Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Ground

This month, E and I are breaking new ground in our marriage. We are becoming "Land Lords". Even though we have more than one house at the moment, we have never owned anything that would become a rental property. We currently are trying to sell the house that E's family left in the estate and it is in Escrow at the moment. We are hoping that it actually closes soon.
But to complicate our  lives, we decided that we needed to buy a condo near San Diego State College so that our last fledgling could have a more stable housing situation. And only one roommate. That means we will be needing to rent out a room to another student until she finishes school. Then it would become a regular rental property for some long period of time.
I got notice today that the property recorded and we are the official owners. Whoohoo! Now I need to furnish it. Then I need to move  the little bird into the new nest. Then find her a roommate. Then... the fun never ends.
But it has a pool and jacuzzi and I plan on visiting often.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fertility Rituals

Every year, I anticipate the garden season and try to figure out what is best for each type of plant in my "zone". I am often confounded and wrong about the season here. We live in a coastal climate that imitates a Mediterranean climate in many ways. I am able to grow many of the normal plants found there, like dill, anise, fennel, garlic and onions. If I plant in December, I can grow lettuce, but it is too warm by the end of April for lettuces. I have sometimes been successful with celery if I water enough. My other plants are grapes, figs, and peaches. Occasional apricots happen here. And I have blueberries in boggy pots. We have grown macadamia nuts in abundance, but only marginal asparagus. Citrus, we have it. And every type of weed you can imagine.
But trying to get beans or cucumbers is almost impossible. And melon or squash, well lets just hit ourselves with sticks. The wet nights just mildew everything.
So this year, I decided to try something really different- cotton. I cleaned out a low dirt area that was the hottest spot in the yard. I turned the soil and added amendments. I used fertilizer abundantly and watered the sandy mass deeply. When the soil attained the desired 60 degrees F, I planted seeds of dubious quality.
Some of the seeds looked really good. I had picked the cotton lint off the seeds myself and they were this year's seeds from a woman at the weaver's barn. They were plump and firm. Then I had some that I received as a gift in the mail. They were natural brown cotton and may have been stored for at least a year. They may have been squished a bit too.  And lastly, I had some seeds from cotton that had been stored for a couple of years. I picked the lint off of them too, but they looked a bit shriveled and dry.
The growing instructions suggested three seeds in each hole- 1 foot apart in rows. This is a good test- one of each seed went into every hole. Water deeply. Silent prayer for warm weather.
My area is known world wide for June Gloom and May gray. The temperature hovers just under 60f and it drizzles often. Nights are cool and windy. More prayers for warm soil.
The instructions suggested that two weeks would pass before the seeds sprouted, and to water them well when they were up about four inches tall. At the end of day 5, the first plants emerged. I have never seen a baby cotton plant, so I can't be sure, but they look like they were in the hole spot and seem to be in rows like I planted them.
The worry and frustration with the weather, rains, storms, bugs, animal disruption, and soil quality must have driven the ancient farmers crazy. Each year,  the guess about when to plant, how to fertilize, were the seeds viable, can we keep the wild pigs out- it is mind boggling. And now, with the passage of the ages, I don't even know what god they prayed to for cotton crops. I have to rely on science and the farmer's almanac.
So today, I went to my cotton bed and had a little talk with it. Who would know best about growing than the plant itself. We talked about fertility of the soil and I asked it to tell me if it needed anything. We discussed the weather and I told them that I just didn't have  any control over it, but had chosen the warmest spot and would do my best. Then I told them that I would water them every three days because the soil was very sandy and didn't hold water well regardless of how much mulch I used. I suggested that they could show me if they were needing water by bowing down a bit- you know, body language. And if they looked a bit moldy, I could hold back on the water.
We tried to come to some agreement on the communication but, I just don't think they were paying any attention to me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Year of the Cowboy

There is a wild west element in my life lately. That kind of shoot from the hip, caution to the wind, wild and free stuff is all around me.
When I am looking at a home made spinning wheel, I first look for something that had true, talented craftsmanship and an understanding of the actual use of the end product. Many of the old wheels don't have many available replacement parts or ways to fix stuff. The weirder they are, the less likely they will actually make yarn even under the most skilled hands. Just turning some wood and sticking the parts together doesn't make a good wheel. Or even a good display wheel. These thrown together cowboy wheels are about people just making something that looks close enough, but doesn't really get the job done.
Now, granted, real cowboys actually rounded up the cattle and drove them to market. They had a job to do and worked hard at it. But what most of us think about when we imagine a cowboy, is the Movie Cowboy- all for show, special wardrobe, fake gun, trained horse. Some of these actors could actually ride a real horse. They might even be able to shoot a real gun. But they probably would be lost around a real cow.
This issue of 'quality product that can really do the job' transfers from spinning wheels to other real aspects of life. I want a stove that really works, a car that really runs, and clothes that really fit. I want a house that is built to stand up in a storm with windows and roof that keep the rain out. Lately, I have been running into products that just don't do the job- dishwasher that doesn't clean dishes, vacuum that doesn't suck the stuff up, cleaning products that can't get the grease off, screw driver that destroys itself while removing a screw.
I think this is the reason we all want to have some "quality control" in the items we buy. We want consumer reports and feed back on the web. We want to let the junky, ineffective products languish while we only get the good, well built stuff. And this is especially true when we buy very expensive items. It is hard to pay good money for something of questionable quality. Even getting something free, when it might be dangerously built is not worth the risk. We want UL approval.
E's father tinkered in the garage and built many tools. He was a cowboy. He built stuff then used it, then left it and moved on to the next item. His garage is full of questionable, possibly dangerous, stuff. A rock tumbler, a spot welder (220v), a metal milling machine. Frankly, I am afraid to plug any of it in. The wall could catch on fire. The item might explode. I might explode. For those of us who question the safety and quality of the items, I can say, "there was no quality control testing here."
That brings us to the end destination of some items like these. What do you do with a garage full of unsafe, home built, old and dirty, most likely dangerous tools and machines? What do you do with old, poorly build, not actually functional spinning wheels? Well, the wheels go into the bonfire, but the old machinery gets to go to the scrap heap for metal recycling. It is a sad thing, but really, I am afraid to plug it in and turn it on. I value what is left of my life and now I don't heal all that well anymore.
Next week, the scrap metal truck comes. When it leaves it will be full. My job is to dismantle most of what is left in the garage so that it can get to the truck. Wish me luck. This is not a job for the faint of heart. With my tool belt strapped on, I will climb a ladder and start to undo 25 years of creative fantasy, one knob at a time until parts crash to the floor. And when the job it done, there will be a silent prayer of thanks that no one exploded.