Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Time and Energy

Each day starts and we choose how to live it. Certain hours are devoted to sleep; others to work and finally, time to play.

Walking the dogs this morning I was struck at how our choices have changed over the centuries. Reading The Woman in White, nearly all the characters would take time each day for a walk. The expression, Morning Constitutional comes from that I believe. The author clearly valued such behavior, as all the good people were disposed to activity, while the villains were not known for having any physical habits.

It got me to thinking - what do I value? Where do I put my time, money & energy. The recent trip with Marc to attend his step-mother's funeral was a value decision. For me, time with Marc and being with his family during the funeral embodied the value I place on family; I spend my time, energy & money on family.

Likewise, I am invested in our upcoming trip to Peru. Having read about it in the guidebook, researched the guide options and assisted with the deposit. Yet, I realized I've been thinking more about a trip to Alaska. I have always wanted to visit Alaska- see Denali, cross into the Arctic Cirlce and check out the glaciers. That's supposed to be for next summer, yet I'm already there.

On the smaller end, I organize my day to have work time, time for home life (cooking and tending my garden) and time at the gym. I like to have a walk with the dogs. This morning they were running in the sprinklers with the biggest grins on their faces. Funny the sense of accomplishment I felt for giving our dogs that joy. They are family too and I want the best for them.

Watching TV makes me itch - as I can feel time passing and know I'm losing hours that could be spent in more engaging pursuits. I buy audiobooks to both enhance my learning and make use of time in the car that might otherwise be lost. At times, I realize I get compulsive about it all. I schedule these things - in the last few years, I've tried to get to Boston & Austin to see friends & family on an every other year schedule.

But then I think, yes I am compusive, yet those I'm visiting don't do the same. And I start to think and look at where those around me put their time, energy and money. They make the same choices I do each day, maybe not as compulsively analyzied, yet they are the same choices. Who should I see? How should I spend my paycheck? What show should I watch? What book to read? Gym or Work? And then I step back and compare. If I'm investing me into these things, shouldn't others be matching me?

Where do you put your resources? What does that say about you and your values?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Garden Report

Today I took to the tomatoes. They had grown taller than me - really, a tomato plant that was over 5'9"! However the plants slumped this weekend. I blame it on the wind that was blowing this weekend. The gusts pushed & tossed my vines, so that they are now expanding. In an effort to trim the fabulous five plants back a bit, I tried to take off all non-flowering, non-tomato producing growth. It was a herculean task and the entire creation still appears to be flopping about. There are flowers on nearly every stalk as well as little tomatoes and bigger green tomatoes.

On Monday I was tending them and found the first red cherry tomato. I took it in, showed it to Marc and then enjoyed it. The rest of the tomatoes are stubbornly holding on to their Green like Irish on St. Patty's Day. I check daily for any signs of red within the expanding green mass. Each day I'm disappointed. How could there be just one red tomato? Wouldn't it have little tomato-mates that grew with it? If so, they are well hidden among the rich smelly branches.

On sadder note, I had to pull up yet another broccoli plant. I feel so bad. I helped created these plants. I put them in the ground and encouraged them to take root. But, after they didn't perform, I have cruelly removed them from the plot - in a plan to make way for more productive things. I'm making the garden for growth and yet I reap and destroy plants in the process.

Back to the good news... the Zucchini plant is thriving. I've got a think - we're talking over 1.5 inches in diameter think - zucchini growing with two following closely. I think I'll harvest this round on Friday for dinner - we'll have Zucchini & steak and corn. And there's a fleet of little pre-zucchinis waiting their turn to grow big & sweet.

The corn plants have shot up and are now working hard on their ears. I don't know when to harvest and am trying to find that information on the web. Similarly, I'm trying to figure out why my cauliflower hasn't done its thing and grown a head either.
Here's the instructions:
Step 4: Keep cauliflower plants evenly moist; especially when they're small, they need about 1 inch of water a week, whether from rain or the garden hose.
Step 5: Start the blanching process when the flower head (also called a curd or button) is about the size of an egg. Make sure neither it nor the foliage is wet; otherwise the plant may rot. Loop heavy twine around the leaves, gently lift them up and tie them together. The aim is to keep light and moisture out, but to let air in and also leave room for the flower to grow inside its shelter.

Do you notice some dramatic lack of information... I put the plants into the ground and have been waiting for the head/curd/button... for naught. There's no indication of time. But I did realized the first paragraph states, "Though it's a cool-season vegetable, it can't tolerate weather that's too hot or too cold" Cool-Season veg - like growing it in 90+ degree heat might now work? I'll feel so sad pulling it out. I was just rejoicing my victory over the caterpillars - they seem to have disappeared.

Now, I did see a little something that made me happy:
Their mission: "Inspiring communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time."
Pretty neat - I wonder how that might get going in my community.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Adult life in the 'burbs

At 9 months, my parents moved me & my brother to an Eichler settlement in Palo Alto, CA. As long as I could remember, our house was fire engine red with white trim. The house had few windows on the front and was a wall of plate glass in the back.

Eichlers were mass produced homes built in the 1950's for solders to move into with their young wives to raise their families. My house had 4 bedrooms, 2 baths and atrium with the most prolific lemon tree, the kitchen that opened in to the diningroom and a living room. All that was tucked into less than 2000 sq. ft, single story, detached house. The walls were thin and I'm still amazed I was able to sneak out at night without my mom knowing.

About 5 blocks from home was the Eichler Swim & Tennis club. Our little club had maybe 6 tennis courts, probably only 4; one big pool with 5 or 6 lanes and a deep bit off the laned portion that went to 10 ft deep and had a diving board. There was the baby pool which we grew out of but took over on occasion. 6 of us could get in and circle around the small round pool, creating a whirlpool. When the water started to splash out the sides the life guards often noticed and kicked us out. Fifteen minutes of every hour was Adult Swim when we all would like on the cement drying off, letting the adults have a chance to enjoy the water without their little ones clinging to them.

Fast forward 25 years and I'm again living in a housing development. Only this time the homes are built on an entirely different scale. Marc's house is over 3000 sq ft. We have 4 bedrooms, but 3.5 baths - with the master bath being bigger than the bedroom I had when growing up. The upstairs has the bedrooms, a loft area, laundry and a high, double height section. The ground floor has the gourmet kitchen, breakfast room, den, living room (we call that the library) and then the garage. Everything is bigger than my little place in Palo Alto.

The bigness extends to the neighborhood. The parks are bigger and more abundant. My new club - it isn't just swim & tennis, but also a gym, childcare, basketball courts and spa. Their are at least a dozen tennis courts - some are even covered in this massive dome thing. The pools are bigger - 2 hot tubs (one is adults only), the family pool with the baby pool attached, the lap pool with 6 lanes and then a covered lap pool that gets used for aquasize. The changing room has showers, lockers, a sauna & steam room. The cars in the lot are bigger - though that has more to do with the migration of sububan moms from volvo station wagons to Bloated Land-ships. The people also seem bigger, but maybe that's just my being judgemental.

I'm not sure bigger is better. I do feel a twang of guilt when we close the windows against the 100 degree heat and enjoy the airconditioning - another feature missing from my childhood home. I appreciate the yardage of counter space in the kitchen, yet could do without the breakfast nook. Where does it stop? Our massive over consuption - I'm living it. Get me some solar panels!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Garden Update

The latest garden dispatch contains sad news. I had to pull out 1/2 of my broccoli plants. I didn't realize they were ready for harvest. Their buds were so small, just bigger than a ping-pong ball. So I didn't think that they were ready for harvesting. Then they flowered. I thought that odd, as I hadn't expected the broccoli to flower before growing its head. When checking the wise internet, I learned that they had gone to far and were no longer useful. I pulled them up.

The seedlings I planted will soon be big enough to go in and fill up their gaps. One of the beet-lings has two red-stemmed growths and one green. I'm not 100% sure what will grow or why these other seeds are sprouting. Maybe this is why one is supposed to use that special, sterilized soil when getting seeds to sprout. Hmm will have to consider that in the future.

On a brighter note, I found green tomatoes tucked away in the massive tangle of greenery in my veggie plot. They are bright green and one is nearly the size of a gypsy pepper. I can't wait for them to get some red streaks and start to change into something edible. Checking on them scents my hands with that fantastic tomato plant smell. Every day I poke my head around there.

The zucchini plant has done so well since getting moved to a pot. It has produced a 7 inch zucchini and a 4 inch baby zucchini. I'm trying so hard not to pick them - instead letting them keep growing. The whole thing seems like magic. How did I get so disconnected from my food?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

DIY Triathlon

So Shawn invited me to join her on her next triathlon. I'm considering it. I went out and blew $200 on gear - swimsuit, bike shorts, swim cap & goggles (plus an ultralight fleece that was on sale). The bike shorts were deemed mandatory when Marc & I did a 10 mile, hellish ride the other night just to get some cardio in. Fifty minutes later I was barely able to walk, embarrassed at my exceedingly slow time and unable to sit down either. No fun, got me a bit concerned about doing this tri.

Friday I bought the suit and friday night I did an 8 pm swim. I did 20 laps of a 25 meter pool. I was able to swim some 1250 meters or what one tri training schedule suggested for a swim. It took a little under 30 minutes and I wasn't impressed, dark sky, cool water, shivers to-from the locker room.

Despite the not so successful start to my triathlon training, I decided to have an informal triathlon today. My desire to test my abilities combined with a why-is-the-scale-going-up? moment has spurred me to burn more calories that I intake, by a factor of 100%.

Here are the results:
7 mile hike - 2:33 - 748 calories - mind you, this was with the dogs and Zoe was taking every opportunity to lay down in the shade to rest, I also had to pull burrs from Tsui's paws several times and prevent Austin from mauling every dog we passed.
10 mile bike - 40:50 - 458 calories - this was on the expresso bike machine. I think I did pretty good. The new bike pants were a saving grace. Now,
1 mile swim - 36:45 - 474 calories - Calorie count based on random website.

Total Time: 3 hrs 50 min with 1680 calories burned.
While the Sprint I'm training for is .5 mi swim, 20 mi bike and 4 mi run - I did try to balance out the exercises, as there was no 20 mile bike option for the stationary bike and I have no bike.

However, the walking in the sun with the breeze and views delighted me. The bike ride challenged me and had me sweating. The swim felt fantastic with sun and water. I'm thinking that I might look at getting a bike soon.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


I'm reading a book on Time. The interested came about after reading a book on life in England in the year 1000. Life back then didn't have clocks. The church didn't have a tower with time - those arrived in the 1300's. Days were marked by sunrise, noon and sunset. There were sun-dials that created hours as divisions of the day that changed as the seasons changed. In the summer, hours were longer, in the winter, they were shorter. If one woke in the dark, s/he had no way of knowing if dawn were almost there or if they had been sleeping for merely an hour. I find it nearly unfathomable.

My first thought, "How could two people meet for lunch?" and then I realized, there were no restaurants, so meeting for lunch wasn't going to be a concern. Hmm, life existed before lunch dates?

Speaking of noon, we have standardized noon. Before we divided the world into time zones, every town had noon on their own - why not? Was noon anything other than when the sun was highest overhead? Yet, as we now are divided, from Las Vegas to San Francisco our watches read 12:00 and the sun may not be at its highest point over head. We switched from sun time to clock time.

Clock time marks our days, for those of us raised in the digital age, imaging all towns setting the clock over their town hall to be noon at the local, sun-time of noon seems absurd. Yet, as recently as 75 years ago, that was the way it worked. The trains were the stimulus for the change to time zones. Think, if a train was leaving San Francisco at 12 noon and had a 10 hour journey to Las Vegas, when would it arrive? How would the stations along the way - each with their individual setting of the hour know when the train should arrive? Say the train reached Fresno after 4 hours - would it be 4 PM or something possibly later (as Fresno is father east, it would, presumably, have time running slightly ahead of San Francisco).

Only in the first quarter of the last century did people start to wear watches. This came about during WWI - as soldiers were issued wristwatches so that they might better sync up. Along with watches came migration and movement... the trains would have the say. They divided up the country so that they could make arrival and departure schedules. The time of sun defined noon came to a close.

It would be only a matter of years before the move from sun-time to clock-time was complete. Think, man started to mark the days with the sun dial - giving days divisions: night, before noon, noon and afternoon with changing hours. Then the clock was invented - a means to produce a regular marking of time developed in the 1300's and then hours were no longer divisions of the day, but independent. They were X-number of clicks of the clock. The day soon was divided into 24 equal hours - no longer 12 hours for the time when the sun was up & 12 hours of darkness. Now the hours were independent from the days. As the clocks progressed we got minutes - in the 1600's there were 4 divisions in the hour. But 1800 there were 60 minutes in the hour. By 1900, there could be 60 seconds within the minute. As our clocks developed, so did our divisions of time. Yet until 1967, the second was a division of a day: 1/86,400 (60 sec x 60 min x 24 hours).

In 1967 the second changed. From a part of a day, it was modified to a definition I can't quite understand:
"Since 1967, the International System of Units has defined the second as the duration of 9,192,631,770 cycles of radiation corresponding to the transition between two energy levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom. This definition makes the caesium oscillator (often called an atomic clock) the primary standard for time and frequency measurements."
Thank you Wikipedia.

Evidently, we cannot trust our second as a division of day, as the earth's day isn't quite the same. At some points in the trek around the sun, we spin faster or slower. Who knew?

Seeing the history of the hour, I realize how arbitrary my watch is. A part of me longs to return to the time we woke when the sun rose and retired as it set. Hard for many to understand me saying that, with my history of all-night parties, I know. But noon should be when the sun is highest. Sunrise should start the day. Why complain about the change in time from day light savings? The sun still comes up regardless of whether we call it 6 am or 7.

Not that I believe we could run our nuclear lives on solar settings.

Garden Update

Last week I harvested the collard greens and realized that I have reaped all the quick growing plants. Now I have to wait until the tomatoes, corn, peppers, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccolli and zucchini flower and bear fruit. That is going to take a while. My Farm Fresh To You newsletter noted that they are having great success with their tomatoes this season. That each week they grow another 10 inches or so. Soon though, the plants will stop their skyward trek and funnel their energy into making their red bounty. I cannot wait!

Until then, I'm doing daily caterpillar checks and giving some extra water to the relocated cucumber & zucchini. I took time this afternoon to dig my hands into the worm farm. I tried my best to harvest a bit of the poop - got about 2 cups worth. I mixed that with the organic soil and filled up the little containers I bought the other plants in. Into them I mixed seeds for arugula, onion and beets. Tuesday, after work, I hope to drop by the Plant Mart at the junction of 101 & 280 and get more seeds. I need leeks, green beans and potatoes. I may have to order the potatoes online.

The garden grows abundantly. It feels like god is smiling on my veggie patch.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Utterly Fantastic

Mark Moford's column today - totally fantastic and not just because I can say that I know the guy. I'd like to say he's a friend, but with public figures who are smart and nice - I'm not sure that his willingness to talk to me at parties and return my emails qualifies as friendship. If I keep stalking him at his yoga class, maybe that will help - or just create a fun plot line for a cringe sit-com.

Art Jazz Lit Obama

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

As so many children, I've read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The story of the little guy green, mulit-footed critter who eats and eats and eats. I thought it was just a quaint tale to tell the little ones so that if they found a caterpillar in the garden, they'd know that the creepy crawly thing would eventually become a butterfly. A story to help train little minds into sympathetic and educated adults I did not realize it was a factual story.

But then, my collard greens were suddenly filled with holes. It was the Pearl Harbor of critter attacks. One day we're playing ball and having a good time, the next we're under fire from little green monsters who eat and eat and eat! My response was worth of a hunt the monster video game - picking off caterpillars of all sizes and dropping them into soapy water. But then I felt bad - killing the unlucky loopers (the ones I have are called, Green Loopers). So then I took to launching them into bushes that have leaves I was not inclined to eat and I felt marginally better.

Not only were they eating my collard greens, broccoli leaves and cauliflower leaves, they were eating my ego too. All while I was in England, there was a bit of gnawing away at my brain. Before leaving, I asked one of the nice people doing dog sitting shifts (we had three lovely ladies help us out -more on that later) to check my plants for caterpillars. I do think I'm strange - asking someone to go on a caterpillar hunt.

My only solace came from Tiger the cat. As she favors the silver moth as a toy. I realized this was one giant cycle. The moth lays its eggs on my plants, my plants serve as host to their babies and then my cat toys and kills the adults (too bad not before they lay their eggs). Mother Nature has such a sadistic streak in her!

Yesterday, I couldn't take it any longer. I harvested the Collard Greens. They got cooked in garlic, olive oil and lemon. Since they came from my veggie plot, they tasted better. However, I did have to wash them twice and do an extra find check to see that the little green guys weren't hitching a ride into the cauldron of boiling water that I put the leaves in. I let Marc know that I could say, with 95% confidence, that his dinner was caterpillar free. Good thing Tiger doesn't have to make that statement.

Time to go and do my morning sweep for Caterpillars to prevent them eating their way into the heads of cauliflower.