs on his truck.
And runs past me.
Between our yards, toward our driveway.
Running across our driveway with me hot on her heels
Running toward the lake in our front yard
Headed from our yard to another neighbor's
The End.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Summertime Garden Activity

Summer eased into Florida and now is the epitome of steamy hot!  Although lots of rain and sunshine are essential for a successful garden, mine floated and sizzled to the point that all that is left are sweet potatoes hiding underground with lots of healthy foliage, one wiry eggplant bush that somehow keeps producing, thyme, basil and lots of marigolds.  I go to my plot at the community garden only once a week to pull a weed or two, pick any ripe vegetables and fresh basil leaves.  Marigolds are blooming, but not doing their job repelling bugs, as I continue to find stinkbugs and other insects that terrorize what's growing.  They're bold enough to sit on the leaves of the flowers and plot their next course of dining action.

I went to the gardens at 3:30 a week ago.  The temperature was 99F.  I picked a pile of eggplants, ripped out everything but what was mentioned above and drug it across the field to the compost pile.  The picture of eggplants I am including shows how hot it was, as some are actually shriveled from heat.  I got home and soaked them in cold water, as the skin temperature was roasting.  I  ended up baking them and making baba ganoush, an eggplant/hummus/lemonly dip for pita chips.  While at the garden, I greeted Blanca is from Mexico and Bill, from some Spanish speaking Caribbean island who was watering a huge pigeon pea tree in his garden.  Both speak perfect English and I admired their exotic plants and chatted before heading to mine to do the clean out.  A half hour into my work, Bill called to me in Spanish and I, who only has a rudimentary grasp of the Spanish language, remain puzzled that I understood his slurred words clearly: "Pardon me, do you have sugar candy?"  I looked up to see him swaying in the heat, grabbed my lemonade from my bag as I shouted to Blanca and we both ran to the rescue, pouring icy cold lemonade down his throat and shirt, holding him up, and walking his rubbery legs to his car for air conditioning.  Bill is a diabetic, and the strenuous exercise in the heat was too much for him.  Low sugar gives a man a drunk appearance and behavior.  If I saw a stranger on the street in this condition, I might have avoided him!

While Blanca continued to cool, hydrate, and raise Bill's blood sugar with my weak lemonade, I ran to the corner store for orange juice, which brought him back to sober normalcy in minutes.  A good blessing out was given in Spanish from Blanca for being a diabetic in the heat without cold water or hard candy in his pocket.   Bill went home with my favorite insulated drink container and the law laid down that before he ever returns to the gardens, it should be filled with ice and cold water, the sun should be just rising or nearly setting, and his sugar should be checked before leaving the house.  Blanca and I were pronounced angels from heaven, given big sweaty lemonade hugs, and with a big smile, Bill drove himself home.  Bill was worried that "my wife is going to keeeel me", and Blanca and I were relieved to know he would tell her what happened, so she could watch him the rest of the afternoon to be sure we didn't over sugar him.  I went back to the little store, paid for the orange juice and bought Blanca and me each homemade Mexican pineapple popsicles and a sports drink, then she and I went back to finish our gardening.  I was so hot, dirty and still a little shaky after the Bill ordeal that when I got home, I got into the pool fully clothed, not even bothering to change into a swimsuit.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Picking Blueberries! Canning!

Hi friends,

I never know where I should post when it's food. My other blog, What's For Dinner? Or here? Because this was a part of my daily life, I'm voting to post in both blogs! Go take a peek at what I cooked. In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of our fun day at the blueberry you-pick farm.

Here we are, blueberry picking. Notice how svelte Mark looks...I told him to suck it in, turn a bit to the side so he would look slimmer, tip his face up so he wouldn't be in the shade of his hat, and to lift the bucket up a bit so we can see what's inside. Mark just says, "HEY!" and I look up and it's all over with. No suggesting I turn a bit, suck in, adjust my set...nothing. Just a hey, a snap from up above, and that's it. I need to haul around my own personal photographer or always look short and dumpy. That, or go on a diet and switch out for a short man. Naw.

So, here's the bottom line: Tall He and Short Me had FUN picking and giggling and tasting berries in the sweltering sunshine for an hour and a half. There were two different types of blueberry bushes: One with a bunch of leaves and large berries, another with barely any leaves and lots of small berries. I preferred the flavor of the smaller berries, a combination of tart and sweet.

On our way home, we swung into our community garden and cut some broccoli, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, green beans and one yellow squash. Dinner was great!

Today Mark the laundry fairy did washing magic while I squished and stirred and did kitchen magic. Berry berry good!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Decorative Wall Clock

Are these still in vogue?
I've always wanted one...
18" face
$16 Big Lots

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Jars

Easter baskets just seem so juvenile, but we all want candy! I saw this here and made it my own. One thing I stress is, make sure to get WIDE MOUTH jars. I found mine at Winn Dixie, a dozen for $11. I started with a little green Easter grass, wedged a peep bunny on either side of the chocolate bunny to hold him up (this is where the wide mouth was needed, me sticking my hang in, holding the peeps up using chopsticks, then tossed in jelly beans, M&Ms, little malted milk eggs, a mini Cadbury Egg and a Lindt hazelnut chocolate (wrapped up like a carrot). I had some stretch lace and buttons in my sewing cabinet that I made the jar lid wraps with. I gathered a peach flower, sewed a button on, then tacked it to the lilac lace that fits around the top.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


The nest is empty. Our almost 25 year old son David has flown the coop! He moved in with his friend Eddy, who lives with his girlfriend in a condo about 2 miles from home. Last weekend Mark and I helped David move his bedroom furniture and desk in two trailer loads. He took most of his belongings, but has been coming back almost daily to go through stuff, put a load in the trash and a load in his car. His closet is still full, but it won't be long until I have this room converted into a sewing room.

David's new home is a two story condo with his room on the first floor. Also on the first floor is the kitchen, a walk in pantry, and a combination dining and living room, all nicely furnished. David has an en suite bathroom, and also in his room is a door to outside where he has a private porch that looks out over Errol golf course. Our old porch furniture fits perfectly. Back inside the apartment, a spiral staircase takes you up to Eddy and Amanda's master suite and small bedroom/office. There is a door that leads outside to a patio that is over David's bedroom and another spiral staircase outside that leads to a third patio that is over Eddy's bedroom. It's a wonderful place to do some star gazing.

While I enjoyed an empty house last week, I went into David's room many times to dream. That room smelled like a gym shoe and looked like a feather pillow exploded and so I vacuumed. A thousand stickers on the back of his door have been peeled off, and I started pulling glow in the dark stars off the walls. There must be a thousand! I have plans to put a fresh coat of white on the ceiling and repaint the walls a cheerier color than the current dreary moss green.

Yesterday I redecorated the guest bathroom. Mark and I went shopping for a new shower curtain, a complimentary turquoise hand towel, wall decor and a scented candle (the smaller one) made it look like a completely different room. The walls are tan and the vanity is white with a darker tan/brownish marble top with white sink. The shower curtain rod and hangers are a dark bronze.

I said to David, "If we get empty nest syndrome, will you move back home?" He response was a solid "NO!" I think he's pretty happy to be moved out. Mark and I are happy for David and for ourselves. There is a maturity that happens when a child moves out. Will it be our son or us that matures? I can't speak for David, but Mark and I feel younger!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Garden Planting - Part Deux

Hello from Sunny Florida! Mark and I sweltered in the warm, humid weather as we planted a new garden this afternoon. It's hard to believe that all the tender seedlings I planted a week and a half ago froze during two overnight freezes (27 and 31F). Here comes summer!

With no time to worry with sprouting seeds like I did before, Mark and I went to Lowes, Home Depot and Halls Feed and Seed for our new plants. I wanted to replace with the same plants. Here's what we ended up with:
  • Tomatoes: one each of Husky Cherry Red and Early Girl. Mark added a Bonnie Grape and another I'll list later in the "did not fit" category.
  • Lettuce: Red Sails (9), Romaine (4) and Mark added Arugula (9).
  • Greens: Collards (9) and Mark insisted on Mustards (4) and swears he will now be a collard and mustard green eater. Okay! Neither of us meant to pick up, but somehow we ended up with Cabbage plants (4).
  • OtherVeggies: Broccoli (8) - which survived the cold, Tender Bush String Beans (9), and because Mark is so inspired with farming, we have Brussels Sprouts (5). Mark also needed Crock Neck Yellow Squash (10) real bad. There's also a donor herb...Thyme I think.
    Things we had to bring home to "front porch" garden: Cilantro (1), Sweet Basil (1), Sweet Million Tomatoes-teenies (4) and Beefmaster Tomatoes-mongo (6). In addition to those, we have my datil peppers (8) each in a five-gallon bucket.. We brought home 20 gallons of soil, and I hope we have enough containers for all of those new plants.

    So if our heartfelt prayers are heard, all of these little plants in garden plot #25 will thrive and be bountiful.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit

I delayed watching Lonesome Dove. Not because I don't like western movies, oh I do! I didn't watch because I knew it lasts six hours and that I would cry. And I did. There is a reference to the Latin proverb, Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit, which means "A grape changes color (ripens) when exposed to other grapes." How appropriate. *sob* What a wonderful movie. It's my favorite.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Datil Be Some HOT Peppers!

After stripping my poor overworked datil pepper plant of a snack baggie of smaller than usual datil peppers, I made the decision that while driving home from this past weekend's Jacksonville parent visit, I would locate a datil pepper grower and buy some plants. Oh how exciting! Eleven datil peppers were purchased and are home now, waiting for transplanting into 5-gallon buckets.

I contacted several places that sell datil plants and was disappointed to hear "they won't be ready for 2-3 more weeks" from all of them. I called Uncle Paul''s St. Augustine home and was ever so lucky to get Jeannie on the phone. She is such a wonderful gawdenah (gosh I love her and her New England accent) and told me she heard that someone on Church Road sells them. It was a seven mile shot in the dark, but lo and behold, I found them!

Randy Haire at 5225 Church Roa d in St. Augustine, FL has a small greenhouse and a whole bunch of datil seedlings (not ready for a few weeks) and a whole bunch more of 1-2 year old plants that have been cut back for the winter to ten inches tall. They look great with a sturdy stalk, good healthy leaves, and some with datils and flowers. Randy and his wifesay, "Y'all come!" He asked me to tell everybody about his datils. He does not sell peppers, just the plants.

My lone datil had gotten stringy and limby and the peppers were growing smaller and smaller and turning orange too fast, so I went home and followed suite, cutting back my scraggly bush to a ten inch stump with a few leaves. Soon we will have a whole bunch of healthy full datil pepper plants with big green peppers.

A single pepper can season an entire pot of lima beans. I quick soaked a bag of dry limas, then added a few pork ribs (that I smoked a week ago and froze) and ONE datil pepper. I'll fish it out before we eat, or somebody will be on fire.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Community Gardening Calls

Two green thumbs up for the Apopka Community Garden! Located in South Apopka - a typically impoverished area - the goal of this endeavor is to bring locals together with the common interest of organic vegetable gardening. Besides black and white residents, Apopkans from Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands are growing vegetables native to their home countries as well. There are no specific hours for farming our gardens, but most seem to congregate in the mornings, trading gardening advice and if we have overages, freshly picked vegetables. Sometimes vegetables are donated to the local homeless shelter.

In exchange for $20 annual rent, Peter Jordan, an agriculture teacher at Ocoee High School and one of the folks that runs this community effort, gave me a quick tour. We have a big dump truck load of dark soil, an equally large pile of compost/manure. There's a small raised box with composted vegetables stirred into soil loaded with big happy earthworms - their rich liquid fertilizer drips into a 2-gallon jug that hangs below. Inside the shed are some tools, free seeds, and paperwork. I was given a list of seasonal vegetables that will grow well in our area. For the safety of the gardeners and to prohibit non-paying folks from strolling through and picking the fruits of our labor, the entire property is fenced with combination locks on both gates and shed. One entrance opens big enough to drive through and renters are encouraged to pull in and lock the gate. I remain fearless, but will be cautious for my safety in this high-crime area.

I was assigned to plot #25, a 4 x 16 foot raised garden. Although there are other gardens in different stages of growth, mine is newly built with fresh dark soil and no old plants to have to dig up or turn under. The nearest water source is a pretty convenient hose drag away, just past the next 16 foot garden.

As a side note, I am excited that Peter is considering bringing some chickens over and constructing a movable chicken tractor to house them. I've expressed interest in this in the past, but because of our home's location against the forest of the Wekiva State Park, we have too many critters invading our yard, eating our plants, and potentially eating chickens to even consider planting a garden or raising hens in my back yard.

Preparation for planting has included poured over the internet, deciding what to plant, and mapping out my garden. I want to put in tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, collard greens, zucchini and summer squash. I'd also like to grow my favorite herbs - basil, dill and cilantro. Today I will go visit my garden, check out the seeds in the shed and visualize, followed by a trip to the local Feed & Seed and hardware stores to see what they have to offer in seeds and seedlings. I don't know if purchasing from these places is appropriate for organic gardens. More to learn! I can't wait to dig in!!

Locally, University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service offers a Master Gardener program. This is something I might be interested in. I jump in with both feet, don't I?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't Allow Your Defects To Define You

Years ago I saw a little sign at a craft fair that said, "Don't allow your defects to define you."  It's a good attitude to live by.

My Green Vermont is one of my favorite blogs.  I enjoy Lali's writing and look forward to her posts. The writer has chronic fatigue syndrome, something she rarely mentions.  CFS can be overwhelmingly disabling when it strikes, and as with most auto-immune disorders, it can knock Lali flat on her back.  She never knows when it will attack; it may sap every ounce of strength she has this afternoon, it could lay low until the morning of her next hair appointment, or it may never ever bother Lali again.

Rheumatoid arthritis has erratic timing like CFS.  RA has interrupted my health for most of my childhood and my entire adult life.  Who could count the thousands of medications and treatments I've endured?  Damaged hands and feet always hurt and there's always some mild to moderate pain that settles in a different place(s) every single day of my life.  I go and do and stand up straight and smile and my days are happy and fulfilling.  It is important my pace myself, avoid stress and get plenty of rest, or I'll pay for overdoing things the next day.  The resulting flare can be a day or weeks or years of intense pain for me.  Healthy people should all read the Spoon Theory to understand this.  These are the good times and I try to make hay while the sun shines.

The Spoon Theory writer talks about the many energy saving choices that she has to make every day that normal people take for granted.  In addition to the regular discomforts, my wrists and shoulder hurt today.  Here are a few of my pain saving choices I had to make just getting ready this morning:  Lift (ouch) the washcloths until I reached a lightweight one because wet washcloths are heavy.  Chose a smaller towel for same reason.  Needed both hands to turn on the shower.  T-shirts don't have buttons.  Opened moisturizer and the toothpaste with my teeth.  Used my toothbrush with the fat handle and, because faucets are really hard for me to turn on and off, I wastefully left the water running while brushing.  Pony-tailed my hair instead of styling it. I am so blessed that my husband makes the bed every morning.  To save my wrist from an awkward angle, I used the speaker phone to call Mark and thank him.  Gosh, it sounds like I have the suckiest life on earth!  The reality of it all is, I'm so used to compensating, I do this stuff without thinking.  I actually had to sit here and walk myself through my morning to recall the whats and whys of it all.

Each RA flare varies in intensity and can occur regardless of how stress free and well-paced my life might be, however overdoing it and stress are pretty much a pain guarantee.  When arthritis is unbearable, I lay low and work on being comfortable.  Sometimes I can't even think of how and somebody (thank you Patty, many times over) will show up and hand me the right meds or a blanket or whatever.  Of course nobody wants to be sick, but a bad arthritis flare doesn't destroy my being, because I know the sun will come out sooner or later. (Insert barfy Annie song here.)

Lali said she writes less when CFS takes over, and doesn't post in Twitter because, "everybody knows that birds don't tweet when they're feeling sad."  How awful for her.  I feel bad on a daily basis, some days worse than most, but very rarely do I feel sad.

Last week's Apopka Chief had had an article about a community garden and I cannot wait to be a part of this!  16-by-4 foot raised beds are available for $20 a year.  I love growing things, but the deer and bears and other critter won't leave my back yard farming attempts alone.  There are rules, and one is, if I don't start the bed within 45 days, I will lose my deposit.  I feel pretty good today and will hurry to the courthouse and seal the deal, then go to Hall's Feed & Seed to start planning.  Oh goodie!!  This is one example of how I will make hay while the sun shines today.