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Archive for May, 2011

Site Stats Speak to Me

My blog stats allow me to see what Google search terms get visitors to my site.  Sometimes they are plain and generic, like “gardening” or “step-families“.  Sometimes I’m surprised with hot topics.  Some of my most visited posts are about meat chickens, and water.  And I’m amazed that my blog is high enough up on the search list to keep getting hits for John Denver.

Every now and again, there are searches for, “my step-kids hate me,” or “What do I do about …”. In those cases, I wish I could send a direct message to the person that was seeking out that information, and tell them that everything’s going to be okay.

My favorite search term so far has been, “How to engage a shy and dorky man in conversation”.

This geek's taken; hands off ladies! (self-portrait by Jeremy)

I have a bit of expertise in this area.  Although, my husband is not shy, I am.  But I think I did a pretty good job of engaging him in conversation.

Through nerd analysis with my husband that I have come to understand the geek way.

Here is my advice to women out there that wish they could talk to that shy, handsome dork, dweeb, nerd or geek.

Tip #1 Refer to all dorks as “Geek”

Men that fit into the dweeb/dork/nerd/geek category almost always prefer to be called “geek”.  The other terms can be considered offensive in some circles.  Nerds are lower in social status than geeks, dorks are lower than nerds, and dweebs are the lowest form.  The term “geek” will make them feel sexy and virile.  I will refer to this group of men as geeks from here out, as to avoid offending anyone.

Tip #2 Identify Your Geek

There are several types of geeks.  It is best to identify the type of geek you are dealing with before starting a conversation.

Photo and shirt from etsy shop Deadworry. Click on the photo to go to their store.

Technology geek: These men love gadgets.  They have the latest smart phone and tablet, and will want to “Tweet” you.  They are being outgoing, not trying to invite you up to their apartment.  This type of geek is not always in the dorky category.  If they have a hip hairstyle and nice shoes, they might not truly be a geek, and this post will not apply to you.

Gamer geek:  There are several species of geeks within the genus “gamer”:  the online gamer, the board gamer, and the role player.  In many cases they will overlap.  If you are unsure, refer to them as “gamer” as this is generic enough to use until you establish which area they like best.  Online gamers will usually play W.O.W. (World of Warcraft) or some other online interactive game.  Board gamers play fancy games from Germany.  Boardgamegeek.com is a good place to go to see what’s hot so you can have an engaging conversation.  Role players play games like D & D (Dungeons and Dragons).  If your guy talks about rolling 20s and smiting you, it’s not a bad thing.

Sport geek: Not all sports fans are geeks.  The geeks are the ones that memorize sports facts, and enjoy talking about stats, more than watching the game.

Movie geek:  This subset of geeks memorizes lines, over-analyzes plots, and looks for filming mistakes.

Music geek: Music geeks pride themselves in following unknown bands and putting down mainstream music.

Comic book/fantasy fiction geek:  If you are in love with one of these men, you better start reading.  Your man and his friends will spend most of their time talking about books, and the movies and t.v. series based on these books.

Reinactment geek:  Many men and women like to dress up and reinact different time periods including but not limited to: the renaissance,  mountain men, civil war, or the SCA, Society of Creative Anachronism.

Hippy geek: These men generally walk around barefoot or wear dreadlocks.  They listen to obscure music.  Many are concerned with peace and justice issues, or the environment. If you don’t recycle or wear hemp fabrics, you may need to start.

All other geeks:  I can’t possibly list all types of geeks here, but it is helpful to know that there are others.

Tip #3 Ask Geeky Questions

If you have identified that the man in which you are interested in, is indeed a geek, start with any of the following questions, filling in the blank for what ever they geek out about:

What is your favorite spell?

Tell me about the last time you leveled up.

Can you tell me a little of the history of the internet?

If a cylon and a storm trooper were to get in a fight, which one would win?

If you were stranded on a desert island, which issue of Iron Man would you have to have with you?

If you were going to a costume party, who would you go as?  If I was going with you, who would you want me to go as? (Slave Girl Leia doesn’t count)

Nerd shirt from ATOB shop on etsy.com. Click on photo to go to their store.

If you could go out to dinner with Neil Gaiman, Gary Gygax’s ghost or Wil Wheaton, who would it be?

Which superpower is the most powerful: teleportation, superspeed, or x-ray vision?

Tip #4 Dress like a Geek

Wear a geeky t-shirt.  Find out what the man you love is into, then buy and wear a t-shirt that speaks to him.  Etsy.comis a great place to look.  Geeky t-shirts are a whole industry.  I guarantee he will notice.

Tip #5 Discretely “Out” Your Geek

Not all geeks are completely “out”.  Some have to hide their geekiness from friends and coworkers.  Start using lines from movies, comic books, or refer to yourself as an elf wizard.  Give your guy permission to make the connection without outing himself to others.

Tip #6 Join a Geeky Group

Get into something geeky.  Geeky realms are usually crawling with men.  There are plenty of women too, but the odds will be in your favor.  Not all geeks live in their parent’s basement.  There are some really great catches out there.  If you haven’t yet identified a geek that you would like to date, choose your geek realm carefully, because you will be spending lots of time talking about this topic, attending conventions and/or ren faires.

Tip #7 Read XKCD

Billed as a webcomic of “romance, sarcasm, math, and language”, this is a comic that most traditional geeks read.  It will certainly earn you brownie points, and give you and overview of some of the nerdier points of geekdom.

Be patient.  While you may be just the woman the geeky man needs, you may not be noticed because of your man’s obsession with his passion.  Join in the geeky fun where you can.  If you don’t get noticed by geek #1, someone else is sure to notice.

XKCD Webcomic. This one is called, "Improvised".

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Planting tomatoes is pretty easy , but there are a few tips to learn to make your planting experience successful.

  • Choosing your plants:  Look for plants that are sturdy without discoloration or spots.  I look for plants that are between six inches and 12 inches tall.  The plant in the following photos is generally bigger than the ones I usualy plant.  But our weather was nasty so it had to stay in the pot longer than I would have liked.  Also, try to avoid plants that already have blooms on them.  If they already have blooms, you will want to pinch them off so the plant can use it’s energy to grow the plant bigger and adjust to its new surroundings.
  • My plants go into raised beds, but you can also plant them directly into the ground or in pots.  If you choose to go the pot route, it should be a very big pot with a minimum of 5 gallons for the determinate plants (the ones that stop growing at a maximum size).  Other, like many of the heirlooms, will require very large pots.
  • If you are short on garden space, consider planting them right in with your flowers.  Tomatoes can add a lot of nice color to your flower beds.
  • Do not plant before your last frost date.  I usually wait about a week longer than that.  Putting your tomatoes out into the cold ground or at risk to frost won’t get you ahead.  I live in Northern Indiana, and I usually plant around May 15th.
  • Plan to plant the tomatoes about 3-4 feet apart. (I am a terrible example.  I always try to squeeze in too many, but I think I pay for it with lower fruit production.)

How to Do the Planting

Step 1: Start with making sure the plants are watered thoroughly before planting.

Step 2: Dig a hole deeper than the plant sat in the pot.

Step 3: Clean up the plant.  Pinch the lower leaves and any that are dried up or otherwise discolored. I always go quite a bit up the stem.

Step 4:  Turn the plant over and push on the bottom of the pot to remove. Very gently tug on the stem if it’s stuck. Also, if you are having any difficulty removing the plant, check the bottom. It could be root bound. If you see little white roots sticking out of the bottom, pinch them off with your fingers.

Step 5: If the roots are at all root bound, gently break them apart a bit before planting.

Step 6: Place the tomato into the hole. The hole should be deeper than the tomato was in the pot. All the fuzzy hairs on the stem are root hairs. Essentially, by planting your tomato deeper, you will be giving your plant a deep tap root. Also, the little hairs will develop into bigger roots.

Step 7:  Fill the hole back in with dirt.

Step 8: Water the plant thoroughly. You can give it a bit of fertilizer or compost. But, don’t overdo it or you will end up with lovely giant plants without a lot of fruit.

A very special thank you to my cooperative hand model, Jeremy.

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As my friends well know, and certainly my husband is keenly aware, I am obsessed with flowers.

Each new week of the spring and summer brings a yearly visit from one or more of my blooming buddies. Most years they come back better and more spectacular than the year before.

Sometimes, I get little starts of plants from people, and I forget that I’ve planted them.

One of my many favorites is the peony.

My mom has always called them my birthday flower, because they bloom right around my birthday.  I love their sweet scent and their giant blooms.  I even kind of like the ants that cover the unopened buds.

Last fall at the Mennonite Relief Sale, I bought a bag of peony starts for just a couple of dollars.  For those of you that know about peonies, they can be quite pricey, so this was a good find.

This spring, as my flowers were coming up, I saw peonies coming up everywhere: in the backyard, by the mailbox, in the front yard, in the front flower bed.  There are about 20 peony plants all of which are ready to bloom!

Another plant that makes me lusty is native columbine.

It is tall and willowy with bright orange and yellow heads. I have never found wild columbine in any of the nurseries I frequent. I’ve never had the opportunity to collect seeds. A few weeks ago, as I was garage saling, one of the garages had a back wall full of them. A nearby house had some starts for sale. I bought them and brought them home. When they bloomed, they were pretty, like the kind at the store, but they were no tall, willowy, orange headed beauties.

*sigh*

All of the pining over the columbine has made my heart all the more achey to have it.

Wednesday night, while I was inspecting my flower beds, I was overcome.

As I was showing Jeremy the weigela that I had cut back, I noticed blooms. They weren’t weigela blooms, but  blooms from a native columbine growing up through the roots.

Hot diggity dog! I did a happy flower jig.

It was a lucky gardener moment.

The native columbine that is growing out of my weigela.

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This week while planting tomatoes and digging in the dirt, I’ve also been digging up old feelings, dreams, and disappointments.

Tomatoes are a running theme in my life.

And I don’t even like tomatoes.

I hate the texture. They taste tart and plain. And to swallow one, gross.

But I love to grow them. At least I think I do. I grow them every year, so I must, right?

For the last 6 years I’ve grown colorful heirloom tomatoes from seed.

There are some bittersweet memories that my new friends and family don’t yet know.   Let’s back up this story.

On June 1, 2005, my thirty-first birthday, my ex-husband and I purchased 22 acres of farm land at an auction. The place was further out from our jobs than we had been looking, but the land was absolutely beautiful. It had rolling hills, some trees, lots of room for pastures and gardens, a nice spot for building a house, and a wetland full of frogs across the road.

I dreamed of being a farmer.

In second grade, I surprised myself with a drawing of a farmer, to the age-old question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Since then, it’s been a dream of mine.

Immediately after the auction. I set out to plan how I could make enough money to live off the land and stay home with my daughter full-time.

I planned the crops that I could grow, and where to market my produce.

I had a goal of setting up a CSA (customer supported agriculture) where customers would come out to the farm to pick up produce once a week. I planned for sheep that we would put on the land, and I started making contacts.

The first year, as our new house was being built, I started about 500 tomato plants in the windows of my downtown house. I rotated the plants several times a day so they would all get enough light. About 300 of the plants made it into the field. By the end of July, I was going to the farmer’s markets with 50 varieties of tomatoes.

On a good day at the market, I would make about $100-$150. That seems pretty good, until you figure the actual time that goes into the whole process. Between weeding, tying up plants, tilling, picking, sorting, sitting at the market, and paying for supplies and market fees, I probably made about $3.50-$5.00 per hour.

The next year, I began selling tomato plants.

The tomatoes grew in little pots, which required lots more time, space, and energy. It’s not easy to fill little plastic pots with dirt and shove a plant in each one. (Okay, so it’s kind of easy, it just takes a lot of time).

It extended my season, and I probably increased my income by about $300 for the year.

While I transplanted baby tomatoes, my daughter played Polly Pockets.

When I weeded in the garden, she made dolls from weeds, and played Marco Polo in the corn. She hated waiting for me to finish my work. And I was too tired and busy to play.

Finally one day I woke up and realized that this dream of mine wasn’t working.

If it was just me, it would be okay to keep trying.

But it wasn’t just me. The main goal of trying to get this farm off the ground and running was so I could spend more time with my daughter. Except that I was spending less time.

My dream isn”t just to be a farmer anymore. My new dream is to be the best mom I can be.

So that final summer before my divorce I let the tomatoes rot in the field.

I planted them.

But I didn’t weed them

I didn’t try to sell any.

The plants just withered away.

The tomatoes rotted, but I didn’t care.

I didn’t care, because the relationship with my daughter didn’t rot.

I dug into finding a job that paid well enough to support her, giving up on my dream of being home with her full-time. A few hours a day with her was better than no time with her.   Any of the farm stuff would be hobby only, and I would only do the parts of it that we liked to do together.

The dream of spending more time with her is still alive.

In fact, I can see myself on the other side of busyness, being able work for myself inside the home, and maybe part-time for others.

The problem is that to get to that point, I have to spend extra energy and time away from her after work to make it happen. It’s really a catch 22.

There are business ideas rattling around in my head and dreamer’s heart.

But I still have a really hard time trusting my judgment. I feel like I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way.  Some of them have felt like bad decisions. But without those mistakes, I suppose I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Being distrustful of my judgement,  doesn’t make the decision process any easier.

I grew tomatoes again this year. I lazily planted them in trays, and kind of neglected them.   I never transplanted them (transplanted plants become sturdier from the stress- another metaphor I suppose.) Some of this year’s tomato plants are wimpy. Some of the didn’t get hardened off enough. I didn’t plant all of my favorite varieties.   To grow tomatoes properly would have required missing out on The Muppet Show with Ellie, or playing that game of Othello, drawing fairies together, or helping her clean her room.

If any of those wimpy tomatoes grow, we’ll take a Saturday to make Salsa as a family.

This summer is shaping up to be a crazy one. If the going gets too tough, I am not opposed to letting the tomatoes rot.

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Memories from my mini years

When I was little, my very first memory was of Mom and Dad and I hanging out in our den listening to John Denver.   My favorites were “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, “Grandma’s Feather Bed”, and “Sunshine on my Shoulders.”  There is no recollection of my brother in this memory, so I was either very little, or I was trying to erase him from my happy memories.

On the first sunny day after a long stretch of gloomy weather,  I am compelled to play “Sunshine on my Shoulders” and sing along. I have to admit, it is one of my top three songs to sing in the shower.

Sunny days should be celebrated and savored like fine wine and dark chocolate.

I love living in Indiana.

I love the people, and the countryside.  I love the wildlife, and the lack of a rat race.  Indiana is a fantastic place to raise a family.  Springtime and summer in Indiana are glorious.  Our falls are drop dead gorgeous.

But, I am so over these cold and grey spring days of May.  It feels like March out there and I don’t know how much more of this I can take before I go bonkers.

I need sunshine, and I need it now.

Juggling challenging people and situations at work, maintaining a balance of mom and not-so-evil step mom, and trying to get some momentum with my photography and writing is enough to cause anyone stress and anxiety.  If only there was a way to reduce the stress.  For me it isn’t shopping, hitting the bars, or running on a treadmill.  Good old fashioned outside chores chase my blues away.

Sunshine and dirt under my fingernails would do a lot to re-energize me.

The Friday before Mother’s Day, when Ellie was with her dad, I went to my favorite greenhouses (one of which is called Das Plantzen Platz or The Plant Place).

I went a little overboard.

This year is the year of the orange flower in my garden.  Three years ago it was purple; last year was bright pink.  This year is bright hot, sunshiny orange.  I have cute orange and purple violas, as well as some plain orange ones.  Snapdragons, one of my many favorites come in orange as well.  We picked out orange poppies, and orange SuperBells.  And soon, my yellow and orange calendula and cosmos will be up.

If I can’t have sunshine on my shoulders, then sunshine in my flowerbeds is the next best thing.

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