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 (I was thinking about this song)

Blue Lake pole beans are prodigiously productive. 

So far I have made (some of them multiple times):

Turkish green beans in olive oil with tomatoes

stir fried green beans with fermented black beans sauce

stir fried green beans with oyster sauce and rice noodles

salad of blanched green beans with mustard vinaigrette, hardboiled egg and potato

green bean stew with chicken and turmeric and other vegetables

sauteed zucchini with green beans, red pepper and basil

fried rice with green beans

pasta with green beans and asiago cheese

and one day I just flipped out and mainlined a kilo of them raw while I was distracted, reading the internet


how do you eat green beans? Of course I do know about making them with mushroom sauce and a topping of fried onions and I will probably eventually do that.
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It's been a while since I wrote about food. It seems a little wrong to natter about my dinner while we have sociopaths and psychopaths taking advantage of the surge in the class war (that is, the ruling class's war against the other clases), but okay, I'm doing it anyway.

From time to time I write a post about "how I'm eating now." Sometimes the motivation is managing my "multiple issue" health, sometimes it's something else. Right now my motivation is largely frugality again. I refuse to be deprived of deliciousness by mere poverty. I live in the middle of such abundance, and I have all the time in the world since I can't work & lack the strength to do anything else in a sustained way, so making food that meets my nutritional needs, is tasty, and is cheap--though it may be time-consuming--is a reasonable path for me.

A few years ago I discovered that it is quite easy to make a kind of soft cheese from whole milk and an acid (that first time it was inadvertent, my coagulant was yogurt because that was what I was trying to make). At the time I didn't pursue it much because I had no idea what to do with the whey that was left over--depending on details it can be three or four times as much whey as cheese.

Last year I experimented with using whey as the liquid when making bread (using the sponge method outlined by Gail Sher in From A Baker's Kitchen). The results were so good that I started making the cheese (and sometimes yogurt) on purpose to get the whey. I've ended up with enough cheese that I've had to experiment with uses of it. Though sometimes I have more whey than I need for bread, too, so I've gotten in the habit of using whey for any baking and much grain cooking. Since my usual coagulant in Meyer lemons (that being what I have in my yard), all of this food has a little of that fragrance in it.

So all last fall and winter my routine has been, about twice a month or once in three weeks, to make about a pound of this cheese and enough dough for three or four loaves of this bread. I started out with half-white & half-whole wheat all purpose flour, but now I use bread flour for the sponge and a variety of other flours in the later stages. The amount of dough I make has increased, since I now make pizza and dumplings loosely based on pirozhki, or fried bread, or whatever. I bake two or three loaves and put one or two lumps of dough in the freezer for later.

Obviously I haven't done it this month since I am trying not to leave a lot of stuff around when I fly out on the 24th, but I still have two lumps of dough in the freezer which I will bake up this weekend: one will be a pirog (like pirozhki, only large), to form my dinner, breakfast, and lunch while I am traveling. I have half a roast chicken in the freezer, some of which I will eat on the weekend and some of which will go into the pirog along with what else I have (a lot of dried store mushrooms because the Grey Bears bag had way too many mushrooms several weeks in a row, many onions,  some carrots, some pickled cabbage and kosher dills, and a yard with a lot of small overwintered greens of various types, some herbs, and green garlic in it. I say pickled cabbage instead of sauerkraut because I only let it try to ferment naturally for a few days and then I packed it with vinegar and stuck it in the fridge. It wasn't very nice at first and I was going to throw it away but after sitting in the fridge for a bit it has developed, not the best sauerkraut flavor, but something nice enough for sandwiches and so on).

Gosh, the parenthetical was longer than the rest of the paragraph.

I can say it's really a relief that some of these greens have naturalized in my yard. Most of the year I can honestly take or leave arugula, but right now I can throw it into any melange of food, cooked or raw, and it lends a nice nutty and pungent note to the whole, not to mention being the greenest thing you ever did see and it also grows in pretty little clumps all over the yard which will become immense patches later. I also have some determined feral kohlrabi and celery root that never made roots but which have really nice leaves and stems. The kohlrabi leaves are mild and tender, rather like kohlrabi the root, while the celery root leaves are strong tasting. Zack never saw much point to celery till I made him taste these leaves. I also have parsley, though not much yet, and this year's turnip greens in baby form, and dill seedlings. Since dill never lasts long for me before going to seed (cilantro neither), I decided this year to plant it densely and eat it young.  There are still a few kale plants I missed when I cleaned up the old (three and four year old) ones, and I just grab them whenever I see a nice leaf. 

I also have the usual perennial herbs for my region: oregano, sage, rosemary, lavender, thyme, spearmint and also persian mint and lovage and horehound (which I mean to make throat drops of but I haven't acted at the right moment yet). Basil doesn't do spectacularly well for me, but I find mint takes its place quite well especially when mixed with parsley. Parsley is the Great Underrated Herb. I think we're accustomed to seeing the tightly curled kind used as a garnish, where it hasn't been treated kindly before serving because nobody's expected to eat it, and occasionally dried flakes. Its flavor does not keep all that well even when you buy it flatleaved and fresh, but when it is new and lush it has a flavor like heaven. I really like it more than most herbs and vegetables. I keep trying to increase my stock of it but some years it all goes to seed in its infancy and I can't figure out why. 

So these 2 or 3 weeks I didn't buy groceries and I didn't go to pick up a Grey Bears bag. This means I'm being inventive with what I have. I ran out of milk, cream, and even cheese, and then discovered how dependent I normally am on dairy products in general. I still had a pound of chicken livers, so that and onions, green garlic, quantities of greens and herbs from the garden, and three asparagus spears (my asparagus is delicious but not prolific), made three meals. Lentils and mostly turnip greens and arugula but also those same herbs made a nice stew. I'm attempting to cook these recalcitrant pinto beans to make an almost vegan tamale pie. I don't know what I'll do if they refuse to soften (I think it's because I put the dried tomatoes in with them when they were still raw). Maybe drain off the delicious juice and toss the beans and start over with-- what do I still have, garbanzos? I made a salad of tuna, potato, carrot, peas, and all the pickled things I had at the time (the last of the artichokes, some beets, some kosher dills, I didn't think of the cabbage though now I can't stop thinking of it)-- sort of like if you started out thinking maybe you'd make a Salat Olivier and couldn't find all the exact things and then couldn't stop putting other things into it. I made a Waldorf salad (which if you make it right-just apples, nuts, raisins, celery and mayonnaise-or-whatever-dressing-you-prefer, is much nicer than most people think). I made apple fritters. I used up the pizza things I had stashed to make pizza. I used the rest of the tomato sauce I made for that to cook carrots in. 

So most of those things came out well and I've had a good time eating them. The pizza was a little eccentric but I get to have eccentric pizza, right? I made a weird coffee tapioca, having sieved the tapioca to try to prevent the frog-eggs texture which I thought would be weird with coffee, and it tastes good enough but it does have a bit of frog egg to it and it kept me up ALL NIGHT LONG so maybe I won't do that again?

The beans I'm cooking are really really yummy and I think they are cooked but they will never be really soft. I wonder if they will cause stomach distress if I use them anyway?
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The satsuma plum tree is, the woman at the nursery said, an old man plum tree now, and lacks resilience to fight disease. I didn't ask her to tell me why an old man instead of an old woman--after all, it has babies--I think I know. I think it is an old man because of drunken old classical Chinese poets, who write about plum trees frequently. I think the plums trees are Chinese poets.

Anyway, she says I should be preparing for its demise a few years from now (by buying a baby plum tree next winter so it will be bearing when my old man gives up the ghost), and coddling it fiercely in the meantime. That will mean pruning it generously to bring a lot of sun and warmth into the center of the tree and also to keep the whole thing in close reach I can practice more focused cleanliness next year and after.

The background: suddenly, four years ago, my plums started rotting instead of ripening. I tried various lesser measures, and I suspected a parasite, but having nearly eliminated the signs of that cherry fly, the rot was even worse than before.

I did manage to harvest a lot of plums though. I made nine jars of plum jam, three jars of plum butter (which is more concentrated and uses less sugar--it took the same quantity of plums to make the three jars of butter as the nine jars of jam), thirteen racks of dehydrated slices, three bags of frozen slices for cobbler, a fresh cobbler, and some stewed plums I ate with cottage cheese because in some ways I am an old-fashioned old lady. I did this wrapped around chemo day, too. That's misleading. Chemo day itself is not a low-energy day, because I get dexamethasone the day before and the day of. It's a steroid and makes me a busy girl, at least for some hours at a time until I crash.

I also had strawberries from Grey Bears and a handful of alpine strawberries from the garden so I also made four jars of strawberry jam, bringing that to eight with the strawberry jam from May. I think I am done with jam for the year unless we get a couple-few quarts of blackberries. These are eight-ounce jars and I think it may be a bit of a haul to get through a couple dozen of them.

The woman at the nursery said in general plants are having a hard time this year even though the drought is over. She believes the plants and the soil are just so stressed by the long drought that they can't just grow on their own the way they used to. She says she's coddling everything, feeding things more than in the past, watering them more than in the past, and that it's been harder to get things started. I must say that sounds a lot like what I've been experiencing--losing that Italian prune (which I'm going to try again with this winter too), my vegies just poking along, and my parsley! Which usually by this time of year is rampant, I've had to restart several times and it's barely poking along. This is unacceptable. A person needs plenty of parsley at hand. I've had so little this year, and now that I finally have enough to pick a little it just cuts right through all the weird tastes in my mouth and makes me feel much better.

I suppose the apple tree, which is also nearly forty years old, is probably also marked for senescence and death. I'll ask about that this winter and see what I want to do about it.

Today I trimmed the front yard roses and things. Advice to the young: roses are nice but they are overrated. You do not need their thorns and their overenthusiastic growth habits. There are many flowering shrubs which do not snag your clothes and make you bleed. You could consider growing salvias, passionflowers, abutilons, fuschias, or even hydrangeas if you don't mind hideousness or snails.

Other than that, I considered writing, and worked out what a sentence ought to be, and messed around online and snored a little. Monday I'm having a consultation with the sleep doctor but I wonder if that's premature? Because whatever my sleep problems are, they are surely different in some significant ways while I am undergoing chemotherapy.

Zluta is put out by not having had her morning walk, but it's honestly too hot for her, so she's not campaigning very vigorously. In an hour or so I'll take her to the dog park and that will satisfy her.

Oh, and an irreproducible (not really) recipe, just because I haven't done one for a while. It's potentially a kind of luxury dish, though it's also a leftovers-and-oddments dish.

I took five skinny little green onions and a scant scant handful of giant parsley from the yard, and I sauteed them in probably too much olive oil along with a handful of sliced mushrooms, some diced leftover lamb, some chopped Costco marinated artichoke hearts, a few canned garbanzos, and some frozen peas. When the green things were wilted, the mushrooms lightly browned, and everything else heated, I said it was done and I ate it up yum. It was nice and the parsley made me feel better.

I was getting all geared up to try to force more potassium in my diet because last week's blood test showed me a bit Low, but checking up on the significance of it reveals that low potassium and low serum protein pretty much just indicate that I've being taking steroids. I'm still going to gobble up a couple potatoes and bananas and things but I'm not stressing it any more.
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I know I've been slagging on the people who want to sell me that we can "fight cancer with nutrition." Every word of that phrase sets my teeth on edge. I do believe in nutrition in a sort of general way, though I'm pretty well convinced that for everyday purposes most people's metabolisms are pretty flexible and if you're giving yourself a pretty good diet with enough of the basics, you'll do okay for a long time. When you have various physiological challenges including genetic dispositions and acquired deficiencies or metabolic disorders, you have to pay a little more attention, naturally. And then, on an entirely different hand, nutritional chemistry is fascinating, so I don't blame people who get wrapped up in it for reasons of enthusiasm.

But the nutritional cancer treatment people tend to push one of two overlapping agendas--one that boils down to variations of the regular "healthy diet" versions that are duking it out in the marketplace, or one of several crazy crank diets that eliminate whole categories of food or that ask you to ingest megadoses of micronutrients. As for the first: if a healthy diet worked against cancer, I wouldn't be here today. As for the second: just no.

I am, however, eating well. (woops, I scratched the back of my head and came away with another little clump of bristly grey hairs) I'm paying attention to protein and vitamin-rich vegetables, most of which are coming from the Grey Bears bag or my garden (or kitchen, as I have suddenly become entertained by sprouting peas and alfalfa, and I got a little mushroom kit for ducks). This is only a bit ramped up from my usual. I'm back to eating somewhat less starchy food, but that's because I was told that the cancer treatment could raise my blood sugars, and I don't want to cross over from pre-diabetes to diabetes if I can help it.  But I'm not up to doing a severe no-carbohydrate diet unless I have to.

So what am I eating? That's the fun part. Last week's Grey Bears bag had triple mushrooms because the driver doesn't eat them and neither does his wife, so I dried all the prettiest ones and made a big mushroom-green onion omelet out of what was left and I am still working my way through that for my breakfasts. I also got a two-pound bag of cauliflower florets, so I made cauliflower moussaka which I have been eating for lunch or dinner. My pea sprouts came due so I harvested them and ate half of them in chicken broth with sesame oil and tapatio salsa, with snow peas and kale flowers and green onions from the garden along with some turkey meatballs that fell apart. I'll eat the other half probably tomorrow, I don't know exactly how. I also had a pile of broccoli, which I finally cooked today and grated cheese for the traditional broccoli-and-cheese casserole I will make tomorrow. Today I made split pea soup with precut coleslaw from last week's Grey Bears bag and herbs from my garden and dried tomatoes I made last summer in it and alas dried onions because there were no more ready green onions in my yard and no fresh ones in the Grey Bears bag.

Every week for the last month or so I have also done a wee bit of baking. I still do this simultaneously with a casserole-or-something in the oven (one week it was a lamb pot roast) to conserve the use of gas and stack up the kitchen time. Anyway, what I make are lightly-sweetened cookies or bready cakes that fill the place of treats without overstimulating the sweet tooth or giving the body too much sugar at once. They are often peanut butter or oatmeal variation cookies with dried fruit or carrots or something in them. Those are easy to make, K and Zack like them, and so they are good for my purposes. Like I say, they don't make me want to clear out the whole lot in one sitting, though they do taste nice to me, and so I think they help me eat in a more balanced way,

When I want something like ice cream I have either yogurt or cottage cheese--whole milk in either case, which I'll explain in  moment--with fruit, or my homemade lower-sugar jam, or a bit of both. Or I might mix a spoonful of peanut butter and jam, or peanut butter, a bit of honey, and sunflower seeds. These things are not a lot less calorie-dense than ice cream, but they don't make me want moremoremore, and they please me very much, and they are pretty nutrient-dense.

There are a few reasons I use whole milk products. One: they make fat-soluble vitamins more available that are implicated in the absorption and use of the minerals that dairy products are good for. Two: they taste good. Three: they seem to me to be better emulsifiers. Four: they seem to satisfy my appetite more quickly in most cases, though there are times when I can eat nice crackers with butter or blue cheese on them much longer than it seems is reasonable. So when I am being sane I just don't start those things.

I was going to go on with a precis of the garden but this has gone on long enough, so that will have to wait for another time. I would like to say for the record that I moved the coral bells and a nice baby parsley plant today and finally got the basil, cardoons, and mignonette into the ground, leaving the purple clematis, the miscellaneous blue salvia shrub, the white passionfruit,and  the purple flowers from Ellie, still to be planted out or transplanted, as is appropriate for various reasons.  I spent nearly two hours in the yard and ended up a bit short of breath, which I think is because I'm anemic again but the oncology nurses do not think I am anemic enough to treat--but the labwork was just before the last infusion and the shortness of breath is after. In any case it's not severe enough I can't wait a few days.

And also

Apr. 15th, 2016 09:24 am
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My echocardiogram was entertaining and lovely (since I went to it fresh from the knowledge that I am NOT RIDDLED WITH CANCER and I can try for an actual CURE), and of course, as I knew, my heart is strong as an ox.

Yes, I knew it. But I also "knew" my biopsy was going to turn up scar tissue from the previous infections, so there you are.

Anyway, soonsoon I'll have lots to say that aren't "oops my health" or "at least my health isn't that bad."

Zluta continues to be a manic darling, and the garden is fantastic at the moment. I'm cooking up all the turnip greens over the next couple days because a friend of mine gave me a Black Krim plant so it's tomato planting time. I really want to find a couple Paul Robesons and maybe a Black fromTula. Detect the pattern? Black tomatoes from Russia do very well in my garden. And my old standbyes, the yellow plum and Roma, don't seem to do so well for me any more.

My kale from last year is starting to go flowers. I do have other batches of kale started so there will be little gap  between productive kale, which is important because both Zack and I depend on it. Right now I am eating the kale flowers, they are delicious, but eventually they'll come to the end and so it goes. My parsley is all bedraggled because most of it has decided to set seed also--also eating those bits to try to slow down the process, which worked for a while but a lot of the parsley is only putting out those weird "I'm going to seed now and you can't stop me" leaves-- there are two kinds, one is a tiny stunted version of the normal leaf and one is entirely different, with narrow leaflets in a fan shape. So I'm finding baby volunteer parsley and moving it to the parsley forest and I'm sowing seeds in the area too. I've been working on increasing the flower real estate in the yard, and that's finally paying off. And of course it's spring, so. I have yellow Louisiana iris and calla lilies for the dramatic, and volunteer(!) sweet peas, and coreopsis and freesias (not many) and roses and cuphea (sort of like fuschias, which are not flowering at the moment, oddly), and a couple kinds of salvias and a few quince blossoms and some pansies and cineraria and bleeding heart and of course the lemons are blooming and the apple tree just finished and the plums are the size of shooter marbles which is apparently my favorite size at which  to notice ripening things.

Manymany thanks to all the well-wishers and most especially to the horse people who answered my questions. Later I may ask you to read the thing over (it will be shortish, about 50K?) and see if I screwed it up. This is the story that gives me an excuse to listen to all the Southern European and Asia Minor music I want to all day long. Especially if the music is a bit ovfer 100 years old. Seriously, you can find that sometimes.

On a less brilliant note, "the computer" is still returning the false information that Blue Shield is my primary provider, so confusion still reigns. It means Central California Health Alliance denied coverage in the first round even though they have already told me on more than one occasion that they know they are my only provider. It will work out but why should everybody have to do everything over again so many times?

well, the 9:05 goose from the north has gone by, so back to work.
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The chapter I am working on is maybe the penultimate chapter of the book, depending on how many words it takes to write the things that are happening now, but it is more likely the chapter before the penultimate one. Oh, I'm sure it is, no matter how long this stuff goes, because certain things need to be in their own chapters.

oh how I do go on about writing insecurities )

I kind of read Octavia Butler's Fledgling this week too. I skipped ahead to the trials because I am a wuss. It made me wonder just how much of her work is about blending. I will have to read more and re-reading more and figure this out. Also I read Emma Bull's Finder, which was fun enough that I inhaled it but I was also annoyed by its callowness.

On another front, I'm cleaning up the yard to make it pleasant for Frank and Hana when they come later in the month and also so I can see just how much progress I've really made back there. Which is a lot. I have planted a line of coreopsis along one side of one section of the brick path from the garage to Zack's, and parsleyalong the rest of it (and it's still not quite enough parsley for all Zack's and my needs). The front yard is almost cleaned up. After my hand heals from the carpal tunnel release surgery I'm having on Monday, I'll plant the two different abutilons and the one salvia I have in the corner by the almond tree. I have a couple of California milkweeds to plant--they have mousy looking litttle white flowers but they haven't, unlike the other milkweeds, been sprayed with BT to fight light brown apple moth. It's the law, but it makes the milkweeds toxic to the Monarch caterpillars too. So if I had bought one of those pretty ones I would have had to put a net over them for some time--a few months? I forget--to keep from poisoning the animal we're planting it for...

and I also go on and on about my new knees )
On the Zluta front, even though I don't know what I'm doing, we're reaching a place with the backyard barking that is bearable, I'm able to let her go out there freely for many hours a day before she decides to try to provoke the killer dog next door. My current method of breaking that up is to almost silently head her off, distract her with thrown apples, and herd her or carry her inside. Less shouting--which ramps her up-- and no hose spray--which excites her and is actually a reward, However, when I water the yard, I let her play in the hose as much as she likes. Yes, it is still warm enough for her to get wet outside. Though I turned the heater on today. It's set in the low sixties: I think 66 for a period in the afternoon.

Speaking of communication, she is using the wiggle method of communicating her needs much more than the open-mouthed, toothy swarm method. I try to respond immediately but sometimes I'm in the middle of a thing and she has no patience. I've had to exile her only once every couple-few days this last two weeks (it was getting to be two and three times a day, which is too much). Of course, part of this is her general greater contentment now that I am driving again and getting her to the dog park five days out of six.

She has an unfortunately tender stomach, apparently, and apparently I guessed wrong about her food, so that's a work in progress.
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Some time ago I spilled water on my laptop. The computer is fine, but the keyboard is toast. I have spent a significant amount of time spread out over a larger amount of time tryintg to replace the keyboard. Not aided by the fact that the fellow I used to (up until this event actually) considered my computer guy kept spacing me out! Anyway after hearing for the fourth time that he had forgotten my issue, I took matters into my own hands and assayed the Dell website. No joy. I tried live chat. Nope, they don't support alienware with live chat. They gave me a phone number. I called. I spent the next two hours exhausting my recourses as one polite and thorough person after another in four different departments failed to come up with a replacement keyboard and sent me along to the next person in the vain hope that they would be able to help me somehow.

Tried googling it. Got nothing but references to new laptops or miscellaneous parts for laptops which are not alienware.

Gave up and planned on tunring the laptop into a desktop and buying a cheap used laptop for mobile writing. Keith (the young roommate I often refer to and seldom explain) suggested asking at a modder's forum. Brilliant! Not because it immediately panned out, but because it indirectly led me back to Tom's Guide, where I've researched many problems in the past. I signed up for the forums and asked if anybody had any suggestions for me, and within a couple hours somebody did.

It was a google search that returned my keyboard (and a similar but not identical one).

Same search.

Different searchers.

Different search results.

Because Google is so fucking clever and tailors its results to the searcher, see? This is so useful to the user, isn't it? The filtered, tailored view of the world? Getting exactly what google's algorithm has decided you really want and need, and not, for example, the exact thing you searched for, word for word?

Okay, anyway, the thing is, my keyboard is ordered and it should be fine.

On another front, everybody keeps asking me when I'm getting a dog. It depends on when I can convince somebody I can handle the kind of dog I need. Specifically, I'm waiting a few days so I can walk into the shelter office without any kind of limp.

I have one more disappointment to share with you--the tomato plants I planted this year, which were supposed to include "Black Krim," appear to all be some kind of orange cherry tomato. So no delicious black slicers for me this year. But my pole beans and zucchini are great!
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I had a moment of either slight cowardice or wisdom and decided to get dropped off by car at the library instead of walking both ways to the farmer's market. Except I'm not sure I shaved any distance off: the farmer's market might in fact be midway between my house and the library. Walking back wasn't all that far, but I guess I'm not ready to carry a bunch of stuff yet. It was a bit unpoleasant for a while. I reminded myself I used to weigh more than all of my current weight, the books and the veggies combined, but it didn't cheer me up much. And now I've been home for an hour and a half, still wating for the tylenol to kick in and contemplating tramadol. But it's not bad. I did it, and even though it hurts, I didn't harm myself.

At the library I got a tree gjuide, and another Lisa Goldstein book (because she's always readable) and a Jay ake book and Oliver Sacks's Oaxaca Journal, about a fern huntuing foray he took with a group of enthusiasts. I love his endless interest in everything.

Brought in a meal of wax beans, so that's nice too.
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I'm feeling a bit more cheerful today because I have apparently found my brain again. I spent a bit of time discouraged, and then a bit of time on a deliberate writing vacation, and then I had no thoughts whatever in my brain and that was frightening: I was actually empty. It was so weird. Anyway, I just chose a project at random and now I'm back to producing, slower, but a few hundred words a day is okay. The project I ended up working on is the amorous haunted nightstand one. I'm feeling tentatively optimistic on it.

more about the last couple weeks than you want to know, probably )

Oh! It's Wednesday. I should talk about what I'm reading. Um, Growing Gournet and Medical Mushrooms by crazy man Paul Stamets. Today I'm picking up another of his books at the library. There's a lot of information in this tome, and it's superficially laid out in a sensible and accessible way, but in reality when you go to read it, the information is scattered around in all of the places you don't expect it and also there are a lot of frankly odd bits of hyperbole and strange claims. But I am figuring out some stuff from reading it, and the occasional blurry black and white photo of his cute kids holding mushrooms as big as themselves is amusing too.

All of my friends who never had dogs are getting them.
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I actually have something good to say about my garden this year. I may have mentioned that I hired a friend to  work with me in the yard to bring it up to standard. For the first month and change we worked together twice a week, now it's once a week. She did all the things that took normal strength and height, and I did the pokey little things. At this point I can climb ladders just fine but hinestly it's sort of ineffectual to send me up a laddder when it's the apple tree or the jasmine vine* because I still can't reach the highest stuff. I do the plum tree, the fig tree, and much of the lemons trees myself. Another factor is Cassandra knows more about this stuff than I do, so it's good to have her in there making good cuts.

Anyway, this is where we're at. The mist-forest Guatemalan salvia has been completely refurbished. It had become a thicket of dead branches maybe twelve feet tall, and now all the dead stuff is gone and I have a revitalized stand of the monsters growing on a neat little berm. The detritus has been pulled off the compost heap and the compost heap has been revitalized and put back into action.

The former  (and possibly future) berry bed has onions and turnips and possibly carrots and celery roots if they ever deign to sprout. The asparagus barrel is producing. The rhubarb looks fat and tropical. The newest of the recycled cement beds has kale, arugula, and radhishes growing in it.

The narrow bed that had kale and potatoes in it last year is ready for tomatoes when the Cabrillo College mother's day plant sale happens. It will have  mostly black Russian varieties because they did well last year (so rumor has it, I was in Prague). It already has some mystery volunteers, and a Mexican marigold, the huge kind.

The other recycled cement bed still has last winters' brassicas in it. Since I fed them with acidp-lover's fertilizer, they still have not headed but they have magnificent, succulent leaves which I will treat like cabbage until the Cabrillo College mother's day plant sale, at which point I will put in cucumbers.

Along the wall of the garage I have put felt growning bags full of sunflowers and other flowers. They are growing apace. When we get to it, I'll have Zack put in a box there and I'll move the Jerusalem artichokes which are currently in aging barrels there along with some other sun-lovinf stuff. I really like Jerusalem artichokes. And shelling homegrown sunflower seeds is a pain, so mostly the sunflowers are for looks and to share with wildlife.

Besides that, I have plans for two more boxes: one under the southern edge of the deck, where I have a lot of flowerpots of different types and a barrel of mint and Jerusalem artichokes; and the other, in the sunnier spot under the apple tree, where I have a mound this year where I am about to plant a mixture of pole beans (runner, blue lake, yellow flageolet, purple something, and long) in a teepee, and maybe a couple of lettuces. After Emma got too old to play in the been teepee I would always sprinkle a few lettuce seeds in the middle of the teepee, and they liked growing there, sheltered from summer sun.

Heh. Summer sun. Santa Cruz isn't as foggy and San Francisco, but we do get a high haze most days, morning and evening.

We habve cleared out most of the mess from the side yard and the front yard now too. I'm not at this time planning to plant anything new out front, just cleaning up what's there. I may plant drought-tolerant ferns in the side yard. The flower seeds I planted in March don't seem to have made it.

Gradually I am lining every walkway and raised bed with mostly parsley, as well as rocket (arugula to you fancy talkers) and occasional flowers. I put beach poppies and horehound together in one sunny spot because they both have interesting textures. Also I love horehoud inordinately just because.

My herb pots on the deck are doing very well. They include more parsley because I should always have that to hand, and also I have been sticking all the weird little cloves of garlic that are annoying to peel into the pots. Everytime I cook now I am cutting up a bunch of parsley and garlic greens. And lemons, I have more lemons than I can use. Fortunately the neighbors know this and knock on my door regularly. I need to feed both the front and back lemon trees.

I have a potato forest in an older bed under the plum tree and I think this may be the spot where I start a mushroom patch. When we move the basement door to inside the garage, I would like to plant another dwarf fruit tree in a spot in front of where the door is now. If apricot trees did better in my soil I would plant that. The apricots from my old tree were hauntingly delicious but the tree just was too sick to live. So maybe a pear, or a kumquat?

The apple set a better amount of fruit than last year, so I think I just need to take better care of it this year and I'll get a nice crop. The plum set a "smallish" amount in its terms, which means a fuckton of a lot, really, because the plum is a fruit-bearing fool. The prune is still too young to flower, let alone bear fruit.
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I thought I had an unusual affinity for bitter things, but if that's the case how come I have a hard time eating radicchio and other people don't? Anyway, my gardener friend also works for a local organic farm helping with distribution, and she often brings me lovely things. Yesterday one of the things was an oblong radicchio about half the size of a big old romaine lettuce, and another was red romaine about half the size of that. The little lettuce I devoured immediately with things sprinkled on it and the juice of half a wee meyer lemon (this is not a trendy meyer, it is the consequence of living on the coast where it is never hot enough for a high-acid proper lemon: though I admit I loive meyers best anyways). Akso, the dill and mint will be easy to dispose of.

So anyway, the radicchio. I had a vague memory of successfully doing it up in a sort of bastardized ala Catalana, so I figured I would do that again. A word about ala Catalana is in order. This is a Spanish spinach dish: you saute it fast fast with a sprinkle of raisins and pine nuts and splash it with red wine, and serve it forth. It is heavenly, but of course I cannot eat spinach anymore because I failed some universal test of worthiness and lost an enzyme or gained an antibody or some damned thing and now I must suffer without spinach forever and forever. I can hardly eat an occasional bite of chard or a bit of beet greens, but if I push it, the results are not pretty, and one spinach leaf destroys me and my immediate environment for a couple of days if not longer. We are speaking of dysentery here and now let's stop speaking of it. Oh, and I can't even eat pine nuts either, they turn my mouth into unbearable bitterness for weeks nowadays. I am not exaggerating. I think it was six weeks, the time I found out about it.

The point is, there is this lovely tecbhnique for cooking greens, which can be generalized as so: greens, dry fruit, nuts, liquor or acid, sauteed, as simple as that. I had a revelation and I thought, radicchio and a milder green, mixed, and use some candied orange peel and some wafer-dried plums (m y own invention because I don't trust the plums to dry in traditional prunes or halves without molding in our foggy climate, even in the dehydrator), and walnuts (often I use almonds or even sunflower seeds which are nice and resinous). And I thought, wouldn't a sweetish, salty sort of meat be nice too? And how about a shaving of asiago at the end, for a blander note? The meat was some ham because it was the thing I could get in the smallest amount at the big grocery store. And I used red chard, but just a little because it is in the spinach family and I don't quite trust it.

Reader, it was heaven on a plate. I slivered everything in thin thin slivers so it would all look the same. Except the asiago, I shaved it in wide thin  flakes. If you eat noodles as I pretend I don't but really I do now and then, it would probably be nicer on something like orecchiette than on something like angel hair. Or you could do it with polenta, perhaps. I just did it as it was because I had already had starchy food three times today: half a big sandwich roll for breakfast, two flour tortillas! for lunch, and the breading of the emergency fried chicken I bought the dog.

I still have more than half the radicchio left. I'm going to make green soup from some of the broth left from cooking chicken for the dog. Should I put that in there?

On another front, I planted red bunching onions, some kind of old carrot seed, celery root, and turnip today. Also campanulas. I got home too late from getting chickens for the dog to water so I must must must in the morning.
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I took Truffle took Antonelli Pond, which is an old-time irrigation pond which now belongs to the University or the City, I forget which, and functions as a public park. It has a memorial fishing deck, a portapotty, and a few benches and picnic tables and garbage cans. We like it. It's low-stress but fun.

But she didn't want to be there. This wasn't an attack of the Dread, it was "yow! there's something interesting over there!" and she led me in the direction og the tiny bleating and goaty smell-- down the road to the open field next to Long Marine Lab (also University property). So okay, we went to see the goats.

Actually she felt that she was close enough at say ten meters or so. So we stood there and watched the goats, and she made it quite clear that sniffing the goats from that distance was entirely entertaining enough for her, and eventually she stgarted trotting away--down the side of the field, towards the beautiful cliff, and I said okay, we'll do that.

But then we got to the first scrap of shade and she positioned herself there and made it clear that she had gone far enough in any direction, shade is really where i is at for old dogs. And I said, okay, we can stay here for a while but eventually we have to go somewhere. And after a few minutes I decided it was time, and we would walk back to the car. But no. Old dogs still wanted to explore a bit of Antonelli pond, the bit we never get around to going to. Then I made the executive decision that old dogs need water and old ladies want to go to the plant nursery, and anway we came.

She likes the plant nursery. It smells interesting, and we go to the one where dogs are allowed to ramble. She rambles around till she finds a nice coll place and then lies down and waits for the staff to give her treats.

I got seeds for flowers and herbs, and also I got a blue salvie and forget me nots, and I also got a new hose, some fgloves, and a new hose tip thing. I have hired a friend to help me in the yard, which makes me work more. It's looking pretty good.
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Last night as easier because she was farther away from the trauma of surgery and the anesthia had had some time to go away, but I still had to give her vicodin... well, I expect that the next day after surgery I might need some vicodin on top of the basic pain meds to sleep also.

This morning she was ready to go but I was not taking her on any adventures at this point. She has an appetite: not a big one and she still won't eat anything but boiled chicken, but I don't particularly care right now. As long as she eats a little and drinks water, I'm satisfied.

She went in for her checkup and the ver said her sutures were lovely and she looked good, also that her kidney function had returned to normal right after surgery (which means her Addison's is under control again and was only off because of the stress of the hematoma on her spleen). She was terrified at the vet's office and really wanted to leave, but once we did leave she calmed right down. My experience from before is that the PTSD from the surgery lasts a few months.

On another front, I am now paying my friend Cassandra to do my pruning and other such work, and I spend the time she's doing that in working on other garden taks. So that's finally coming together. My plum tree is blooming, as is my almond tree. The Euro plum is not, yet, nor is the apple. Emma's Satsuma mandarin is also blooming. It needs to be moved into a sunnier spot. Everything needs to be fed.

Once we've got a handle on what we've got here, I will look into getting other fruit trees, maybe, though the space for them is smaller than it used to be, because of Zack's house.

On the writing front, I am still struggling with the story of how Elisabeth and Melissa, my lesbian mechanics from A and A Salvage, met up in the first place. It involves a vengeful ghost resident in a Subaru two-seater, but probably nothing else that you imagine with that. The story's kind of kicking me around, but I figure witrh persistence I will pin it.
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I realize that I started this journal to keep track of my writing progress, but I've been using it mainly to complain. But I have been writing and writing all along.

So, this is what I did today:

Words today: 1019
Chapter  32 wordage: 2182
Total wordage (estimated as I have not been bothered to set up the master document or write down accumulated words): 170K
Estimated till the end of the draft: 3 more chapters? 15 K more words?

Writing anxiety of the day: All novel long these guys have been terse and uncommunicative.  Suddenly they're talking and talking and talking. Too much dialog? Is it in character? Is anything they ever do in character? Am I in character? Who am I? What am I?

happy little details of the day: workers talking about the strike in the same coal mines Yanek's unit was supposed to be protecting during the war, and which are owned by the relatives that disowned him before birth; and the beer being the same brand as I referenced in the green people story set in the same place a hundred years later.

Tomorrow: more goddmaned angsty dialog. Maybe some action on the factory floor.

On another front, I punted and put the violetta and violetto (yes, those are their names) artichoke plants into large pots for now, meaning that I transplanted some oregano and moved some freesia bulbs. I know it's not the time of year for the bulbs, but screw it.

Also: neighbor had a baby so I took their dog for a walk.

And: I tasted my horseradish leaves (raw) and they are kind of like arugula, not very much like the roots at all.
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My computer resurrected itself somehow. I just poked the on button in passing because I needed something from the desk anyway and it turned on.

I'd been writing along on the laptop since not-poland is saved to Dropbox anyway, but the laptop is a pain in the ass. The keyboard's really worn out and the battery doesn't work, and the poor thing is afflicted with Vista so it has bad habits.

I'm thinking when I go to Prague I want something to take with me. Depending on finances and whether it's still available, I'll probably just give in and accept Emma's hand-me-down laptop even though it is a Mac. But Frank is happy with his Nexus 7 and I was thinking that since there's a new one coming out in July the price for used Nexus 7s might come down a lot in June, and you can get a case for it that has a reasonable keyboard built into it, and that and a couple other inexpensive accessories look like it becomes a decent thing to travel with . . .

I don't know.

On another front, I snagged a bunch of my friend's really old seeds and planted them today. I've had decent luck with old seeds, we'll see.

And on another front . . . I found a message on my machine which I do not know how old it is, about an interview for a teacher position with UCSC childcare. I called back and left a message, front-loading the information about being out of the country for half the summer. I applied for that job at least six months ago . . .
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I cut down the watersprout that was coming from below the graft on the almond tree in time for the gtreencycle pickup, which leaves me free to fill the can again this week, which I definitely ought to do.

I had a lot of sprouted garlic, so even though they say to plant in October, I put them in the window box with the alyssum. Also I planted snap peas, pole beans, and yellow chard, in paper egg cartons and a pierced tofu box respectively/  The kale I planted a few weeks ago is still at the cotyledon stage, but they are tall cotyledons and ought to bedeveloping true leaves any minute. Naturally, the parsley is still thinking about whether or not to sprout -- it looks like three or four have decided to try it out, and the others are waiting to see how it works out. I had a lead on free kale starts, but I have so much kale in the egg cartons and more seeds after that, so I don't think I should follow up on it.  Give the other guy a chance, you know.

Really, six vegetables is pretty optimistic, considering that most of my yard is still suffering under the piles of construction debris. Anyway, my absent-mindedness in years past is serving me well this year, because I have all these seeds to plant. And yes, they all seem to be viable.

Speaking of peas, I have a two-pound bag of shredded iceberg lettuce from Grey Bears, so I have decided to make peas, lettuce and herbs soup, especially after reading that this would be a way to use up the three cups of whey I have after converting my roommate's sour milk into ricotta (I thought I was making yogurt but I let it get too hot so I got actually quite nice ricotta, which is probably better, given that ricotta is more expensive than yogurt anyway). It's quite simple, by the way: I had three cups of sour low-fat milk, to which I added a third of a cup of natural sour cream and two-thirds of a cup of natural whole milk yogurt, and then I let is sit for a while, and then I warmed it up and tried to keep the temperature in the recommended range but it got a little hot and it separated more than yogurt ought to so I warmed it up some more and then I scooped it into a napkin spread on a sieve and squeezed all the whey out. I tried to make "whey ricotta" out of the resulting whey, but there wasn't enough left. I realized afterwards that the whey that the blogs were talking about was from making cheese with whole milk, and not low-fat milk, so not the same thing really.

Am I an insuifferable foodie? Or just bored and poor? I only make jam from free fruit. I only made my own peanut butter (at home, instead of in the machine at the hippie store) because decent peanut butter reached six dollars a pound. (it was not an unqualified success -- the nice inexpensive peanuts from Trader Joe's apparently have a lot less oil in them than regular peanut-butter making peanuts)

When I pruned the plum tree I brought in some budded branches, but they haven't advanced much. The almond tree looks like it's thinking about bursting out any moment. It's not long until other people's plum trees will be blooming, but mine is always last, and so are my plums (they are not ready until August). I had a dream about racking and bottling the wine, and among my stepmother's effects I found a half-drunk bottle of my best year's product, and it tasted pretty good.

Also: Andrew Marvell has been talking to my lemon trees. My, I have a lot of lemons. I have not counted them, but they seem as numerous as my mother in law's used to be, and she used to get a thousand lemons a year. These are not quite ripe, in general, but they have dropped a huge number of nice ones. That's unusual, and I think it is because of people trying to reach the best ones up top and knocking some off. My next door neighbor on the other side has carte blanche to use as many as she wants, and she is short like me and getting frail. Anyway, my kitchen has rather too many lemons in it at the moment, especially considering I still have a lot of marmalade left from last year.

head thing notes: I found a forty-six dollar check from the last time I was on unemployment a year and a half ago. It was good for a year. . .
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Personhead [livejournal.com profile] cattails gave me a recipe for eggless chocolate cake but when I set out to make it this morning I was feeling kind of belligerent with the food and I made something quite different so I am writing it down here for future reference.
long recipelike food ramblings. you will be bored or annoyed, one or the other. )
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My friend Hummah is here for New Year's and at the moment I am neglecting her to do my morning writing. I just finished the draft of chapter 12 -- which means that I am done with our fellow's actual childhood, and I have shuffled off the old tutors to go be a gay version of Bartok or maybe Dvorak and of I don't know who, respectively, which lays the groundwork for the fateful entrance of the new tutor who will be the catalyst for the destruction of our guy's delicate relationship with the young Duke his foster brother, and therefore for his being pressed into the Grand Army of the Empire Federation et cetera and plot will happen. I had to do a bit of research into wax cylinder recording this morning, and I am really glad I took the ten minutes to do it, as I discovered things I didn't know about the physicality of the recorder, and also discovered that that wavery sound that the cylinders put out is not due to the ravages of age but is inherent in the technology. So the music sounds a bit thin and eerie even when it is new.

So for New Year's Eve we went to the parade. Now raging grannies singing embarrassingly written parodies -- in fact I saw none of my WILPF friends (where were they? And shouldn't I just join WILPF and be active anyway?) and the parade was more Burning Man and less political demonstration this year. Except there was an "Occupy the New Year" contingent dressed in white (why?) carrying a white pup tent inscribed with the names of people who have died from homelessness and demanding legalization of the use of blankets and tents for street sleeping. Which I believe is the wrong direction, even though laws against sheltering yourself are brutal -- what we really need is a movement to demand cheap and free housing on a massive scale. We have a couple of really nice programs, and a couple of desperately awful ones, but there's just not enough cheap housing stock and too much empty office space.

Then we went to two friends' houses in sequence to say Happy New Year and eat too many rich treats. I drank a little champagne, not much, but apparently any amount of champagne is too much for me as I ended the night with a headache.

New Years' Day we filled in the last of the trenches Zac dug for his utilities, and we saw Hugo in 3D which I wasn't expecting (short review:3D is lot better than it used to be, the movie is heart-stoppingly beautiful to look at and great fun mostly but it has too many cheap tricks for ratcheting up the suspense and showcasing the 3D, and if you know anything about the earliest history of movies you will have a bunch of extra treats as you say aha! a lot. And also, the role of fantasy is nicely nuanced here). And after that we had a old-fashioned caifornio mexican dinner at the Acapulco, and came home to play scrabble. All of this is remrkable because I never do stuff like that. Today we intend to ride bikes downtown and to go to the beach. Tomorrow Hummah goes home to Lake County and I go back to work. Wednesday I see my physical therapist, and I better be more conscientious about my exercises because that's the whole reason I'm seeing him. I haven't been slacking off completely except the last two days. And I have been a lot better.

I have also decided to take out some older small trees and bushes (notably the moribund apricot and the never-satisfactory tree ceanothus -- in spite of its beautiful flowers -- and the mightily invasive flowering quince) and replace them with other things that are more manageable. Probably a new apricot in a different spot, a prune plum for Zac, and also move the fig and the tangerine into sunnier ground where they might prosper better, and possibly get a real quince. All of these will be true dwarfs and we will prune them till they have no ambitions to overtake the world.

Also, I am looking forward to riding my bike to work. Not including the Laurel Hill! I will walk my bike both ways forever, because I do not trust it.
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I'm not better at all, but I have to move around or I won't get better. At least I'm better enough that I'm not sleeping all day, anyway. So I weeded for les than an hour -- meaning I made a few tiny fragile dents in the massive jungle that is my backyard -- and I found myself muttering
"no sorrel, no dock, no feverfew, no violet, no borage, no nasturtium, no blackberry . . ." Doesn't that sound like an Elizabethan garden or something? (maybe they didn't have the nasturtium yet, though) They're all thugs. They need to be rooted out with vigilance, which I do not do because, one, I am lazy, and two, I always get laid up in the spring.

Seasonal note: summer's on its way. I had to water several plants today. Drought is close at hand.

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