I’ve confessed I am a reluctant gardener, with a very laid-back approach to everything to do with the yard. Despite the fact that “negligent” is the best description of me as a gardener, I actually have promised myself I will do better this year. (Trust me, I am even more surprised than you are.)

My gardening resolutions:

  1. I will keep up with the weeding.
  2. We will eat more of the strawberries than the birds do.
  3. I will harvest the various fruits our many shrubs produce, instead of just leaving them on the plants.
  4. I will pick the zucchini and summer squash when they are small, tender, and tasty. No more U-boat zucchini!

I wish I could say I’m totally living up to my plans, but my success has been rather limited.

I weed whenever I have a spare moment, but spare time is a complete myth — all the time is taken and there isn’t any to spare, so really I weed maybe once a week. It doesn’t matter how often I do it, it’s crazy to think I can keep up. It’s one of those chores that’s never done. Thanks to all the rain we’ve been having, I can hear the weeds popping out of the ground behind me even as I bend over to pull the one I’ve just found.

Our strawberry plants didn’t grow any strawberries to speak of this year, which is a puzzle, because they are well-established and seem like they should be making fruit. Sadly, the robins only needed to eat one berry to beat our intake.

The good news is that I am doing better with the other berries: I picked red currants, gooseberries, and raspberries over the weekend. The bad news is that I’ve remembered why I didn’t pick them in the past. I don’t know what to do with them! We will eat them fresh of course, but after that, I’m at a bit of a loss. Thanks to my dietary restrictions, I can’t bake with them, add them to ice cream, or put them on cereal. I will probably try adding them to everything I make for a while and see what happens.

These currants are so pretty I want to make jewelry out of them.

These currants are so pretty I want to make jewelry out of them.

Gooseberries, in case you don't know what they look like.

Gooseberries, in case you don’t know what they look like.

The most embarrassing resolution of all is the one about the zucchini. I have been checking the plants constantly, which means whenever I think of it. (Fortunately, this is more often than when I have a spare moment.) For a week, there were three finger-like squash on the plant and I swear they did not change size a bit. Every time I went into the yard thinking, “I’ll need to pick them today”, I was wrong. I was waiting for them to get just a little bigger, but they were the same tiny size. Until the morning when I found two cudgels and a baseball bat where the baby zucchini had been growing.

My super-sized sneaky zucchini

My super-sized sneaky zucchini

How does the zucchini do that? I’m thinking cloaking technology, probably learned from the Romulans*. When the squash is still small, the plant turns on its cloaking device and hides the zuke until it’s big enough to feed a family of twelve. Then the cloaking device is turned off and the poor gardener (that’s me) discovers this giant squash that wasn’t even there the day before.

This makes much more sense to me than the alternative, that I just didn’t see that honking big zucchini while it was growing.

What have I learned?

  1. Resolutions are dicey things. I’m not in control over most of the stuff that goes on in my garden (especially the zucchini), so I need to focus on the process and not worry too much about the results. Enjoy the planting, pruning and weeding. Enjoy the harvesting, if there’s something to harvest. Try not to worry so much about who is going to get to eat the fruit.
  2. Gardening doesn’t stop in the yard. When the stuff comes in the house, there is more work to do. Try to enjoy that part as well (without worrying so much about getting everything eaten before it goes bad).
  3. The fact that the Technologically Advanced Zucchini theory is the best explanation I can come up with for the Sudden Appearance of the Baseball Bat Squash says something about me. I don’t know what exactly. Probably something disturbing and odd. I will ponder this when I have a spare moment.

*Maybe it’s unfair of me to assume the zucchini are evil enough to be in league with Romulans, but how can I feel otherwise? They are just so sneaky!

I’ve been spending so much time on writing and the yard this summer that not much is getting made these days. Fortunately, we had a rainy day on the weekend and I got to sew. I’d been longing to sit quietly and make something with my hands. I picked a project from Omiyage: Handmade Gifts from Fabric in the Japanese Tradition by Kumiko Sudo, got out needle and thread, and stitched the entire thing by hand.

omiyageBook

What a restful way to spend a few hours, making little stitches to put together pieces of fabric. Listening to the gentle patter of rain and feeling the cool, damp air on my face were part of the treat. Summer in Colorado is unusually wet this year, but most of the water has come as violent thunderstorms. The words “gentle” and “rain” rarely go together.

I was able to get this bag together in a single day. The pattern is called “Avalanche Lily”. There was a mistake in the pattern, so I had to re-draft one of the pieces to get it to fit properly, but it was worth the effort.

Avalanche Lily bag, side view.

Avalanche Lily bag, side view.

You can see the lily in the bag's name if you look down from the top.

You can see the lily in the bag’s name if you look down from the top.

The author recommends using this bag to store a string of pearls. I don’t own any pearls, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. But I look at it and feel calm and satisfied, reminded of the gift of a quiet rainy sewing day in the middle of July.

bagOpen_web

Remember all those seeds I planted in May? OK, you weren’t there, you don’t remember, but I do. When I put them in the ground, I was struck by how the earth I covered them with looked just a bit like a fresh grave, and how the wooden tongue depressor garden tags I used looked like mini-tombstones.

Unfortunately, the grave analogy was super accurate. Out of three raised beds packed with vegetable seeds, one basil plant and one lettuce sprouted. Two tiny plants from all those seeds.

One measly basil plant.

One measly basil plant.

I also planted about a dozen squash seeds, zucchini as well as yellow squash. Only half of them came up, but it was enough. We should be swimming in zucchini this time next week.

Zucchini and yellow squash: the one thing I can't kill.

Zucchini and yellow squash: the one thing I can’t kill.

Since everything else failed to sprout, we did our usual 4th of July thing: bought plants from the nursery and filled up the beds. We can only hope that the tomatoes and peppers will be mature before the first frost hits.

Instant garden! Thank God for nurseries.

Instant garden! Thank God for nurseries.

If you haven’t tried buying plants at the nursery, I highly recommend it. Not because it’s better than starting with seeds. (Well, in my case it is. A plant that is already underway has a much better chance of surviving in my garden than a true seedling does.) Not because it stimulates the economy and keeps people who actually know how to grow plants employed (although it does that, too.)

The best part about buying plants at the nursery is that the label can be wrong. You think you bought basil, but it turns out to be peppermint. Or the cucumber you got is not the usual green pickle variety but a weird round melon-looking thing called a lemon cucumber. (Those were one of our surprise plants last year, and we actually loved them. It’s a cucumber, but it has a mild citrus flavor that is really nice in a salad.)

So far I’ve only found one surprise in this year’s batch: a hot pepper that was supposed to be sweet.

I don't think this is a sweet pepper...

I don’t think this is a sweet pepper… Oops.

I keep hoping something else will be a surprise, that one of our watermelons or cucumbers will turn out to be a winter squash or something equally unexpected. But mostly I’m just grateful that we are getting lots of rain and things are growing.

In the meantime, I’m having to come to grips with the fact that I do not have a black thumb or a green one. I think it’s zucchini colored.

I stopped eating grains in June of 2013 to see if I could improve my health by changing my diet. It was my nutritionist’s idea and I was finally desperate enough to listen to her, even though grains had been a major part of my diet for decades.

I stopped eating oatmeal for breakfast and brown rice at dinner. I said good-bye to rice pasta and corn tortillas. At least I didn’t have to go through bread withdrawal; I’d given up wheat products years before, when I discovered that gluten was making me tired and depressed.

I started feeling better immediately. My constant fatigue lifted and my limbs felt lighter. The heaviness that made the smallest task seem like a challenge lifted, and suddenly it was easy to do things I had avoided before.

I became a new woman in no time at all.

My awareness of the effect grains have on my body and my energy makes it a lot easier to avoid eating them. The only real problem with giving up grains is that I miss them. When it comes to food, I like variety. No grains means very few starch options, and there are days when I think I’ll scream if I have to eat another sweet potato.

So I suppose it’s natural that, after four months without grains, I was wondering if maybe I could have just a little, now and then, without suffering ill effects.

Friends came to town and we decided to take them to a local Ethiopian restaurant.

Ethiopian food served family-style (photo Nyala Ethiopian Restaurant)

Ethiopian food served family-style (photo Nyala Ethiopian Restaurant)

In the past, we had enjoyed our Ethiopian meals served family style. A big tray lined with injera bread, piled with spiced meats and vegetables is set before you, along with a basket of more injera cut into strips. You use the bread to pick up the meat and vegetables. Savory dishes served as finger food; what could be more fun?

Traditionally, injera is made entirely of teff, a tiny grain grown in Africa. Most American restaurants make their injera with some wheat flour added, but Nyala  offers injera made from teff only. I knew I couldn’t eat injera with wheat in it (gluten is not my friend), but 100% teff might be OK. I decided to give it a try.

By the time our food arrived, I was pretty hungry. I dug in with the others, using the teff-only injera to pick up the spicy meat. As I ate, my stomach growled. At first, I thought my empty stomach was just behind the eating curve. But by the time the meal was nearly done, I was even hungrier than I’d been before. With every mouthful I took, I got hungrier and hungrier and hungrier.

It reminded my of the book The Phantom Tollbooth. Milo is served a meal of Subtraction Stew. The more he eats, the hungrier he gets. He is told that in Digitopolis, people only eat when they are full.

As a kid, I thought this was a hysterical idea. Experiencing it for myself as an adult, I didn’t like it as much.

I had started out hungry, not full. And I hate being hungry.

I came away from that meal acknowledging that grains, especially grain ground into flour, makes me hungry. I eat food so I’ll stop being hungry. I’ve recognized in the past when something like fruit juice or caffeine increased my appetite and made changes as a result. But this was the most direct and immediate example of a food making me hungry that I’ve ever experienced.

I could be upset that my attempt at having just a little grain was a failure, but I’m not. I’m grateful to realize that grains cause me this problem. For years, grains were a big part of my diet, and for years, I struggled with my weight, because I was hungry all the time. I didn’t know then that the food I was eating was causing the problem, but I’m glad I know now.

Now that summer’s here and I’m spending so much time outside, I’m not getting nearly as much knitting, spinning, or sewing done. So today’s project is one I completed a few years ago but never got around to sharing.

Mouse pin dolls by Kit Dunsmore

Mouse pin dolls by Kit Dunsmore

These pin dolls are little figures 2-3 inches tall that I made by hand as thank you gifts. Each one has a safety pin on the back so the owner can wear it on a jacket. Some of them stand up and can be displayed on a shelf.

Pin dolls (poodles and peacock) by Kit Dunsmore

Pin dolls (poodles and peacock) by Kit Dunsmore

For each critter, I had to develop a pattern from scratch. Some took more than one try before I liked how they turned out. Once I had the basic pieces, I could put them together in different ways to change their expressions (the rabbits are a good example).

Rabbit pin dolls by Kit Dunsmore

Rabbit pin dolls by Kit Dunsmore

I loved making these. They took time: small is not necessarily fast. But getting to embellish them with different fabrics and beads made the process enjoyable.

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