The Perfect Fall

Like most Sundays, today rather got away from me.  We intended to go for a long bike ride, but we were both whooped. Yesterday we got a couples massage at Indigo Wellness, which was super awesome, but also kind of exhausting somehow.  We also ran yesterday.  And this is our first weekend sans guests in a month, so we felt like taking it easy today.

So we made breakfast at home, talked to both my brothers, bought some grasses and plants for the front beds, ate lunch and froze to death outside at Governors (the mischievous sun disappeared about 3 minutes after we sat down), hit Menards for some more gardening supplies, and then headed home.

Once we got home we planted the grasses in the front bed.  They were 75% off at Home Depot, so we got 4 grasses, 4 sage plants, and 2 perennial flowers for $36!  We figure if they don’t come back next year, we aren’t out much.  If they do come back, I think it’s going to look great out there.  We also pulled out all our plants from our square foot gardens and tilled in a bunch of compost from our bin.  Tim’s going to plant some kale and see how it does over the winter.

It’s been such a pleasant afternoon working the yard, being outside, and spending time with Tim.  It was exactly what I needed.  I’ve been feeling a little high strung lately – I’m sure it’s due to eating too much bad food, drinking too often, and getting out of my exercise routine.  I’m constantly amazed by how big of an impact diet and exercise have on my mental wellbeing.

Speaking of exercise, I also did this yoga video. I love Rebecca Pachecho.  Her pacing and instruction is great, and she’s just really, well, pretty. 🙂  I enjoyed the video, but what I did not enjoy was pulling up my new Beyond Yoga capris constantly.  I ordered them online, and they seemed to fit well initially, but when I do yoga in them they seem to have difficulties containing my arse.  I’m afraid now I have $50 pajama bottoms. 🙁 I need to learn to suck it up and go shopping in real physical stores instead of just shopping online.  Now my only option is to strategically lose 3 lbs off my butt.  On a happy note, I really love the fabric of the pants. It’s super soft.

Tim and I didn’t make it to the grocery store today, but since we hit up the farmers market yesterday, we should be OK. Last night I made Heavenly Paleo Meatloaf (the blog where this recipe was initially posted seems to be out of commission now, but if you want the recipe, let me know) with acorn squash.  The recipe makes 2 huge loafs, so we have leftovers for tonight. I’m going to cook up some brussel sprouts with onions in bacon grease for a side dish.  The brussel sprouts are from our garden. They took allllll summer to grow, and I can’t wait to see how they taste.  We found a random carrot while planting the grasses today, and it was the sweetest, earthiest thing you’ve ever eaten.  Sometimes living in Iowa is allllllright.

So that’s my update, as I’m sitting here in our backyard, mostly super content except for the screaming hellion next door.  Yin and yang, man.

Makin Bacon

It’s Memorial Day, which calls for something special on the breakfast table in the Longoria household. Typically breakfast consists of steel cut oats for Tim and eggs and veggies for me.  But today we had PANCAKES! and JALAPENO BACON!

I’ve tried at least 5 paleo pancake recipes and have yet to fall in love with any of them.  They always get burnt on the outside and mushy on the inside.  The flavor is usually OK, but the presentation is absolutely horrid.  Today’s venture was no different. I tried these protein pancakes from paleomg.com.  I didn’t have the protein powder she recommended, so I used our Trader Joe’s hemp protein powder.  Which is dark green.  Yep – I made dark green pancakes for breakfast.  They were actually pretty tasty. I still had the same issue with them not cooking right, but I think that’s more my fault than the recipe’s fault.

We also tried some new bacon from HyVee (we were forced to because they were out of our normal bacon).  It’s jalapeno bacon!  Since my stove top was full of pans of pancakes and scramby eggs, I decided to try the whole baking bacon thing again.  We tried it once, and the bacon didn’t get crispy, but I keep hearing people say how awesome it is, so I figured I would give it another go. I followed the instructions here.  It turned out PERFECT and oh so easy.  You put the bacon on a foil-lined sheet and cook it for 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  It turned out crispy, delicious, and very jalapenoey.  If you take a look at my Instagram feed to the right, you can see a pic of the bacon and pancakes.

And now breakfast is done, Tim is doing the dishes, and I’m trying to figure out what all from the list of things I want to get done today I can actually do:  put down mulch, plant garlic and dill, clean the house, do the laundry, plan meals & go grocery shopping, do a 3 mile run, work on a watercolor painting for the bedroom, watch some of the Criterium, update the checkbook, take a bath, lay in the sun, and I’m sure I am forgetting something.  I need every weekend to be a 3-day weekend!!

Iowa Master Conservationist

Have I mentioned yet that I am taking a class to become a Master Conservationist?  It’s offered through the Iowa State University Extension Center.  It’s a program that lasts from February – October.  We attend 10 classes which cover biodiversity, woodlands, water quality, wetlands, sustainable agriculture, etc.  Some classes are held in the Nahant Marsh training center.  Other classes will be held out in the wild! I’m really looking forward to those.

Our first class was Tuesday night.  It was a full-house too.  The attendees run the gamut from Biology students working part-time at Nahant Marsh to retirees trying to turn their acreages back into Iowa prairies.  It’s an interesting bunch of people.  The instructors seem great too – very well educated on the subject matter and with a knack for interesting stories and good humor.

I learned a lot of interesting stuff, just in that first night.

  • Members of different species cannot mate and have viable offspring.  For example, if a horse and donkey mate, they produce a mule, and almost always the mule is sterile.
  • Our current time has the highest rate of species extinction.  Way to go, Humans!
  • Main causes of extinction: habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, population (the human population has grown from 1 billion in the 1800s to 7 billion in 2012!!!), over-harvesting (which has caused the extinction of plants like Ginseng).
  • Fire and bison kept Iowa as 85% prairie (and prevented it from becoming forested).
  • Within 140 years of white people moving into Iowa, the diverse prairie was almost completely replaced with row crops, destroying the habitats of several animals.
  • Iowa used to be where Costa Rica is now.
  • Sandstone in Iowa is found in the location of ancient lakes.  Limestone is found in the location of ancient coral reefs.
  • Glaciers used to block the Mississippi and reroute it.  At one time it formed a huge pool over by Plainview, IA.  That huge valley used to be the home of the mighty Mississippi.

Good books to read, if you are interested in this kind of stuff: Iowa’s National Heritage, A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, The Emerald Horizon by Cornelia Mutel, The Future of Life by Edward O. Wilson.  I have a feeling that these books will depress the hell out of me, but I’m going to read them anyway.

And that was the first night in a nutshell.  I think this will be a super interesting program.

Consumer -> Producer

Timmsy Tee and I did a little shopping today.  In the paper a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the Waste Commission of Scott County, in conjunction with the Rock Island County Waste Management Agency, was hosting a Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Sale today.  Tim and I have long flirted with the idea of getting a compost bin, but they are wicked expensive (usually at least $100).  The Waste Commission was selling the compost bins for $40, so we headed down to the sale this morning.  It was a beautiful, sunny, warm, breezy day, and the line reflected the pretty day and all the pseudo-hippies’ desire for a good deal.  We waited in line for 30 – 45 minutes, listening to the incessant chatter of the day-care mom next to us, and the occasional wise words from the straw-hatted back-yard prairie planter in line in front of her.  It was an interesting 45 minutes.  It was actually really encouraging to see so many people who were willing to wait in line for an environmental tool.

The bin barely fit in our car, but we were able to squeeze it in.  We have all the pieces put together, but we haven’t screwed it into the ground yet.  I’m looking forward to no longer feeling guilty whilst throwing away coffee grounds, tea bags, and vegetable peels.  Hopefully within several months, we’ll have some nice, healthy compost to mix in with our clay yard.

After getting the bin situated, Tim went to the gym, and I went for a jog – the first jog in at least 2 weeks.  I ran a mile without stopping, and then walked about a mile, just enjoying the sound of the creek and the locusts and the wind in the late summer, crispy leaves.

For lunch, we headed out to Bent River.  We spent an hour or so lounging in the back patio, eating 99 cent tacos, fries with jalapeno ketchup, and drinking the Bent River Pale Ale – delicious.

Inspired by the free spirit pervading Bent River, at our next stop, Evergreen Art Works, I bought a few things I’ve been wanting for watercolor painting – a paint mixing tray, note cards made of 140 lb watercolor paper, and a 24″ x 32″ “Incredible Art Board.”  The teacher at the last Figge class had one of these boards.  You can stretch and staple watercolor paper to it, and it won’t bend or warp.  She had also taped wax paper to one side of the board, so she could mix her paint right next to her painting.  You can also flip over the board, and use the other side (of course, before flipping it, you’ll want to make sure your paint won’t run).  It was kind of pricey (around $33), but I think I’ll really like it.  No matter what kind of tape I use, I cannot get my paper to lie flat after I wet it.  The paint settles in the valleys and frustrates me.

I’m really looking forward to working with the watercolor cards too.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I hate and am no good at painting backgrounds.  The smaller the piece of paper, the less background!  I’m getting several pictures printed at Walgreens, so that I have a variety of subjects to choose from – everything from flowers (might as well give it another shot) to bridges (architectural, straight lines are much more predictable than petals).  Here are a few samples of what I’m planning on trying next:

I'll just paint the Luce - not the background.

So, with all this consuming we’ve been doing today, we better start producing – producing compost and artwork.  Good thing tomorrow is Sunday.

My bucket garden

My Burpee garden showed up last week.  It was in pretty sad shape by the time it reached our house.  It looked as if the box had been tipped over and stepped on a few times.  None of the tags were in the correct pots, so I’m not positive what I have.  I know I have tomatoes, peppers, and basil, but that’s about all I know. Since our dirt is essentially clay, I decided to plant the garden in Lucent’s  old litter buckets.  I drilled drainage holes in the sides and bottom of the buckets, filled them up in the bottom with about an inch of gravel and/or broken clay pots, and then filled up the buckets with several pounds of potting soil.  The plants seem to be doing pretty good, so far.  The pepper plants still look pretty peaked, but maybe that’s just how pepper plants look?

Hopefully the plants will survive and produce something.  The tomato plants already have some flowers on them.

I also planted vincas, impatiens, and 4 hostas, and pulled up the lawn carpet that had started to encroach on our front sidewalk.  I raked the old mulch off of the bed on the south-side of the house and pulled a bunch of weeds from everywhere.  I worked outside for about four hours – most of the time on my knees, leaning forward pulling or digging.  It was Thursday of the following week before my lower back and hamstrings felt normal again.  Gardening is hard work.  Wah, I know.

Most of the hard work is done now.  I just need to get some new mulch and keep on top of the weeding.  I probably should plant some stuff in the bed in the northeast corner of the house, too.  I just don’t know if I’m up to that yet.  Plus, our garden hose doesn’t reach that far, so I would have to water any plants over there with a watering can, and that’s tedious.  This Fall, after we re-paint the front of the house, I need to take the time to plan out what I want to plant.  I need to put in some grasses or bushes and some perennials, so that each summer I don’t have to spend $50 on new plants and ruin my back and legs planting junk.  The only perennials we have now are peonies which are super beautiful right now.  Tim took these:

Here is the current state of my flower garden.  I’m hoping it will look amazing in 3-4 weeks.  I love vincas and impatiens – they are so easy to take care of, and they flower all summer long.

This year, for the first time, I also planted some flowers in pots on the patio.  If I can keep the rabbits from eating them, they are going to look super pretty back there.

So far I’ve been warding off squirrels and rabbits with a blood meal and coffee grounds mixed with cayenne pepper.  I’m going to attempt to cut Tim’s hair today, too, so some of that might end up as a warning around the plants too.

So, there are my gardening highlights. My gardening endeavors pale severely in comparison to the fantastic work of my other gardening friends:

http://prairieinalittlehouse.wordpress.com/

http://newlywoodwards.blogspot.com/

But, it’s a start!