Another Yard Update: Dirt and Groundcover!

Just in case it hadn’t been obvious, my yard and yard-related chores has been a real comfort to me these last few weeks! Anyway, I had wanted to dirt put down last fall, but frost hit and we ran out of time. So the yard stayed bare and barren all winter. Yes, it was a little depressing to look at, but honestly it was better than the cement. I’ve discovered that a cement yard really upsets me. The contractor who had originally busted up the concrete had a landscaping friend, and together they were going to get a large truck full of dirt delivered. But he began being unresponsive to me, for some still unknown reason. I called around to companies large and small, but could not seem to get anything. At this point I was anticipating having to to all the shoveling myself, but still wanted it done, as the level of the dirt was way below where it should be, volume-wise.

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My kids are “helping.”

Finally, with the threat of stores closing and the increasingly valid desire to not be around anyone, I ordered two pallets of dirt from a store a few blocks from my house. I didn’t bother thinking about how difficult it would be to do the work myself, because there was no choice. It took only two and a half adults (my two kids each account for a quarter of an adult) to spread all of the dirt in my yard in two days.

But of course spreading the dirt is not the end of the job. The contractor had recommended me to get turf, but I didn’t want turf. I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t like the look of an overly even lawn. I wanted something that looked organic and a bit chaotic. I also wanted to see the grass grow from seeds. So I bought grass and clover seeds and single-handedly spread them over the yard and then spread another layer of dirt on top. The night I planted the seeds, there was a lot of rain, which continued for days. After that, I watered it a few times. I didn’t want to buy a sprinkler, as I had been advised. I think it’s a waste of water. Grass grows in fields that are never watered, so why couldn’t it grow in the yard without a sprinkler?

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This is actually from a week ago, and it’s so much greener now!

Then came the days of waiting. But after about two weeks, I started to see little shoots emerging from the ground. I was so happy, I started crying. It’s starting to fill in a bit now, but looks chaotic, which I like but may upset others. Also, I’m planning to plant a few more actual plants, like some flowering vines on the back fence (the green fence in the photo above), so I would not consider it “finished.” But I am way happier now than I was with the concrete!

Continuing to Work on my Yard (all about soil)!

Last week I wrote about my trials and tribulations of getting the cement in my backyard taken away. That actually took place last fall. After the contractor finished moving away most of the broken cement, he said we would wait to do the next part until the spring.

While this was ongoing, I decided to test my existing soil. A few people warned me that it may contain heavy metals or other dangerous things, and I had to do that before I planted anything in it we would possibly eat. I didn’t have a solid plan as to what to plant yet, but I wanted to include the possibility that I would be gardening edible plants.

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These tiny tomatoes came from a plant I had in a pot last summer. I opened my shed in December and found these growing! And yes, they were yummy!

 

After several annoying and possibly hilarious attempts to test using kits I bought online, I discovered the NYC Urban Soils Institute. You mail them a soil sample, and for a reasonable fee, they test it for you and email you the results. The soil from my yard came back as lacking in biologic material but otherwise fine. I was so happy to hear it!

Through the Soils Institute helpful website, I found that the best way to amend my soil was by adding organic matter. I would add to need topsoil, because the level was so far below the cement, but the winter is not the time to do that. Since it was a mild winter, I started just adding organic material by burying my organic garbage. It sounds odd, but I was already bringing scraps once a week to be composted. This was even easier! Just dig a hole and bury them!

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In early February, I went for a walk and found this very early flower! I hope to have some in my garden this year.

A few people asked about animals digging it up, but we are vegetarians, so it was only fruit and vegetable scraps. I live in Queens, so the only animals about are stray cats, who wouldn’t want my scraps, and raccoons, who can easily find tastier stuff in garbage cans. I have never had a problem! And never will, since it is now spring and I stopped doing this because things are growing in the yard. More on this next week.

MinsGame Spring 2020: Day 25

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My favorite coffee cup, left at work three weeks ago when I was packing in haste. I’m sure I’ll never see it again.

The Minimizing Game Day 25 is let because life is so chaotic now. I forgot to post this last night, but I had to go through a stack of work papers I brought home, and I got rid of at least 25. In retrospect, however, I probably didn’t need any of them, and what I should have brought home instead was my beloved mug, and probably my AMA style manual.

The Continued Saga of Trying to Sleep Unlike a Baby

For many, many years, I have been unable to sleep without certain sleep props. For the unaware, sleep props are things that, without which, one cannot sleep. One of the most common sleep props in babies is the pacifier. Adults usually don’t have sleep props. I had a lot, which you can read about here. Over the almost five years since I wrote that post, I’ve tried to address them slowly, one-by-one.

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My cat Oz generally has no trouble sleeping, unless I rattle the treat jar or put a camera in his face.

The first thing I dealt with was the ear plugs. I woke up one morning and one of them had fallen out onto the floor and the cat was chewing on it. Which could cause him to die! I threw all them out, and, since I have a white-noise machine, didn’t really notice any issues.

The second thing I got rid of was the benadryl. For a few days, I imagined that I woke with my nose stuffy and couldn’t breathe. I got a nose spray and used that for about a week, until I forgot to use it. Now I am completely unmedicated when I sleep.

Next, I tackled the real issue and one that was the most difficult. For more than 10 years, I had not been able to sleep without a sugar-free cough drop in my mouth. When it dissolved (usually took a few hours), I would wake up coughing and feeling like I was unable to breathe. The first few nights without cough drop, I was very dramatic inside my head, thinking I would not be able to sleep. But I did. The next night, it was almost as difficult, but I still did it. And somewhere around the fifth night, I stopped feeling like I was choking to death every time I laid down.

Now the only thing I have left as a sleep prop is the white-noise machine. As I said in my post of about five years ago, this one doesn’t really bother me, as my bedroom window is on a street, and without it, I would probably wake 20 times a night, as I am a very light sleeper. However, on the rare occasion that I take a nap, I have stopped turning it on. And sometimes I will wake at 6am to go to the bathroom and turn it off then, as I only have less then an hour to wake anyway.

Overall, I’m really pleased with my progress to be higher functioning than a newborn human!

The Yoke of Social Media

Over the past few weeks, I have been taking a break from social media. It was just coincidence that the #deletefacebook movement happened at the same time. What I was concerned with was less with whatever data facebook has on me (probably a lot), and more with how I choose to use my very limited resource of time. I realized that every time I had a few seconds break at work or at home, I would check social media. This would amount to checking maybe 10-15 times a day. And sometimes, those few seconds turned into a few minutes, and before you know it, I would be scrolling through feeds for 20 minutes.

Now, 20 minutes, in the span of most lives, is a relatively short time. But whenever I die, whether it be 20 years from now or 20 days, I don’t think I’d ever say that I regret not spending more time on social media. So instead of turning to my phone in moments of boredom, I wondered how much reading I would do if I opened a book. For years, I have been meaning to read Moby Dick. It is very hard to get into. Many people have told me that it gets better, but I’m currently on the chapter about whale taxonomic classification, so here’s hoping!

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I have also started to get out more books from the library. I read the New York Times every day (and have found it’s a better source of news than facebook). I subscribed to The New Yorker magazine and read that while commuting instead of holding my phone. I still like to read books digitally, of course, but have begun reading on the kindle app of my computer rather than my phone.

This change, admittedly small, is only a month old, but hopefully will continue. And I’m still only 24% of the way through Moby Dick.

Blah, just blah

 

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The eunni of a forced gathering demonstrated by yours truly and my mother, sometime in the 1990s.

I may have already said this last year, but I do not care for the winter holidays, and that includes Thanksgiving. In fact, everything that happens after Halloween and before the spring equinox is just blah, in my opinion. I know many people have great memories of Thanksgivings with their families, but some of us also have memories that are not so great.

My family did celebrate Thanksgiving when I was a child, but my mother did not like it. She used to say, “It’s just work for me while everyone else relaxes, and look what it represents.” I have the exact same sentiment today. I do not enjoy cooking. This holiday is just me annoying myself with an activity I do not like. And before anyone assumes I was a terrible person because I didn’t help my mother, I will say that I went I was old enough to be a help cooking, I started to work on Thanksgiving. When I came back from my teenage job at a horse stable, I had to take a shower before I could help in the kitchen. And by then, everything was done. I know, I could have not gone to work and helped my mother instead, but I was a young teenager who loved horses and money and hated cooking.

When I was slightly older, and had moved to college, I went through a period of a few years in which my parents didn’t want to see or talk to me. Since my parents are both long dead and can’t defend their decision, I will say that I wasn’t the most pleasant person during this time of my life. Still, it hurt to be asked to not come over for Thanksgiving. It hurt so much that whenever I think of Thanksgiving, that is the Thanksgiving that immediately comes to mind.

I was living in the college dorms, and almost everyone else had gone home for the Thanksgiving break. The cafeteria was closed too, of course. I didn’t have a car. There was a 7-11 (convenience store) within walking distance, so once a day I would go there and get a coffee, buttered roll, and one other food snack to get me through the day. (I still remember loving those damn buttered rolls!) I also had to get there before noon, or risk the 7-11 being out of buttered rolls! The horror of having to eat a 7-11 buttered bagel instead!

This was one particular Thanksgiving, but there were other holidays, including Christmas that same year, where I did not go home to see my family. Eventually, we started talking again, and I even went on to enjoy several years of a really good relationship with my mother. And yes, I also started helping her with the cooking of all large family gatherings. I use these reflections to remind myself that no matter what goes on in my kids’ lives, I should always welcome them home. Also, I try very hard not to burden my kids with my own hang-ups, so we still celebrate some manner of Thanksgiving. I actually find I enjoy it more when I try to just think of it as another day, but one in which we will eat some manner of poultry and tuber.

***After writing this, I realize I just wrote another, recent post about going through some difficult times in the past. Rest assured that this is about a different difficult time. Still, realizing this has made me want to do something that actually does some good in the world, and not just cathartic bitching. (Even though one cannot downplay the value of cathartic bitching!) I’ll think more on this.***

The magical world in the clouds

I have previously shared that when I wrote my first two novels, I did so on an archaic device known as paper! The only benefit to that was that it made me really analyze the story and do significant rewrites during the second draft process, which included typing the book on my computer. It probably also helped me figure out the process of writing a book, as it was my first time doing it.

When I got to my third book, I realized the hand cramps were not worth it, and switched to typing directly on my computer. It was a real time-saver too, as I can obviously type faster that I can write. But, I sometimes wrote on my work computer, and sometimes on my home computer, so I ended up emailing myself the file several times a week. Apart from being a version-control nightmare, this was really stressful.

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My new book is safe up there in the magical cloud!

So finally, in the year 2017, I have finally realized what everyone else realized a long time ago, namely that if you simply use cloud storage, you will never ever run into these types of problems. I am at home today because my son’s daycare is closed, and I had a moment of sadness that I forgot to save my file of my new book, and would not be able to work on it until Monday. But then! I opened up Google Drive and there it was, right up to the very last word I typed yesterday! Thank you, the magical cloud, for saving my writing!

Trying to pick up where I left off

Apparently 2017 is almost over, and, when it comes to volume of writing, I have done very little this year. After finishing my six-book series of urban fantasy, I wanted to do some personal, reflective writing. I did so, but it took so much more time than I had anticipated.

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My children reflecting on their actual reflections in a pond, upstate New York, summer 2017.

The original, finished but as-yet unedited piece was about 12K words, and that took me more than a year to write. Then I worked on editing it. That took about two months and left it at about 7k words. And now I’m left with a piece that was extremely cathartic to write, but I don’t want anyone to read it, because of the personal nature. But I hate to think the year-long process was just an exercise in journal writing, so I may look to publish it in a magazine, under a pen name.

However, all this said, what I need now is a break from this gut-wrenching introspection and get back to something that’s, at times, only slightly less painful, and that is fiction writing. Ten years ago, in 2007, I decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo), and that was when I wrote approximately 60% of the first draft of my first book, New Blood. When December 1 came, I just kept on writing until I was done, and then put it in a drawer for about 3 years. Because I find meaning in symmetry, I am thinking now would be a good time for me to put aside my personal troubles, and start thinking more about the topic of my next series, werewolves!