Archives for category: poor decisions

I caught myself planning for the 2013 season today.

It was a total accident, I swear. I was looking for something to read while I ate my lunch and the Fedco catalog was sitting right there. I remembered that I’d wanted to look at possible shrubs plantings and next thing I knew, I was waving Michael over and saying, “Hey, come look at this great list of companion plants for the apple trees.” Then I began pondering whether it made sense to sketch out a plan of our property to best lay out our goal plantings for the next year.

I know, this all sounds like a very responsible, logical way to garden.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t successfully finish this year.

We started out strong. We set up the little greenhouse that had been in our basement for five years, we started tomato seedlings on time, we built two new beds. We planted, fertilized, watered, and then, inexplicably, gave up.

We let the white flies take over the pumpkins. We didn’t transplant our tomatoes on time and then, once we did, we let them turn into a useless tomato jungle. We let the chickens get to the carrots. We let the spinach bolt, the beets pop out of the ground, and the beans get bean-y. The half-hearted trellising system we concocted for the snap peas dumped most of them in the dirt. We planted some bonus pepper seedlings handed off by a friend too close together. Deer ate the new raspberry bushes and apple trees. We don’t actually know what we did to the potatoes. We just know they didn’t like us very much.

Crop yield?

A few heads of emaciated garlic, enough paste tomatoes for one dinner’s worth of sauce, some grungy snap peas, a few side dishes of green beans, and one-and-a-half pumpkins. (A deer took a few bites out of one of the pumpkins and half of it went moldy before we discovered it.)

I think we were given more produce than we grew. All that time, dirt, and money: wasted.

I guess you could call 2012 a learning experience, but I’m not sure we learned much. Well, we learned that if you give up on the garden, it will give up on you. Which is a predictable yet still sobering outcome, I must say.

Given all this, it is patently absurd that I am spending this much time thinking about 2013, a scant four weeks or so after finally digging up the sad, skeletal remains of 2012. Had I bothered to spend this time a few months ago, things might have turned out very differently.

But then, we are the family who spends quality time talking about the addition we are planning for the back, despite still having plywood countertops and exposed insulation in the kitchen that we use every single day.

Some may call us dreamers, but I prefer to think that we are just really, really dumb.

So…what do you think about an elderberry hedge? And is yarrow or comfrey better for underneath?

I can’t decide either.

Good thing I’ve got some time.


This past weekend Michael and I hit a crisis point in our nearly [counts quickly in head] nine-year marriage. In fact, I can’t remember when we’ve had a disagreement of this magnitude.

That’s completely a lie, by the way. I absolutely remember the last disagreement of this type. It happened when I learned that Michael sings the ABC song incorrectly.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned at least seven times, I grew up in Maine and Michael grew up in South Florida.  There are lots of cultural differences that stem from that fact, not least of which is his desire to drink only Dr. Pepper and my desire to drink only black coffee. And water. You know, Puritan-approved drinks. But these little challenges were but blips on the radar screen of happiness. The ABC song was the first sign that something was truly amiss.

Everyone knows how the ABC song goes, right? It goes:

W X Y and Z
Now I know my ABCs
Next time won’t you sing with me.

Right? Of course that’s right. Unless you are from South Florida. If you are from South Florida, you sing it this weird way:

W X Y and Z
Now I’ve said my ABCs
Won’t you sing along with me.

That doesn’t even make sense, right? You didn’t “say” them, you “sang” them. And why do you want the other person to sing along? You just finished the song. It’s done. You need to invite them along on the next round, which you haven’t even started yet.

Bizarre. What’s even more bizarre is that when I asked Michael to remind me of how he sings it, he tried to sing it my way and insist that that’s how he’s always sung it. Dude, no. Don’t even try that. I know what I know.

Anyway, I thought that the ABC thing was an isolated incident…well, there’s the pattycake disagreement, too, but I’ve probably pushed your good graces too far already so I’ll get to the point. The point is this:

We were trying to decide on something minor and I launched into Eenie Meenie Miney Mo. You know, the classic argument-ender of schoolyards countrywide? I’ve been using it a lot settle disputes between the kids [parenting tip: it works! You should try it!] and so it was on the top of my head.  Michael immediately insisted that I was doing it all wrong. The Dr. Pepper-drinker actually dared insinuate that I do not know how Eenie Meenie Miney Mo works and that his South Floridian version was superior. And then–AND THEN–I noticed that when Annabel did Eenie Meenie Miney Mo she was employing yet another version that I can only assume she picked up at her preschool.

I don’t think you can maintain household harmony with three different versions of Eenie Meenie Miney Mo. We were going to have to settle on one.

I’m pretty sure this is the type of thing that the internet was invented for.

To  make it vaguely fair, I am not going to tell you whose version is whose. Though of course you will be able to tell which one is mine, because it will be the right one. But go ahead, read through them and choose:

Version A

Eenie meenie miney mo
Catch a tiger by his toe
If he hollers let him go
My mother said to pick the very best one
And you are not it.

Version B

Eenie meenie miney mo
Catch a tiger by his toe
If he hollers let him go
Momma said pick the best one

Version C

Eenie meenie miney mo
Catch a tiger by his toe
If he hollers let him go
Eenie meenie miney mo

Go internet. You know what to do.

Over the last four months, in no particular order, I have been:

Planting two apple trees, one cherry tree, and ten raspberry bushes.

Swearing prolifically at the deer that ate the top off the more successful apple tree.

Going through my busy season at work.

Driving all over the blessed state of Maine and remembering that this is a really big danged state. Also: pretty.

Going to the dentist for the first time in four years.

Spending hundreds of dollars fixing a tooth, doing the math, and realizing that I still kind of came out ahead on the deal regardless.

Making a note to schedule another visit to the dentist in four more years.

Planning a garden.

Forgetting to buy seeds.

Buying seeds.

Forgetting to plant seeds.

Planting seeds.

Forgetting to water/transplant/otherwise care for seeds in anyway.

Flinging everything that survived into vicinity of the garden, walking away, and calling it a relaxed “test year” for the garden.

Wondering why the garden isn’t doing better.

Going to Vermont for our annual Memorial Day visit to my sister and nieces.

Remembering that Vermont is really far away, closeness on map notwithstanding.

Watching Annabel run her first race, which resulted in a solid athletic performance (her father’s genes) and one skinned knee (my genes).

Taking a 10-day vacation in western Colorado for my grandmother’s 100th birthday.

Taking hikes in the desert and pondering the people who choose to build their homes on what are, essentially, big piles of dirt with views of, essentially, more piles of dirt.

Accepting that I don’t really get the desert.

Seeing views like this and thinking, well, okay, fine, parts of the desert are okay by me.


Realizing that this vacation was about 75% enjoyable, which means we’ve turned some kind of a corner on the traveling-with-kids thing. (Uh, 75% is good. Previous trips have hovered at between 30-50%.)

Coming home and weeping at the credit card bill.

Going to the beach six times (so far). The beach is free.

Enjoying a visit from Bubba and his accompanying wife, daughter, and two grandsons.

Enjoying a work-related overnight in the Portland area ALL BY MYSELF WITH NO CHILDREN HAHAHAHA. Ahem.

Hiking! I went hiking! Multiple times. Because I ditched my family and set up a regular Sunday morning hiking date with a friend, that’s how. Those kids of mine will just have to learn to enjoy nature on their own time.

Doing about 54 loads of laundry, based on an average of 4.3 loads per week multiplied by 13 weeks, which is how long it’s been since I wrote on the blog..

Thinking while doing all that laundry: wow. I should really write on the blog.

Writing on the blog.

It’s another major holiday, so that means it’s time for me to pay another visit to the Craft Failure department.

I don’t know why I try. I don’t. I think it’s because I am surrounded by some truly, amazingly, unbelievably-talented crafty people and I believe this will somehow rub off on me. More likely, it’s because on holidays like Easter the traditionalist in me is disturbed by how few traditions we seem to have.  I do believe in the importance of cultural and family touchstones. I do want my children to be able to anticipate what’s to come each year based on the year before. I do want them to have fond memories of their childhood focused around things we do together.

However, I’m beginning to fear I’m going to have to hire those things out to someone more competent.

I wanted to dye Easter eggs.

Is that really too much to ask?

It probably was, considering that in the deepest, most in-denial part of my imagination, the finished eggs looked something like this:

Photo borrowed from the clearly infinitely more talented Avelino Maestas on Flickr.

Spoiler alert: our eggs didn’t look like that.

Let’s go through some reasons why:

  1. I couldn’t be bothered to purchase actual egg dye, or go through the effort of making homemade natural dyes, and opted instead to use the food coloring that had been in the cupboard for, oh, three years.  Food coloring can be used to dye eggs but, as I discovered and you will, too, shortly, it’s not all the subtle. Or pretty. Or easy to blend.
  2. I neglected to do things like “investigate technique,” or “gather supplies,” or “dig any deeper in the junk drawer once I found a single rubber band to use for a stripe.”
  3. I was working with eggs from our chickens, which are not pure white.  Or perfectly smooth. Some of them were actually blue.
  4. I thought that it would be fun to simply paint glitter onto the blue ones. Okay, glitter glue. Okay, glue with big sparkly chunks in it.
  5. The purple didn’t come out purple. The purple came out brown. Apparently red + blue = purple is too difficult an equation for me to follow.
  6. Annabel dropped an egg.
  7. Sam tried to eat an egg.
  8. I attempted to draw a design on one, despite having the hand-eye coordination of a drunken orangutan.
  9. And, oh yes, I was working with two preschoolers.

At the end of an hour I was covered in food coloring with glitter glue in my hair, and this is what we produced.

It’s not quite what I envisioned.

Annabel came around the corner later in the afternoon and peered into the basket. “WOW!” she said. “Those are bee-YOO-ti-ful.”

For a moment I believed her.  I believed that we really had produced something homespun, yes, but essentially lovely.

Then I remembered that this was a girl who dressed herself that day in a shirt with one kind of stripe, a dress with another, a floral print skirt, and leggings with dogs all over them. This is who I’m taking my taste cues from? What does she know?

But maybe she’s onto something. Maybe that’s our Easter tradition: making really crappy crafts, getting glitter everywhere, and pretending that it’s all beautiful in the end.

Nah. She’s only four. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Happy Easter.

I’ve been convinced for the last year or so that the only thing standing between me and really incredible, Martha Stewart-level dinner parties was our lack of a dining room table.  I mean, obviously the problem couldn’t be my all-consuming exhaustion, lack of enviable cooking skills, or inability to lure friends out of their houses with anything short of a steady rainfall of chocolate and booze.  No, no, the table is clearly the problem.

It’s not that I haven’t been looking for a table. Oh, I’ve been looking. But I can’t buy a nice table because I know that Michael has a vision for making one. I’m sure that this future, handmade-with-love, one-of-a-kind piece will be beautiful, and I am eager to see it, but there are many other pressing concerns that take precedence over buying a bunch of hardwood for a table. I’ve been searching for months for a used one that will serve while I wait for the masterpiece, but so far everything I’ve found has been too small, too big, too ugly, or $1,500.

(Attention Craiglist: if I had $1,500 to spend on a dining room table, I wouldn’t be consulting you.)

Anyway, at the end of the day or at least this complaint session, we have no table that can seat more than four with any level of comfort. I bemoan this fact with regularity, usually during some kind of passing crisis over not having a social life.

So that’s the lengthy background behind my reaction on this past Saturday, which is when Michael casually mentioned that he had invited some friends over for dinner on Monday.

I should have been excited, right? People were coming to dinner! I wasn’t excited.

“We don’t have a table!” I whined. “I don’t understand where you expect me to put people. We need a dining room table!”

“Don’t worry about a thing,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”

On Sunday I saw this in my driveway:

That’s salvaged wood from old shipping crates.

He topped it with a piece of plywood that’s been propped up against the dining room wall for about a year now.

Then I threw some linens and every candle in the house on it, surrounded it with the kitchen chairs, the bench/coffee table from the living room, and Annabel’s bench seat from kitchen, and made my eyes and my brain really soft-focus.

Just like that, dinner for seven.  It worked just fine.

I’m very excited to have people over for dinner now.  But I’d better do it quickly because I’ve been informed that Michael will be needing that piece of plywood back for Memorial Day weekend, which is when it will be turned into the other  kitchen bench seat.

I suppose it’s best that we have a deadline. I’ve been sleeping on a bed made from 2x4s and plywood for about seven years now.  You know, the temporary one.


Who wants wine?

We just got back from our annual trip to Florida. I know this because I’m fielding a lot of jokey comments about my tan, or lack thereof. Just for the record, I’ll have you know that I returned after ten days in the sun a whole quarter-step closer to beige than I was when I left. So there, snide people with actual pigment in their skin. So there.

I think I’ve mentioned before that Florida and I don’t have much in common. We try to stay longer than a week when we go, mostly because I spend the first three days all tensed up and cranky because everything moves so slowly, oh my god, get it together Florida. But I’ve learned through the years to loosen up about the Sunshine State’s meandering chaos, which I now understand is a human being’s natural response to 90 degrees and 130 percent humidity. By day four I just kind of sink into a heat-induced daze and accept whatever comes my way, be that fried fish sandwiches the size of my head, eighty-year-old women in bikinis, or alligators swimming below my children.

Sure, it looks alarming but whatever, man. It’s just Florida.

Someone go get me another fried fish sandwich.

I love those things.

I have a history, you might say, with Valentine’s Day.

When I sit down to analyze it, and you know that I do, I find that there are a few different ways to be superior on Valentine’s Day:

1) Effort superiority “Oh, these? It was simple. I raised the goat from birth and then collected the cashmere this past spring.  After I combed the fleece out, I dyed it using berries I picked and crushed myself.  Then I spun it into yarn over the course of a few evenings while my husband read selections of Proust aloud.  I measured all of the children and designed custom pieces for each with consideration to minimizing body flaws as well as accommodating each individual’s resting basal temperature.  Then I just whipped them up.  And–TA-DA!–Valentine’s sweaters for each member of the class! So easy.”

2) Creative superiority “Well, I was just looking at a pile of discarded dryer lint and I thought surely there must be something to do with it. They do make darling, gossamer-like wrappers for these homemade cayenne cherry cordials, don’t they?”

3) Wholesomeness superiority “I didn’t want to give the kids sugar, obviously, so I thought a toy was the way to go. And why buy a plastic toy from China when these perfectly darling wooden cars from sustainably-harvested wood are made by the local toymaker just down the street? He donates all his profits to charity, too.”

4) Above-it-all superiority “I don’t like getting caught up in this hoopla for a made-up holiday, so I just bought some Sponge Bob Valentines from Walgreens. Who has time to worry about this stuff, right?”

I usually wrestle with one or more of these demons each year and I think I was trying to top it all this year with some sort of plan for homemade cards (#1) made with a homemade stamp (#2) and accompanying homemade, heart-shaped sugar cookies (#3).  And, of course, each of these carefully considered items would be just imperfect enough to demonstrate that they were made by the children, not the mother, and thus proving none of this was planned! It just happened! Like magic! Tee hee! (#4)

Yeah, well, you know what happened like magic? A raging, killer stomach virus happened. It started with Sam, then hit Michael, then Annabel, then me, all in such quick succession that we all took a family sick day with everyone in some varying stage of it by Monday. And that is about when I realized that Valentine’s Day was arriving in just a few hours.

In my defense, I at least have been around this block enough times to know that you never attempt to do all of the Valentines in one fell swoop.  Despite my liberal use of a cattle prod to inspire focus, my children do not have the attention span to complete that many cards in one sitting. So we at least had something produced by Monday–paint-splattered paper for Sam and stamped construction paper for Annabel.

Here, Sam, stamp that. Here, Annabel, throw some glitter on those. Here, Cherie, attempt to do wholesome post-dinner baking project with your children in-between severe drops in blood pressure. Here, Michael, take over the entire project when your wife collapses on the kitchen floor because all she’s been able to consume in the last 24 hours is one quarter of a piece of toast.

Annabel’s are the pink, Sam’s are the white, the despair is fully my own. Cookies not included, but we burnt some of them and sent them anyway, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about how little I cared about Valentine’s Day by  9 o’clock on Monday night. Which is when I finished bagging cookies and taping them to the Valentine’s, completely discarded the original plan of tying them into cute little packages with yarn.

I don’t think it was my year.

In case you were wondering, the hot-chocolate-ice-cream-cone lady totally won again.

That’s a Blow Pop flower made from handcut papers with a pipe cleaner stem.

I think I’m just going to outsource Valentine’s Day to her next year.