Sunday, October 26, 2014

Four things I think would make elections less horrible to endure

We've got local elections going on right now, and whenever we watch network television, we're just buried in conflicting messages and meanness, and I'm about done with it. The fact that it'll start up sometime next year, bigger, for the presidentals the year after sort of makes me want to throw my TV out the window (except that I love TV, so I won't).

But I've suffered through piles of these stupid things, and, even if it's naive, even if it wouldn't ever work in the Real World*, I've come up with a few ideas that I think would make the whole thing less horrible.

1. Outlaw spindoctors, personal attacks, and misleading use of stats in ads
Any of the devices people use to make the other person look like a devil and themselves look like a saint, outlaw them. Because if A says B is too extreme while also saying in another ad that B is lax, that makes no sense and doesn't actually say anything. If B then says that what A said is actually nothing compared to what A did, how is anyone supposed to know what's actually going on?

They aren't, and that's the point right  now, and that's also the problem. Neither side wants you knowing what's going on, because they want you to believe whatever they tell you, and that's stupid.

And make a third-party, impartial fact-checker with money equal to the money paid by the parties, that exists to verify the claims in the ads. If any of them bend the truth or slander or otherwise get nasty in their ads, the third-party that has no horse in the race, as it were, puts out an ad of their own publicly shaming the bad guys right in the middle of the target market timeframes, and correcting, in clear, concise, and verifiable language, whatever the lie was.

2. Whoever comes in second is your Vice-whatever
It'll force the parties to not alienate each other, because if they do, they'll be stuck working with each other and they won't get their own stuff done any more than the other guy does. It'll make them elect people who are less polar opposite for the role to begin with, and, I think, it'll make them stop attacking each other to make themselves look good--because that person is going to be your right hand if you win, and you're going to be theirs if you don't.

I heard somewhere that they did this with the first few elections, and whether that's true or not, it's a fantastic idea.

3. Ban extremism
All extremism. Religious extremism is the one you hear about all the time--and the crazy people who are starting to say the Tea Party is too weak and basically implying that women shouldn't even count as people are religious extremists.

But there's also political extremism, and financial extremism, and personal extremism, and social extremism. All those government people who do everything in their power to tax more people so they can have more bonus? Financial and personal extremism, and there's no place for it in a fair government. People who want to tear down everything so they, personally, won't have to think about anyone's wellbeing but their own? Personal extremists.

Anyone who things all of any group not like themselves needs to do anything that hurts those people but helps themselves should have to check their sources and their reasoning, and do some major soulsearching. Outside of politics. Way outside. People who are that black-and-white in their thinking, who are so resolutely us-or-them-or-nothing, have no business ruling anyone. That's not strength, that's blindness.

4. Educate everyone
Put government and economics classes back in schools, but start them earlier so people grow up knowing what it all means and are less liable to be gullible when elections come around. But also educate the people who are out of school, and have been for ages--get shows that explain this stuff up on the TV, paid for my impartial third parties to minimize slant. Get newspapers and magazines that make this stuff accessible out to the people. Make it interesting--hell, find a way to make it a reality show, people love those.

Make sure everyone understands how it works and how it plays out, and can call the idiots out who use their power to block, warp or stall the proceedings. Back when we were a new baby country, everyone knew what it all meant; now, no one does, and it means there's no way for people to know whether politicians are flat out lying or not, and that means really inappropriate people get voted in just because they hit the right buttons, regardless of what they actually do.

I hate politics. It turns rational people into frothing assholes, and I'm done with talking and thinking and hearing about it. So I'm putting this out there, and that's all I'm saying on the matter.

*Not the reality-TV series, because that was even less actually real than campaign promises. Which is to say, not at all. Also, who cares about How We've Always Done It? That's an excuse for BS people to keep their BS.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Some things...

I've been spending a lot of time--like the better part of over two years since I moved up here--trying to clarify what I want out of life, and this blog has been sort of a record of my mindset and my opinions and my goals. Which is as it should be, really. But since I want this blog to be a specific thing, and because it reflects my life, it gives me a lens through which to help define what sort of life I want. What sort of life I'm aiming for and working toward.

Here's what I have right now--and I'll probably redo this list periodically so that I can see how far I've come and where I'm still needing work:
  • I want beauty -- Because of spending most of my life sharing houses, I don't have a lot of actual furniture, and because of general poorness and not staying anywhere very long, I have a lot of disposable stuff; I want to replace them with higher-quality things, with things that are pretty and useful at the same time, with things I make myself. I also want to collect and create more art, to grow a beautiful garden that allows me to make beautiful meals AND to fill vases with flowers. I want better clothes to replace the ones I wear out, and to get back to wearing actual outfits, not just whatever-is-basically-clean-enough-because-who-cares.
  • I want variety -- I grew up traveling, and I can't afford much of that now. It rankles and wears on me like you wouldn't believe, and to ease some of that until I CAN afford to get back to traveling, I want to go to more events, see more shows, get involved in more groups. This last one is slow, because I'm shy and poor and without reliable transportation, but I've been reaching out, and I hope some of that reaching connects with people who could be friends--and who could show me and teach me and let me discover things I wouldn't have ever experienced on my own. I also want variety in a practical way. I want to have a choice of which beautiful cup or place I use, which country I source my recipes from, which books I read; I want to trade out my bedding and pillows and curtains to suit the season, not just for the holidays at the end of the year.
  • I want to learn new things -- I don't do well without school, but my school loan debt is pretty high by this point, so going back isn't an option right now. Which means I need to learn stuff out of school. I want to learn more crochet stitches, I want to actually finish a quilt in an actual pattern, I want to learn new things to do with yarn and beads and thread and cloth and paper. I want to learn to blend my own perfume and tea, to speak other languages, to write things I haven't written before.
  • I want health -- For me, for my lifestyle, for any creatures that depend on me, be they cats or plants or kids-I-watch or kids-I-have-at-some-point-in-the-future. I'm leaning toward the idea that I need more healthy fat and less fat-free stuff, more good protein, more whole and natural food, more vegetables. I think Paleo is too strict and weird, but that it has some very good ideas about what food should be. And I'm getting control of all the weird body issues caused by living crappily for years, and learning not to fall back into them.
  • I want to make a living creatively -- I can't sustain a life based around retail. I've tried, repeatedly, and I just can't. I can do it for a while, but the only way I can keep it going is if I'm the one making the stuff I'm sitting in a store all day selling, and that hasn't been a thing I could do yet. So I need to make to keep myself sane, and that's what I'm doing now--I make stuff, I make nail polish, I make books, I make connections between things and other things and share those with the world. Sooner or later, I'll get to make a living off it; I just have to stay the course.
  • I do, eventually, want to find love and have (or get) kids -- I don't know how or where, and I'm uncomfortable with the feeling of desperation that comes with actively seeking because I think it conflicts with my fundamental idea that love should be natural, automatic, and simple, because life is too much of the opposite of that. But one day I want to get married and have kids and add them to this record. And I want to make a life that can thrive with those things, a me that can flow into it healthily and with knowledge, and a situation that won't fall apart the second I find out I'm pregnant or something.
And, if we look at things from a taking-pictures-of-it point of view, I want:
  • Good vacations
  • Good food
  • Good company
  • Wine always around, and tasty
  • Cool clothes and accessories
  • A house that is all mine, filled with things I love
  • Light that isn't blinding or baking
  • Lots and lots of lush plantlife
  • A life that looks good from every angle, instead of one that only looks good from one angle, where I crop out or don't mention those parts that don't
So this is what I'm aiming for.

What're you aiming for?

Linky list

I'm a curator. Like, I naturally collect things up into lists, piles, displays, shrines, shelves. I can't help it. It makes my life make sense to take things I find from all over the place and line them up next to other things that matter.

So here's some stuff that I think matters:

Making parks "just green enough tries to balance sustainability and equity"
"Broadly speaking, low-income and minority populations tend to have worse access to city parks than wealthy whites do. But if efforts to address that eco-disparity always lead to displacement, then park-deprived residents will find themselves in an endless pursuit of urban green space. They might also face what Wolch calls a "perverse situation" of rejecting sustainable projects for fear that gentrification will follow."
"Instead of a grand waterfront plaza dotted with high-end boutiques and LEED-certified towers, a "just green enough" strategy might emphasize small-scale community gardens or basic environmental cleanup. If a bigger project does make sense, it should at least incorporate local input and protect local culture."
A neat infographic to see where the best fall foliage colors are! (right now? not here.)

I really really want to make my own DIY Block Printed Pillows now. Like, for #DIY4Lyfe reasons, but also because look how cool they are!

This list of children's books that adults would like to read, too, makes me wish I had a non-destructive kid in my life. Because they're gorgeous, and these Monkey Monsters would shred them, and that would ruin the whole thing. Also? That shop sounds amazing and brings on the itch to create an awesome shop that I developed when I worked at one way back in St Aug.

I love all the stuff Target has by Oh, Joy! and this behind the scenes post makes me want them even more. They're just so cheerful and colorful, and we're at Target, like, literally almost every day. It's only a matter of time. And if you're into designing for retail, there's a great breakdown of all the steps it takes (which is actually the point of the article, but I get so distracted by pretty cups, always).

I love this idea for an articles club--like a book club, but you read and discuss a few articles instead. It'd be like posts like this, in person, with face-to-face discussion!

Those Aren't Fightin' Words, Dear
You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.
 This man was hurting, yet his problem wasn’t mine to solve. In fact, I needed to get out of his way so he could solve it.
  The truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can be lethal.

This article is about how to not crash and burn in a relationship, but the argument comes down to Kindness, and it has a lot to say about having a habit of kindness and how to be kind--which I think applies to everyone, whether they're in a relationship or not.

This article about How To Be Polite is so good, and I think something that the world, at least here in this country where it seems like everyone is getting mean and pushy, needs:
But no matter. What I found most appealing was the way that the practice of etiquette let you draw a protective circle around yourself and your emotions. By following the strictures in the book, you could drag yourself through a terrible situation and when it was all over, you could throw your white gloves in the dirty laundry hamper and move on with your life. I figured there was a big world out there and etiquette was going to come in handy along the way.
 People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment. I know that doesn’t sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life’s riches.

I am a huge fan of eating and drinking flowers. I was either a caterpillar in a previous life, or it goes back to sitting in hidden wild-ified gardens, surrounded by daffodylls, reading those Fairy Books when I was about eight and, apparently, really impressionable. This recipe for a Morroccan rose-based chicken bake is right up my alley.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Slivered beef stew

It's been rainy for days, and when that happens, I always crave stew. It was my turn to cook today, so I picked this.

Slivered Beef Stew is one of the super-random collection of recipes that wound up being comfort food as we moved all over the world, falling somewhere between Stroganoff and Hungarian Goulash, which we also made pretty frequently. Especially when we lived in Scotland and it was always cold and rainy.

Since this is a pretty basic recipe, I'll tell you how it goes, and then list variations. Like I do.

1. Slice up your beef - It's called slivered beef stew, so generally in long thin slices, but I've also made it with chunked stew meat and it works fine. Use whatever beef you can afford.

2. Chop up one big onion - usually we use yellow onions, but this time we used a white one because the yellow ones looked gross.

3. Use a little oil, and brown up the meat and the onions - let it release yummy juices and render healthy fat. If it caramelizes some, that's great, but if not, it's still good.

4. Add carrots - we usually use a whole small or medium bag of baby carrots, but four or so big carrots, chopped, is how we did it when I was a kid.

4. Add potatoes - this time, we used four medium sized red potatoes, and I wished we'd used more, but we're supposed to be cutting carbs since dad came up diabetic. You can use any potato, really; back in the day, we used baking potatoes. Don't bother peeling them--that's where the nutrients are!

5. Water - Enough to just cover the veggies and meat. They'll add their own juices as they cook, so don't overwater it. You could also add broth or stock, but with the onion, it's not really necessary.

6. Season - this is so easy. Salt, pepper, bay leaves, paprika. That's it. The meat and veg do the rest.

7. Cook it for a while, until everything is soft. Add more water if it cooks down too much.

8. Mushrooms - mom likes mushrooms, so we add a pack of them, sliced, here after the potatoes and carrots are mostly soft. You can add them earlier if you don't mind them getting soft, and they add depth to the broth.

9. Thickening - traditionally, you add a few tablespoons of flour, but since I'm wheat free now, we thicken with cornstarch. No difference in flavor. You want it to be just a loose sort of thick--not a suace like canned soup, just thicker than broth.

10. Sour cream - add one cup of sour cream and stir it in really well. Heat back up. Taste and adjust seasoning--I like it sort of salty and peppery, with the paprika enough to make it just a little pink over the yummy creamy brownness; you do it how you do. 

11. Eat!

That's how it's always been made. My whole childhood. Cheap, warming, nutritious, feeds a lot, keeps well in the fridge, freezes just fine.


But it's also really simple, so here's some variations:

- Use chicken! It's lighter, but just as tasty with chicken.

- You could probably also use pork; I bet bacon, too, would be amazing.

- You could probably also use fish, you just might have to add it later, since it's more delicate.

- I want to try it with various sausages, since there are so many varieties out there these days; I think the sweet Italian, or one of the ones with apple, or a good sagey one would all do well in this recipe.

- Really, if you had some really tasty beans, you could make it meat free.

- if you want to go grain free, I bet you could purée the mushrooms and use that to thicken it. 

- I'm not that much of a fan of button mushrooms, which is what mom uses; I want to try this with fancy forest mushrooms. I like the texture better, there's more flavor, and if I use the dried ones, that juice is more flavor for the pot!

- Sometimes we add baby corn! 

- Since this is a fall recipe, I think we could trade out almost anything--leeks or shallots instead of onions; sweet potato or pumpkin instead of carrots; golden or purple potatoes, or some other root instead of potatoes.

- Traditionally, there's not garlic or heat in this recipe, but as I developed my own ways of cooking, I add garlic to almost everything, so when I make this I'll usually throw a few cloves in, mashed. Dad adds hot sauce or cayenne.

- I've made this with other herbs. Thyme is good. Herbes de Provence does well with the chicken variation. You could add rosemary and a little sage to the beef.

- You could add a lot more paprika and make it closer to a goulash, and it would be lovely, or leave that out entirely and add a little mustard powder and make it closer to a stroganoff. Also, this is particularly good with chunky fresh-cracked pepper instead of ground.

How would you do it?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Five things I don't need but totally want

- A portable, working record player so I can buy and play records

- Super sparkly glittered high heels

- A glass case like a Victorian curiosity cabinet

- A coat rack for my growing collection of vintage coats

- A green bowler

Here's everything I know about depression and living with it

Depression is stupid. It's not stupid that you (or I) have it, that wasn't anything in you (or my) control-- it's brain chemistry, upbringing environment, current situation, all things that have nothing to do with us and our choice. But it's stupid that it's a thing, that it's so easy to fall into, that it sneaks up on you. It's senseless. 

But it's not the be-all or end-all, and it doesn't have to be fatal. It doesn't even have to stop us or slow us down. It just makes everything harder.

Here's the thing: brain chemistry is finicky, but it's a hell of a lot more understood than it was when I was eleven and so depressed I would just lay in bed and cry. And it's not required that you just have weird brain chemistry. I'm not a doctor, and you should talk to one before you start messing with severe issues, but this is what has worked for me with a whole lot of research and trial and error.

- If you're severely depressed, if you're suicidal, if you're depressed in conjunction with some other brain-chemistry issue, there are drugs you can get put on. Go to your doctor, or go to urgent care and ask for the local government's mental health facilities. 

- Call one of the dozens of hotlines--google it, they'll all come up. 

- Sign up for an online support group or a positive-leaning forum with an emphasis on coping and healing--watch out for the ones that are just there for wallowing. That doesn't help anyone and can make things worse.

- Google any of the millions of articles and websites talking about how to cope with depression yourself. Make a commitment, find a mantra for te bad times, and accept, up front, that there is no instant fix and it will take time and it will involve bad days and setbacks. Write it on the wall where you can see it: setbacks do you mean you failed; giving up does.

- If you're in control of your own income and your own buying, try herbs. They're slower and not as strong, but they're also natural, and you can often grow them yourself so you know they're clean. St Johns Wort works for me; see what works for you. Google is your friend again. But read at least five articles before starting something--look for conflicts with medications you're on, look for side effects, look for the combinations of herbs and minerals and such that support things the best. Be gentle. 

- Look for triggers and eliminate the ones you can--for me, too much white starch leads to anxiety and general ickiness, and cutting them down did wonders for my mood. Artificial sweeteners in too big a dose or too often cause panic attacks for me, and getting rid of that made it much easier to avoid the fear-and-shame spirals that make the basic levels of general funk worse.

- Learn to be kind to yourself. Depression will tell you that you're worthless and weak, but depression (and panic attacks) lie. Pay attention to when you're listening to those lies and remind yourself that they aren't true. Also, allow yourself alone time if you need it, and social time of you need it, and don't beat yourself up for needing them. Also also, focus on doing your best--and know that "best" is a moving target; it'll be different every day.

- If there are things that put you down or make you feel put down, work on getting them out and replacing them. Google "ways to handle stress naturally" and see what works for you; yoga and meditation and journaling and art work for me. Maybe biking or picking kittens or gardening works for you. 

If it's a person making you feel bad, either talk to them, ditch them, get them help--because putting other people down is a sign of their own problems, not yours--or keep your head down and work on getting out. A friend that doesn't actually like you isn't a friend. A family that is abuseive isn't familial. In cases of actual abuse, find out where the shelters and help groups and hotlines are. It's going to be the hardest thing you do, but it's better than dying.

- Struggle. If you're struggling, you're trying to make it better. When you give in, no one can help you until you start struggling again.

- Learn when to tell when you're being irrational--and depression and panic is irrational--and start teaching yourself how to step back, to start forcing your brain into better thoughts.

- Depression is sticky. It wants to hold onto all the bad thoughts and bad feelings and pile them up on you until you can't see the good things. Work on releasing them. That's why meditation is good--it's all about releasing. Work on pointedly doing things you know you love --because you do still love them, you just can't see it. Remind yourself why you loved those things. Especially focus on things for you, putting your focus outside yourself leaves you without a focus when things go pears shaped again. You need your center to be inside yourself--that's where your strength comes from.

- Look for physical indications of stress and depression. Just like that one commercial says, depression hurts. I get aches in specific places, and when I find myself rubbing them, I know I need to eat better, sleep better, take my supplements (calcium and magnesium and omega-3 help brains and hormones function right)--and always realize I've unwittingly neglected one of these. 

- Make something. Art, craft, dinner, a new piece of a garden--creation is inherently positive. Don't be negative when you can help it. Negativity breeds itself--but positivity does, too. 

And remember:
- Get up
- Always get up
- You'll fall down, that's life, but Get Up.

Do you have depression? How do you deal with it?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Monthly Me - October 2014

I'm done being mad. I feel like I've spent a large part of the summer being angry--at how shitty my life has gotten, at how poor we are, at how stupid people are being about EVERYTHING out in the world. But I can't support anger like that. It steals my sleep and knots up my stomach and puts me back in the dark place where my mind is making my body sick, and I've spent too much time for that.

So the world can just go and be as stupid as it wants to be. I'm just going to be over here doing what I CAN do--growing food, writing, trying to get published, blogging about what matters to me, reading, drinking tea. When I find something I can do, I'll do it, and the rest of the time, the world can go jump up its own ass as much as it wants to, because I'm done carrying its sins around like they're my own.

In other news:
- It doesn't feel like it today, but it's officially been fall for a while now, and all the leaves are turning. I love it.
- my weight is down even though I has in and had a regular sandwich with delicious delicious gluten for dinner last night.
- Ninja is way healthier since we switched her to wet food to help with her horrible dry skin. She's thinner, her fur is super plush and soft, and she's running around and playing again! It's amazing.
- My tomato plants are still making tomatoes.
- Just off to the side of that picture is my bow, which sits in my umbrella stand with my sword and my umbrellas. It was actually visible in some of the millions of selfies I took to get this one (moderately) good one.

And now I'm going to have some tea and an apple with crunchy chocolate-hazelnut spread. Kroger totally has a crunchy kind! It's a half the cost of Nutella and the closest knockoff I've found yet, taste and texture-wise, and that's a very good thing.

We'll be moving soon; next month's Monthly Me might be in a different house.

Photo taken with the timer in Afterlight, edited in Afterlight, and labeled in Over.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The baby doesn't want to be the baby anymore

The day this pic was taken, as we waited for his brother at the bus stop, he was crushing acorns with his shoes. He said they were babies and he wanted to see their bones.

The day before, he was playing with his action figures under the table while I was writing, and he had Loki having to prove to Thor and the other Avengers that he wasn't a baby and he could fight, too.

He's breaking my heart.

He tells me he can't do things because he's a little kid, but he's not a tiny baby. But he can do other things because he's a big boy. I tell him he can't always do what his big brother does, but he wants to so badly that he gets upset when he can't draw as well or climb as well or say words as clearly. He's almost four and he wants to be seven.

I barely remember being four. And even when I was, I was the oldest; I didn't have anyone bigger that I wanted so desperately to be like. When the big kids exclude him--which is a lot, since he's so much smaller than them--I tell him to talk to his mom about being the littlest; she was the littlest, too, when we were kids.

I want him to stay little. Who knows when I'll get to have a baby of my own, and even if I had one tomorrow, they'd be a different kid in a different situation, not him. And he's such a cute, sweet, funny kid with a weird streak that I adore, and a good temper for being the baby. He gives in to his brother too much, but he does it because he loves him so much he doesn't want him upset. He's a natural peace-maker, and he's imaginative and he's naturally kinder than the other two. Less competitive. 

I don't want him to think being bigger means being mean or rude.

I don't know how to keep him sweet.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pumpkin soup!

It's officially fall! So I wanted pumpkin soup. I used to make this all winter long with whatever winter squash I had when I was eating strictly seasonal, and I've missed it. So when it was my turn to cook dinner, I knew I wanted this and only this. 

Here's how I made it:

1. Mince up and sautée one onion until as soft as it'll go. Caramelizarion is good.

2. Mince and add some cloves of garlic.

3. Peel, mince and add one carrot and one sweet potato. It might've gone faster if I'd nuked the sweet potato first; those suckers take forever to boil soft!

4. Sautée all of that. Caramelize it some.

5. Seed, peel, and chop up a pumpkin. This one was a wee tiny pie pumpkin, about the size of my face. Only a few ponds. Throw those chunks in the sautée.

6. Add broth. I had a can of chicken and some dried broth base, so I used both; you could easily make it vegetarian by using veggie broth here. 

7. Season! I used salt, pepper, two shakes of cinnamon, sesame seeds, and bay leaves. Pumpkin goes good with savory and sweet spices, and cinnamon goes great with garlic and onions--it makes sort of a really simple curry-type seasonal flavor.

8. Boil the crap out of it! The pumpkin will break down first, and will be almost natural purée by the time the sweet potatoes are mushy-soft. 

9. Smooth out the purée. If you have an immersion blender, this is a great time for that. I don't have one (I want one so bad!), so I mushed it through a sieve until I got it about 75% smooth.

10. Finish with milk and butter until it's smooth! Eat warm and delicious! Use butter and unflavored nutmilk if doing veggie. I bet this would be delicious with almond milk.

I topped it with the pepitas, made so:

1. Remove all the pulp from the seeds. You can throw that into the soup, too, but it's stringy; you'll have to cook it longer and blend it better.

2. Rinse them real well.

3. Put them on a cookie sheet with a little oil of choice and salt. You can do seasonings, too, but I like the pure pumpkin seed flavor, and salt doesn't burn like seasonings can.

4. Cook at 400, stirring it every now and again, until they're toasty and crispy when you bite into them. 

Go forth and make Fall!

I've got the garden bug BAD.

Today, I set up all these seeds from grocery-store fruit, farmer's-market fruit, and wild-outside fruit (a variety of acorns, since that's what we have here*) for stratification! I've never stratified anything before--which is probably why none of my big seeds I gathered in the past ever grew.

It feels like progress.

I decided sometime over the last month that I'm tired of waiting for a real garden and I'm tired of the ridiculous cost of healthy foods. I'm also tired of the cost of exotic food, and even more tired of how far those things have to travel to get to me, and how a lot of exotic imports don't treat the people that grow them that well. All of that came to a point and I decided that 
- I'm going to expand my garden next spring.
- I'm going to spend the winter getting ready for spring better than I did last year.
- I'm going to work on growing whatever seeds I can inside through the cold months so they'll be ready for spring.
- And I'm going to at least cut my food bill. 

I want all our most frequent veggies to be grown at home so we don't have to buy them. I want all the fun exotics to be grown at home so they're local and have little to no greenhouse cost. While I'm here in apartments, I'm going to perfect my growing skills in NC** and grow as much as the complex will overlook, and save all te seeds I can to grow more and to trade for even more variety later.

I've found a few nice ladies online who share seeds without needing me to trade anything back; next year, when I have my own harvest, I'll pay it forward for someone else. I'm collecting seeds from the fruits and veggies we buy, like I used to back when I lived on the ad hoc hippie commune we made out of our dorms. 

And I'm currently obsessed with finding sources for good, open pollinated, heirloom seeds. My seed stash is all (but for six packs) at least ten years old and has been in and out of storage, a house with no heating or cooling, and really damp conditions; they're all shot. Nothing has grown from my stash in years. So today, I inventoried the remains, so I can replace them, and in spring I'm just going to grow all of them and see what happens. If only one plant from each pack grows, I'll be able to replace the seeds for free. If nothing grows, I at least have the list to start rebuilding.

Now I just need to get my hands on seeds for all those expensive trendy foods I've gotten hooked on, like chia and quinoa...

* I find myself missing the ubiquitous oranges, limes, loquats, and kumquats of St Augustine, and the dates and jelly palms all over Jacksonville.
** I used to have an intinctive know she of gardening, but that was apparently a Floridian instinct; NC is a few growing zones up, and things work differently.


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