Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Turning off the I'M SO HAPPY in the name of good old fashioned bitching

Yeah. I know. My I'M SO HAPPY LOOK AT ME WITH ALL MY PLANTS WOO didn't go over so hot with you people.

I understand. It IS more fun when I bitch and am not annoyingly aglow with happiness and shit.

And so thank god there's Michaels.

Yeah, never thought I'd ever say that sentence either. For the same reason YOU never say, "Thank god there's Michaels." and that is because the place fucking sucks. 

Like in the actual real sense of the word, "sucks", because it sucks the ever-loving life force right out of you just thinking of going into the store. Does it not?

I know it does for me.   

And then there's the actual going INTO the store and then shopping there and then trying to find something that YOU KNOW they have because you've bought it from them before but OH they've decided to rearrange the store in order to make room for the all-encompassing Christmas bullshittery that has expanded into every corner of the store regardless of the time of year and you can't find it but for the searching to the bone you're doing and you'll be good god damned if you're going to ask any of their homicidal/suicidal/hating the ground you stand on "customer service associates" since they don't know anything more than when their next break is so all they're going to tell you is that they "don't carry that. Sorry." as they jam a cigarette into the corner of their mouth and eyeball the front door.

Yeah. You see what I'm getting at here. This is a rant about Michaels, which I believe should be "Michael's", with an apostrophe indicating possession because I doubt there's a big group of men named Michael all bought in on this one soul-crushing craft store chain, but whatever. That's just one reason that this store may be the first one in the history of my shopping to have all of its employees punched in the face during a single one of my visits and I'd feel fully justified in doing so just for not being able to use an apostrophe like a normal person.

Let's take last Sunday, for example.

I needed some small Kraft paper envelopes, handled boxes and some plastic zipper bags for an event I'm doing next weekend and they're the only ones in the whole wide world who typically carry these things aside from Amazon where I wouldn't be able to lay my hands on the items to make sure that they were the right dimensions, etc. 

So, over the course of the week leading up to the weekend, I came to terms with the fact that I was going to have to go to Michaels. 


Drags a person down, that thought. I mean, the word, "dread", doesn't even begin to cover it.

So, I did what any normal person would do - I hunted for any possible way to avoid having to go to Michaels. 

I contemplated just buying Ziploc bags at the grocery store. I considered taking two of my products off the roster for the upcoming event. I thought about driving Duchess into a bridge abutment. 

You know - the normal things you might do to avoid having to do something that you know you're going to hate.

Alas, I made it to Sunday - my last possible day to get this done before the busy work/school/work some more week began - without procuring my supplies by any alternate means.

I became sad. Despondent. Pathetic, if we're being honest. And then when Bubba so kindly offered to take us to lunch, I asked if he would be willing to make an extra stop on the way home. 

"Uh...what's the stop?", he asked with eyes darting to the exits.

"Well, you don't have to go in. Just wait for me in the parking lot. I just need to run in for three things really quick.", as I smile innocently all the while knowing that Michaels is to him what Fry's is to me. Which is to say that it is the most annoying pile of shit with a lid on it that's sure to break your spirit and send you home bald from the hair ripping.  

"Uh...what's the stop?" 

He was on to me. I had to just give in. Say it all casually as though I hadn't just prefaced the stop with an offer to just stay in the car.

"Oh, just Michaels, babe. But you don't have to go in."

I am pretty sure I saw his gag reflex activate.

"Uh, no thank you." Smart man, that Bubba.

"Yeah. I don't want to go either. Fuck it. Let's not go. I'll figure something else out. I hate it there so much. I'll go later by myself so that the murder/suicide rampage I'm sure to go on won't also be on your shoulders."

Well, long story shortish - we went.

And it was awful.

They had full shelves of every kind of handled box EXCEPT the color I needed. No, that shelf was completely bare bones empty because they can't stock the store for shit and you can't find anyone to get a stock box down from the tippy top shelf unless you have the gall to start dragging over one of their rolling ladders and then they'll just have you arrested for...I don't know...ladder hijacking.

They did have the Kraft envelopes that I needed, so I hungrily grabbed three packages of them because I knew KNEW that next time I came back they'd be all, "No, ma'am - we've never carried anything like that. Are you sure you're not looking for a really expensive and shittily constructed custom picture frame? Because those are over there in the Christmas section that's all around you." Then when I got to the cash register, after wading through the queue lined with candy from the 1900s and Cheap Crap Bonanza items, I realized that because they can't stock their shelves for shit, the middle package of envelopes I was holding was neon green instead of Kraft colored because they can't stock their shelves for shit, etc.

Then there were the bags. OH THE MOTHER FUCKING BAGS.

People, they're just clear plastic zipper bags. They're not fancy. They come 100 to a package, they're, like, 5"x8" or something and they've always been in the aisle with the adhesives and shit (though, why?) hanging there in 6 or so sizes. 

It's historically been the easy part of my hell trips to Michaels. I save "Get bags" for last on my shopping list because at least that way I'll have something to look forward to after fumfering around the fucking store for 45 minutes looking for something they should totally have but apparently don't, like a small wooden crate (which they now stock, by the way) or small glass jars with cork stoppers. 

But now they've taken this away from me, too, along with my spirit, sanity and faith in humanity. 

To say that I went on a ranting, raving, arm-throwing, aggravated stomp through the store looking angrily and aggressively for the bags/a person to punch in the throat is only a minor exaggeration. I mean, it was basically all of that without the arm-throwing because I was carrying everything else I'd rustled up and I sure as shit wasn't going to lose it and have to go back for it. 

Oh no. 

Finally, after many trips up and down all the aisles it SHOULD have been in, then the aisles parallel to those aisles and then the aisles where it's NEVER been - I finally spotted the bags on a sort of corner end cap next to the wedding stuff.

Because apparently all brides-to-be need a wide selection of clear plastic zipper bags from which to choose. For their wedding. OF COURSE WHATEVER JUST GIVE ME THE FUCKING BAGS LET'S GO.

But no. Nothing was hanging in the right spot, so I had to check the actual bags for sizes and then settle for the one bag of the right size that had a ripped open package because it was the only one left in The Store That No One Stocks UGH.


I stood in line for a while, as one always does at Michaels, and to the tune of every Muzak version of soft rock song from the 80s, I contemplated this shitshow that they like to call "Where Creativity Happens".

You know what kind of creativity happens here, for me?

I imagine creating nooses out of festive fake autumn leaf garlands. 

I fantasize about crafting gallows out of balsa wood and decorating them with all of the horrifically pungent faux flower arrangements garishly stuffed into the aisles where real shit that people want to buy should be and then marching the employees down said gallows to their merciless deaths.

I visualize burying the staff in overpriced Martha Stewart hole punches and wine tasting party glass markers and four-to-a-package notecards for $25 and making them beg for their lives while I stand over them on a pedestal constructed from stacked $1 bins waving their biggest metal knitting needles.

I also think about building a fort out off all of the off-brand old-timey candy boxes in the checkout line (Rootbeer barrels? Ribbon candy? Oh, really.), lying down and taking a nap in the inexplicably empty shelves and riding the rolling ladder to freedom - just so that you don't think I'm a total psycho.

I mean, I would never do bodily harm to someone in the name of hating a store, but MAN DO I GET CLOSE at Michaels.

So close, in fact, that I'm sure that one day I'll be able to come home and tell Bubba, "Bubba - I just punched everyone in the face at Michaels." 

And he'll just nod knowingly and give me a high five. 

Phew. I feel better. You feel free to release your Michaels demons, too, now.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Holy hell - it's a gardenblahblahblah post

Yeah, so this year's summer garden is HOLY HELL YEAH.

Mostly because of the peppers.

People - this has been my best pepper year in...ever.

I mean, yes, I did plant 4X more peppers than I usually do, but I did that because my pepper plants usually struggle and get all lanky and don't do much more than pop loose a few fruit somewhere around the end of the summer and I get all WHOOPY THERE'S ONE FUCKING PEPPER YAY and then it's over.


I mean, usually, I'm sitting by the plant(s) waiting for it to produce, like, two more peppers so that I can have enough to can ONE jar of peperoncini, and then that one jar comes and goes and I wonder why I even bother with peppers at all.

So, I'll just have the one sandwich then, I guess.

Until this year.

Dudes. This year has been crazy with the peppers. And I haven't even harvested any of the many habaneros just a'dangling from the plants.

Prepare thyself for MOUTH MELTING HEAT.
If you want to get all technical, you can plainly see exactly how many peppers I've harvested on the good ole Finny Gardens tracker, but since that only shows what's been harvested up to the date that I last had five minutes to sit down and add in the tallies, it's not the whole story.

Once upon a time... a garden not so far away...

...there was a pepper showing me its ass...

...some peppers dangling from their branches all sexy like...

...some of them were loners...

...but mostly there were just ONE MILLION OF THEM HOLY HELL.

No. The whole story is WHOA and for the Pepper WHOA, I'd like to thank straw.

Add straw to beds...


Yeah - the straw mulch that I used this year, spread at least an inch thick over all the bare soil in my garden, has worked some serious wonders with pretty much everything it's touched.

Moisture kept in the ground, soil kept warm, weeds kept THE FUCK OUT, homes for spiders - it's good times with the straw.

Also - fertilizing with the worm casting tea on a monthly schedule has been pretty yay, too.

Have I told you that I love my worms? Because I do. They poop a lot and eat a lot and if they had fur, I'd bring them in the house and let them use Jada's dog bed because they'd basically be the same animal.

You're dead to me, mom.

OK, no, that makes no sense, but what I'm saying is that I'd like to cuddle the worms because they deserve it. They're hard workers and their hard work is making the garden super rad this year.

So rad, in fact, that I'm considering ditching both of my composters and expanding my worm empire with a much larger worm bin set up where the composters are because the worm's results from food scraps are way more impressive than the composters'.

But whatever - you didn't come here to listen to me talk about poop. Or did you? Because, no. That's weird.

The gardenblahblahblah! Let's do that...

The tomatoes. Yes - they're happening. They've happened. They're going to happen a little bit more and then I'm going to rip them the fuck out and put in kale and onions.

Meanwhile, the three varieties I planted this year all did well, though some markedly better than others.

The Better Boys did well as always, but not as prolific as previous years because I put them in the garden's least productive spot. In the back where they get the least amount of sun. But they handled it, so nice going fellas.
The Jaune Flamme, last year's surprise hit, did super well and put out probably 1/2 of all of the tomato yield I've harvested so far. Effing prolific if you ask me. Also, remind me to tell you about how orange tomatoes are ripe tomatoes. Oh, I just did. So, just a note to you all, because some people don't get it, orange tomatoes are not under ripe - they're just orange. Don't be dumb.

Ah, the Paul Robeson. This is a glorious tomato. Tastes like a fucking savory tomato dream. It's not super prolific in the producing department, but it's damn tasty. And HUGE. I will probably grow this guy again because WOW it was delicious. Like, on par with the Pink Brandywine to which I pledged my eternal loyalty. Whoops.
But that was it for tomatoes. Just the one bed, three plants, and so far about 70 pounds' worth. There's still more out there  (oh boy howdy is there), so I suspect we'll close in on 100 pounds soon enough.

Yeah. I see you working.

Beyond the tomatoes, I grew beans as always, though this year I also grew the not-pole-type-even-though-I-was-sure-they-were Cannellini beans that are dry and ready for winter soup and stew cooking in my cupboard right now.

I also grew the Forte pole beans, which were good as usual and provided the atmosphere in the garden what with their handsome galvanized Bubba-built tepee.

At least the tepee looks good.

I grew a new variety of watermelon that sucked ass, even though I did get to enjoy one fruit off of the thing before giving up completely. I'm going back to Moon and Stars melons next year because this shit with the only-producing-a-few-tiny-fruits thing is not for me. Especially not when I give the thing half a bed of gorgeous soil and it sorta looks around and goes, "Meh."


And then there were the muther effing cucumbers.

Holy hell

Ah, so pretty and innocent.


But oh so cute.

Innocently dangling


Would you like some cucumbers? Because I have a few extra.
People, I'm good on cucumbers for a while. Like, I may not even miss pickles by the time we get to next spring so I may not even be hovering over the raised beds with the cucumber seeds pinched between my anxious fingers waiting for the soil to warm up to the point where I can finally AT LONG LAST AND SHIT plant the new season's cucumbers for pickles.

Seriously. That's how many pickles I've made and eaten this year. I feel hypertension coming on.

This pretty photo will comfort me when I can no longer bend my fingers due to the swelling

This is, like, 1/100th of the pickles I've eaten this year.

Then there's the impromptu squash patch that I threw together in the front yard when my Meadow Clean Up resulted in some unsightly bald spots that I felt would be better filled with squash.

Somewhat less unsightly.

So, I planted two pumpkins (gifted from a friend), a zucchini, a Delicata and a spaghetti squash (gifted from the neighbor) and everything gave up and dwindled except the zucchini which has been surprisingly under control. Which I suspect is a result of the lack of watering I gave all of the plants. Which is probably the reason why the whole Squash In The Front Yard experiment, like, barely worked.

For the first time, a CUTE zucchini plant. In no way scary.

But, I got a few zucchini and I'm not running around frantically trying to figure out what to do with them, so that's a nice change.

OH! And we got hops. Hops from our first year rhizomes totalled out at around 2 dry ounces, which isn't bad for three baby rhizomes that looked like dead sticks when I put them in the soil back in the early part of the year.

The Cascades were...CASCADING. Yes. That's cheesy.

But, come on. They were.

Kind of amazing that this dries down to just 2 ounces, but I'll take it.

That's enough to brew one five gallon keg of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone, so I'm good with it. Plus, I have a lot more than that from my hopyard at school, so we're in the black when it comes to hops.

Which barely makes sense when I read that back to myself, but I'm not changing it because it's already typed and WHOOPSY moving on...


We also had a lot of basil this year. And those purpley and specialty types of basil (lettuce leaf, Thai, etc) that always sorta hang around doing nothing and not growing to any impressive degree, have actually done quite a lot this year.

See? I can be awesome, too. Jerk.

Italian Large Leaf transplanted from my hydro leftovers



Purple Ruffles

Lettuce Leaf

Lettuce Leaf - clearly showing off.

I'm into it.

Also, I'm into the 8+ pounds of Concord grapes we had, the millions of pounds of huge tomatillos from which I made and canned many jars of Salsa Verde, the handfuls of kumquats that I ate while standing around contemplating the rest of the yard, the first Baer limes and the Gravenstein apples. Those were all really awesomely good, too.

So, yeah. Now that the summer garden's coming to an end, I'm moving on.

Because we're going to have to eat something this winter and it ain't going to be just all popcorn and gin cocktails. I mean, not all the time. That would be expensive. And probably someone (hi mom!) would stage an intervention.

So, on deck for the winter garden is Red Russian kale, Waltham 29 broccoli, Pacific Gold mustard greens, Red Baron onions, Circus Circus carrots, French Breakfast radishes, Parisienne carrots, Hollow Crown parsnips, a bunch of herbs and companion plants like alyssum, chives and dill.

Plus, you know I'll plant some shit in there that's not on the list just because I'm a sneaky bitch like that. Also because of my not having any self control.

So...that works for gardenblahblahblah,  right? Is it possible that I forgot anything?