Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Garden Starting Shortcuts

As a passionate, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gardener, I love starting seeds each spring. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment to know that I grew many of my garden plants "from scratch."

The thing is, all the gardening books make seed starting sound SO hard. You have to use special seed-starting mix. Then you plant them in trays watch carefully for each seeding to form two leaves. Then you carefully scoop out each seedling and transplant it into a pot. Then you transplant it again into your garden.

Bah, I say. That's way too much work.

Through trial and error, I've discovered a wonderful system that allows you to plant once, and then transplant straight to your garden when the weather is warm enough.

The secret is to save the little plastic six packs (or larger) that already-started plants come in at the nursery. When you plant your annuals this spring, be gentle when you remove them from the plastic pack. Wash those suckers up and save them for next year. The packs are perfect because they are little self-contained cups with built-in drainage holes.

Then go to a local garden shop or a WalMart and get yourself a couple of plastic gardening trays. They are about 10x15 inches and solid plastic. Here, they set you back about 99 cents.

When you're ready to start the seeds, mix up some regular old potting soil (I use Miracle-Gro) with some peat moss. I make my mix about half and half; the peat moss serves to lighten the soil just a bit to make root development easier on the plants.

Then fill all your little cups with soil, and put them in your plastic trays. The plastic trays are essential to this step. Stick your seeds in the soil, and mist with a spray bottle. Then add an inch or so of water to the plastic trays - so that the cups are sitting in the water. The dirt, and eventually the plant roots, will suck up the water through the holes in the bottom of the cups. Makes keeping the soil moist a breeze.

Cover the whole shebang with some clear plastic wrap and place in a sunny window. You can also use a florescent lamp to encourage growth. I use an old florescent desk lamp that we had hanging around the house.

In about three days, you should see sprouts, and as your plants grow, remove the plastic wrap. Keep watering by adding water to the trays, and let them grow away! You may need to thin the plants in the cups, but that is easy to do by just clipping off the weaker seedlings.

When it's time to put your plants in the garden, you have an easy time of it. Just pop the well-rooted seedlings out of the cups and go to town! It's like having a garden center on your back porch, and that works for me.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Out of the Loop

This just goes to show how far removed I am from popular culture:

My friend went to college with the three ladies who have started this company. They sell fancy underwear that is packaged (with a personal freshness wipe) in a little case that looks like a passport.

Their website lists a variety of uses for such pre-packaged panties, including a "hot date for cocktails after a hard day's work." I had no idea that women needed fresh underwear in order to drink a martini. But then again, I don't drink, so what do I know?

Seriously, I wish these ladies well and hope their business takes off. I guess I just don't get it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Today, I ate my leftover stuffed cabbage all by myself. I didn't share my lunch with anyone.

Today, I failed.

My friend Maria stopped by the church unexpectedly around noon today, with her new boyfriend. They are moving in together, if they can scrape up the deposit for the apartment.

I met Maria through the church. She used to come in to help her mother quilt on Thursdays, but spent most of her time visiting with me in the church office. She helped with office work, helped watch my son, even stayed over at my house a few times.

When she went to her senior prom, I volunteered to do her hair and makeup, and made a gift of the cosmetics.

When Maria graduated high school, she had a career all lined up. She was a certified nurse assistant, and had secured a well-paying, health-insurance-providing job at a local nursing home. Things looked good for Maria.

Then she met a man, and followed him around the country. She was fired from her job. Her upright, Chrisitian parents didn't approve, so she moved out.

She's spent the last year living in squalor, subsisting on food donations and soup kitchen meals, wearing clothes gleaned from other people's trashcans.

When she and her boyfriend showed up, I was glad to see them. They were filthy, and I'd just put Tom down for a nap, but I invited them in. We chatted. Then her boyfriend said that he was going to have to pawn the gold necklace Maria had bought him two days ago for his birthday, because they had no food and hadn't eaten today.

"You haven't eaten all day?" I asked. (I can't even imagine no food all day.)

"Well, we haven't been eating very well lately," Maria admitted. She said she's been passing out a lot, but she doesn't know why.

My lunch - uneaten - was in a bag on the counter behind me. I thought about giving it to them, but I didn't.

I looked at Maria with her greasy hair and filthy nails and heard the words of Jesus in my head:

Whatsoever you do unto the least of my people, you have done unto me.

And I did nothing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Very Hungry Mommy

In the light of the moon, a Mommy lay in bed, awake and starving. Stealthily, she crawled out of bed and went in search of something good to eat.

At 10 p.m., she ate through one bowl of cereal, but she was still hungry.

At 1 a.m., she ate through two Girl Scout Samoas cookies, but she was still hungry.

At 3 a.m., she ate through three bowls of fruit salad, but she was still hungry.

At 5 a.m., she ate through four Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, but she was still hungry.

At 7 a.m., she ate through one bowl of cereal, one banana, one piece of cinnamon toast, one low-fat string cheese, one glass of orange juice and one cup of green tea. And she didn’t even have a stomachache!

Now she wasn’t a little Mommy anymore – she was a big, fat, mommy.

But she was still hungry.

My apologies to Eric Carle.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

No Means No

A play about a mother’s spiral into insanity at the hands of her toddler son.

Mama: Loving, but frazzled, hugely pregnant twenty-something mother.
Tom: Spirited, intelligent, pre-lingual eighteen-month-old boy.

Act I

At Rise: (A bathroom somewhere in Pennsylvania. It is dawn. Mama is brushing her teeth at the sink. From offstage she hears the sound of the refrigerator door opening and closing. Toddler son, Tom, appears in bathroom lugging 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola.)

Tom: (Holding bottle out to Mama)
Ugh ugh ugh!

Mama: No Tom, that’s Mama’s juice. Tom may not have that juice.

Tom: (Making drinking motion with bottle)
Ugh ugh ugh!

Mama: (Sighing)
Mama said no.

Tom: (Running out of bathroom and sliding down the stairs, still clutching bottle)
Ugh ugh ugh!

Mama: (Following Tom downstairs into the kitchen, sees that Tom has found a cup and is holding both the Coke and the cup out to her.)
I know that you want that juice, Tom, but you may not have it.

Tom: (Making the American Sign Language sign for please)
Ugh, ugh, ugh!

Mama: (Gets apple juice from fridge.)
Here Tom, you may have this juice.

Tom: No, no, no!

Mama: (Giving in)
Ok Tom. Let's compromise.
(Mama fills Tom’s cup with water and adds a splash of Coke for color.)
Here. You may have some of Mama’s juice.

Tom: No, no, no!
(Falls to floor, crying and kicking. Will not take cup.)
No, no, no!

(Tom continues kicking and crying inconsolably. Mama sighs and pours Coke down the drain to avoid further conflict. Lights fade.)

Act II

At Rise: (Brightly-lit kitchen. Tom is sitting in his highchair playing with his spoon and awaiting his breakfast.)

Mama: Here’s your waffle, Tom.

Tom: (Crying)
No, no, no!
(Stuffs waffle greedily in mouth.)
No, no, no!

Mama: (Sighs.)

(Lights fade.)


At Rise: (Administrative office of a church, drab, full of filing cabinets. It is lunchtime. Brightly colored children’s toys are scattered on the floor.)

Mama: Tom, it’s time for lunch. Let’s heat up your soup. Do you want to push the buttons on the microwave?

Tom: (Carrying bowl of soup and running towards the microwave)
No, no, no!
(He begins crying.)

Mama: Tom, do you want to help Mama? Give Mama the soup.

Tom: (Wailing)
No, no, no!

Mama: Here, let me help you.
(Attempts to pick up Tom, but he slides to the floor, tears streaming down his face. He kicks the floor.)

Tom: No, no, no!

(Mama heats soup, and Tom calms enough to climb into his highchair, where he proceeds to eat with gusto.)

Mama: Tom, do you want some cornbread?

Tom: (Reaches for cornbread.)
No, no, no!

(Lights fade.)