Dear Greenhouse Babies

Dear Greenhouse Babies,

I am sorry you are so leggy and skinny that your shorter, stumpier counterparts make fun of you behind my back. I am sorry you have had to reach for the sky so much you've made yourself an extra 3 inches long and now your bottom leaves are yellowing and falling off. I'm sorry that yesterday's headline ran "Seattle Colder Than Siberia" and that it wasn't an exaggeration. It really was colder yesterday in Seattle than it was on that day in Siberia. I have been wearing my winter jacket for two days in a row. Two days, Babies. Two days. And I should have been wearing it the whole week, except you know how stubborn mama is. She made that stupid vow to not wear socks after Memorial Day, and there are days she comes home and has to soak her feet in a bucket of scalding hot water just to feel them again... (I hope you inherit that stubbornness. You're going to need it when I set you outside and the Jerry the Crow comes by to "talk".)

I'm sorry too the greenhouse smells a little like pee on hot days and that the door doesn't close all the way. When I bought the greenhouse I didn't think I would have to put my flip flops back in the closet and shop for fur lined boots on my lunch break in the middle of June, Babies. I thought I would be grilling things on the barbeque in the evenings and watching the glorious sunsets from my deck. I was thinking that even if the door didn't close all the way, there would be enough heat trapped in there from the day that it wouldn't matter. But, we don't have any heat to keep you warm with. So, you're not getting adequate light and heat and you've got the hideously deformed stalks to prove it. I put your brothers and sisters out a few weeks ago in my eagerness for warmer weather and they got pummeled by the rain and then eaten by Jerry and Co.

And about the water... You may have noticed a greenish hue to it... a distinct smell. Yes, Babies, that's algae. You see, we've been collecting storm water in 50 gallon barrels all winter to water you with. We thought we'd be through half that water by now, it being June and all, the rain having stopped, and the growing season being in full force... but it's been raining. And raining. And raining. And we haven't needed to use the water as it's been falling in copious, unending, stick-my-head-in-the-oven-and-get-it-all-over-with amounts for months on end now. So, the water's been sitting in the barrels, unused. And every six weeks or so, the sun comes out for about five minutes and alerts every tiny slimy thing that's been lying dormant in that water to get up and shake its moneymaker, and the next thing you know, the water barrel has a carpet of green algae growing on the bottom of it. And that's what I've been watering you with. So, the teenagers amongst you (I'm talking to you, sunflowers) are showing me your rebellious stage. Instead of getting creeped out by the stuff, you've actually taken a liking to it and coated your topsoil with it. Needless to say, I am completely repulsed, I can't understand why you would do such a thing to the person that gave you life. I am bracing myself for they day you start listening to heavy metal and smoking.</p>

We'll get through this, Babies. We will. I know the dormant peach tree leaning all scraggly-like outside your windows is not exactly the most inspiring thing to look at every day. And don't be jealous of the beans in the garden. They have problems of their own. One day you will be ready for the outdoors. More than likely it will be in mid-October, when we finally get some heat, when mama has packed a bag of Cheetos, a dozen novels, and a bathing suit and tried her best to make her tires screech on soggy pine needles as she hightails it out of the driveway.


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Internet, This Is What the Green Movement Looks Like

So, listen. This is how you save the planet one tofu tray at a time. First, you need to enjoy tofu. I love the stuff. Where once I turned my carnivorous nose up at it, now I relish it with glee (and peanuts and sesame dipping sauce). I like yogurt and salsa too. And just by liking those foods, I can do something about the fact that this country loves it some plastic packaging but knows fuck all about what to do about it when it's used.

Here's my solution to our problem of what to do with plastic that can't be recycled where we live: grow stuff in it. Seriously. It takes a couple of minutes and a drill. And that means that you don't have to throw away another container ever again. And it means tomatoes in July.

Here's how it works. First, eat some salsa (or yogurt, or tofu, or margarine, or anything else that comes in a plastic tub). Secondly, eat something raw that has seeds in it. Here are some suggestions: Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. Save the seeds. Here's how to save the seeds: don't eat them. Flowers are cool too! You don't need to grow something edible to use this method.

Next, get yourself a drill. I would suggest another method for poking holes in the tubs, but I have tried them, and with little success. Now, I'm no engineer, so if someone out there in Internet-land can manage to poke holes through plastic without destroying the integrity of the plastic, well, then, you, sir, are a better man than I.

Take that drill and drill a bunch of 1/8 holes through the bottom of your plastic tub. You are creating drainage holes here, people, so five or so will do it. Space them equally apart. Next, fill your plastic container with dirt. Potting soil is best, but, hell, take a scoop of the front yard and see what comes up. Then, stick your saved seeds into your soil. The rule is this: bury your seeds in the soil about as deeply as they are long. In other words, small seeds go in very shallow, and the bigger seeds (cucumber seeds, for example) go in deeper. Use the lids of your plastic tubs as TRAYS for underneath your pots, or, for yogurt cups without lids, cram two yogurt cups into one tofu tray! Now, water your seeds in your plastic tubs. The lids will catch any water that drains from the holes you just drilled.

Okay, now, depending on where you live, the next steps are up to you. If you live in the gray Northwest like I do, buy yourself a long, narrow plot of land with a huge smelly house and greenhouse on it with your almost husband and two friends and stick your pots in there. Okay, okay, so you don't want to live with your friends. I get it. Then do this: cover your pots with little pieces of plastic wrap (Saran works well, or, you can go one step further to reducing waste on your planet by cutting up old produce bags into squares). Secure the plastic wrap with rubber bands. Where do you get the rubber bands, you ask? From around the bases of broccoli and asparagus and scallions, from the supermarket, of course. (I would suggest you buy these vegetables, take them home, eat them, and THEN use the rubber bands. I don't want the riot police showing up at my house claiming I am an instrument of anarchy because I instigated the theft of hundreds of produce rubber bands).

Stick those pots in a warm place and water them every day. Depending on the seeds, they will germinate within a week to several weeks and viola! Once their little green heads pop up out of the soil, you can permanently remove the plastic wrap. You can plant the stuff outdoors, or, keep them in containers indoors (you'll want to move out of the yogurt cup soon enough).

Here's the thing about plastic: it lasts FOR FREAKIN EVER. So, the best thing about this is that next year, no drilling! You just use those suckers over and over and over again. And, in 50 years, when your kids can't remember a time when water didn't cost money and come in jugs, and when we're still arguing over whether we should call sticking the last freakin' cockroach on earth on the endangered species act a result of "global warming" or "climate change", you can say you did something to save a very small piece of earth.

(And, I realize, plant identification people, that those little green sprouts are NOT tomatoes... I got all excited and then realized that what i had sprouted were weeds... or something resembling lettuce or radish. The tomatoes are coming. I swear. )

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You know how sometimes you stop what you're doing and you take stock of what you're doing and then you have a meta-analysis moment? Well, in the middle of mending CLH's pants on the sewing machine while a loaf of bread was baking in the oven tonight, I had one of those moments. And, inside my head, it kind of sounded like this:

"You know, no one would believe that you are sewing and baking bread right now."

"Oh yeah? Now why would you say a thing like that?"

"Because you are wearing a pair of shit kicking black boots and your head is shorn and you have been known to swear in front of children".

"Well, that doesn't mean i'm all spit and vinegar, does it? I can have a soft side too, y'know. I can be domestic."

The sewing machine was my mom's. It's tempermental (not unlike my mother). During my childhood, I knew when she was using the thing because a) it sounded like a small train coming through the house and b) my mom would let fly from her mouth a string of curses like you've never heard. (Think: the father from "A Christmas Story"). I didn't understand the need for such language until I inherited it. Now I find myself also tearing at the needle and bobbin with both hands and cursing the little baby Jesus himself. She didn't use it often- I remember the year she made our Halloween costumes. I remember every rage infused stitch. Ah, homemaking.

But, let's get to the list, shall we?

Okay, so first things first. Friend, mugging, South America. Well, my friend is okay. She can tell you all about her adventures here. She's alright. She's better than alright. She's cruising around on a motorcycle with her male traveling companion behind her. In a Latin American country. Gutsy, I tell ya.

I only bring this up because this was a huge reality check for me. See, lately I've been thinking i want to live someplace sunny and tropical. And that place, in my dreams, is somewhere around the vicinity of Panama. I know, I know. What's with Panama? I don't know, to be quite honest. You know how you things come to you in multiples? Like when you can't explain why you're thinking about oranges all day long and then you see a sign on the way home from work that involves the word orange and then your friend calls when you and tells you he's just invested in the orange markets and then you find the next morning you've unconsciously chosen your orange shirt to wear? Yeah, well, Panama is like that for me. People were talking about it. And seriously, too. Moving to another country is no small thing. So, for lots of different people to be saying all the same thing at the same time... well, don't think I didn't sit up and listen. CLH and I just bought our tickets to go visit in December.

In my mind, the whole visit thing goes down smoothly. We arrive, we kick off our shoes, and we don't put them on again for a whole month because all we do is lay on the beach and read 56 novels each and occasionally we get up for food. Maybe we venture out into the hinterlands and we take some pictures and we find a cave or a pile of rocks and we feel like we've explored. We ask around about where 2 ex-pats can live and we get used to wearing white linen. Here's what's missing from this la-la land adventure: other people. There isn't anyone standing in the way of our being completely and totally lazy. There certainly aren't any criminals. So, when my friend wrote that she'd been mugged, I finally came back to earth. Right. There will be other things to navigate besides palm trees and pina coladas, dummy. Get this: people may not want us there. And even if most of them are cool with us, there are still the rogue few who can see only our wristwatches and passports.

On a totally separate note, the garden is coming along nicely. All the angst I felt about how big a job it was going to be is melting away. We've cleared out three beds and put our seeds in. Here's what we're growing this year: beans, peas, tomatoes (at least six different kinds), turnips, beets, radishes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and zucchini. I've also got parsley, thyme, basil, marjoram, chives, mint, and cilantro starting in the greenhouse (which has finally mostly been rid of its former occupants, the rats). Alongside the herbs in the greenhouse are rows and rows of pots with zinnia and sunflower seeds in them. This is the first year I have ever really grown flowers from seeds and I'm pretty excited to see how they turn out. The apple trees and the rest of the fruit trees are flowering. I hope the bees come back this year. The raspberries are finally breathing now that we've got some of the grass cleared out from around their bases, and the strawberries are being weeded one plant at a time. The rhubarb is also exploding like something from another planet. There's so much stinkin' fruit on this property, it's almost too much to manage. It's been amazing to watch everything return to green. Summer's gonna rock.

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Has It Really Been That Long?

I suppose it has. But, listen. I have been so busy lately. There's so much to tell! Hell, I went to New Orleans and was an insomniac and got caught in two torrential downpours and drank and ate so much I nearly needed my stomach pumped every night and danced till 4 am and spent a day's worth of wages on cab fare. And that was just in four days!

There's so much else, too. So, I have to list it all here, Internet, because my feeble brain just can't keep up. I'm going to tell you all the things I am eventually going to give you the whole story one... one day. And, hey, this isn't just a teaser. This is to remind ME that I have stories to tell you. I just don't have enough moments in the day to tell you all of them RIGHT NOW.

To start with, my friend was mugged in Nicaragua just 2 days ago. On the 23rd of April, I was scammed into buying a fake magazine subscription. In New Orleans, I met a world famous chef. I just finished transcribing a six page letter into my journal. I read "Eat, Pray, Love" and have found myself wondering if I need to talk to God in order to find peace. I found out my grandmother was an insomniac like me. My brother has had to wear, amongst other things, a small cutting board on a lanyard around his neck as a way to engage customers at his big box store retail job. I planted flowers in my front yard and got so sunburned my neck skin still aches and a crow we named Jerry followed me around all day. I could go on, people. There is a lot swimming around upstairs. Do you wonder why I can't sleep? While most of the world is twitching in its sleep, (or maybe that's just CLH) I am wondering about whether or not I should call the mechanic tomorrow on my way to work or in between clients, and if i should consider buying wigs for our next party from that great online site Dan told me about...

Alright, that's enough for now. I swear, I'll tell you the stories one by one. Go read someone else's blog and check back with me tomorrow. I'll have a little somethin' somethin' for ya then.

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Will Five Year Old Popcorn Still Pop In The Microwave?

You bet your sweet ass it will. And it won't even taste that bad, either. It'll taste pretty much like all microwave popcorn does: like hot asphalt and paper. It'll even leave that terrible oil slick on your tongue afterwards! Hurray for popcorn! Hurray for the poor old man who spoke three languages (Arabic, Korean and English) who sold it to me with a smile on his face! He didn't know. The expiration date was inside the folded edge of the package, inside the plastic wrap. At first I thought it was written in European time signature- you know, with the year then the day then the month... but, then i thought... that would make it even older than five years, so let's just stop trying to calculate the ways this could still be edible and pop it in the ol' microwave.

Speaking of smells that stick to you:
I smell like burnt coffee because i've been sitting next to a roaster for the past 5 hours. In case you've never had the pleasure of sitting next to a machine the size of a small car that chars green coffee beans at a rate of thousands an hour, let me tell you about it: it's not pleasant.. Deafening, smelly, smoky. That pretty much sums it up.

I'm going to New Orleans in a week. There are no words to describe how badly i want to leave RIGHT NOW.

My sister is coming to visit in June. I'm excited. So excited, in fact, that i'm moved to ask her to join me in an interpretive dance in roller skates in front of hundreds on her birthday just to show her how excited i am. I hope she says yes.

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