Monday, May 16, 2022

Another Circle Around the Sun

 Life is good.  I'm so happy to be here.  I'm pretty darn excited for 38.

All photos from an April backpacking trip to a hot spring with our friends, Josh and Joelle.  Joelle and Matt both get some photo credits in these photos of yours truly.

Friday, May 6, 2022

In the Garden

We got a lovely dose of rain last week and almost overnight things around our place greened up with a delightful spring vibe.  
Grape Hyacinths along the driveway.  Peonies are bringing up the rear.
A few flowers are blooming already, but most are rapidly stretching their leaves toward the sun, working up to their moment of glory.  The trees and bushes are budding out--including the serviceberry bush that Matt bought me for my birthday last year.  I had been so certain it wasn't going to make it since we planted it in one of the hottest, driest summers I can remember.

Ginger thinks the air conditioning unit is a keen sunbathing locale.  At least until we uncover it and start using it in a month or two, that is.  
Our neighborhood bunny friends--Black Bunny and Patches--are racing in circles of twitterpation in the front yard.  Peas and greens are emerging in wee little rows in the garden beds.  Ginger wants to be outside all day long again.  It stays light out so much later.  It is an especially grand time of year.  

Greens and herbs are usually the first crops ready from our garden.  The bok choy are ready for eating as we speak.  The mint we put in last year is coming back strong.

Wednesday morning I was walking through the dewy grass to open some windows in the greenhouse.  The birds were singing and the sun was shining and... it just made me stop in my tracks and marvel at it all.  Everything was so sparkly and beautiful.  So fresh and invigorating.  So vibrant and evocative.  So alive!  I really do love the spring.  So much life and hope bursting forth all around me.

A backyard panorama from shed on the east to ditch pipe on the west.  I was standing at the greenhouse door when I snapped this one.

Matt made a new door for the greenhouse this week.  The old one got ruined in a wind storm over the winter.  The former was a Dutch style door.  When Matt initially designed the greenhouse we thought this would be beneficial for ventilation.  In the end, we didn't really use it much in this capacity so the new door is a simpler format.  Matt was rather pleased he used only scraps of the greenhouse plastic in the door re-make project.  He crafted it from 2x2s instead of 2x4s so it is lighter and easier to open/close, too.  All in all, a vast upgrade.  The seedlings are very happy out there.

Peppers, eggplants, and leeks!  Oh my!  This view is from inside the greenhouse, looking south towards the house.  
It has been in the 70s the past two days and I am soaking up that sunshine like a sponge.  Oh, it feels so good!  Spring cycling has to be some of the best there is!  After months of riding all bundled up it feels utterly fabulous to ride with bare arms and/or legs.  Matt and I sat in the middle of the yard last night for an hour after work...just basking and chatting.  Then we went over to a friends house and sat in their backyard until dark.  It was gorgeous yesterday.  
The violets are trying to take over the brick garden path.  I happily let them and use one of the other paths for now--or tiptoe carefully around them.

While basking in the yard we talked about how this is such a wonderful portion of the gardening season.  There are a billion things to do and Matt is bursting with energy and enthusiasm to tackle them all!  Come October we can be a little garden weary.  Weeds are still pulled and bounty still harvested, but with a significantly smaller amount of pep.  

Most of the rows are too small to be visible from this distance.  We have spinach is in the low tunnel.  Onions are in the next bed over.  The garlic is coming along (at the far left) after riding the roller coaster of winter weather that we had.
Speaking of weeds, Matt and I have begun the annual task of digging up dandelions.  There are fewer each progress!  I saw our friendly, neighborhood bobtailed squirrel again two weeks ago.  I'm always happy to see she's made it through another winter.  It was her third winter by my count.  Matt is thinning out the strawberry patch which had become quite overgrown in the past couple of years.  It is sorta crazy to think that patch is a decade old now.  

The Strawberry Patch.  Thinned on the left, overgrown on the right.

I placed the stones we painted at the lookout to our garden paths.  I love the splashes of color they add.  We're growing artichokes again this year.  We tried it once before with no success.  They're looking rather promising at the moment.  I didn't realize they were so spiny and sharp.  Of course, I didn't realize eggplants had spines until we started growing them either.  Same for cucumbers.

Artichoke leaves/spines.
There's always so much to learn and appreciate in our garden.  I love that.  We are blessed by this space in more ways than I can count.
A garden gnome that my sister-in-law Bek painted for us.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Me-Made-May 2022

The Me-Made-May pledge I set last year proved so inspiring and enjoyable that I'm pretty much doing a repeat this year.

My Easter Vest has pretty fabulous pockets.

“I, Beth, aka BLD-in-MT pledge to dedicate more sewing time during May 2022.  I will complete four new sewing projects this month.  I will also tackle four items in my mending or unfinished projects basket.”

I sewed Matt's shirt out of white muslin (to ensure fit before using more beautiful and/or expensive fabric) and then Matt tie-dyed it.

I've been having tremendous good times in my sewing room already this year.  I hardly need the prompt to spend more time down there because I'm feeling so creative and inspired already.  I have so many ideas and projects I want to try that I'm nearly busting.  I made Matt a button-down-and-collared shirt that turned out so well I have a second one nearly finished.  I've been playing around with paper piecing, something my mother suggested I look into years ago.  I did a dress-to-skirt alteration.  I made a sewing machine cover and have one in the works for the serger.  I made a vest for Easter and have a different style of vest partially completed.  I've made two hats, tweaking the pattern each time, in an attempt to make an acceptable replacement for Matt's beloved (and increasingly shabby) bucket hat.  Then, of course, there were my fabulous curtains!  

Hat Replacement Take One was too large all around, but particularly in the brim.  It is a nice sun hat though.  I might yet add some decorative and/or colorful flourishes to the crown to jazz it up a bit.

For my backstory with the Me-Made-May challenge read on at the links below:

  • MMM21 (Finish four new projects + four mending projects)
  • MMM20 (Wear only handmade garments + finish a new garment)
  • MMM19 (I got lost in time and didn't participate.  Again.)
  • MMM18 (I got lost in time and didn't participate.)
  • MMM17 (Wear only me-made garments + weekly sewing time)
  • MMM16 (Wear only me-made dresses.)
  • MMM15 (Wear only me-made garments.)
  • MMM14 (Wear only handmade garments.)

Friday, April 22, 2022

DIY Natural "Softscrub" and Exfoliating Scrub

I've been involved in our campus Earth Day celebrations for more than a decade*.  We've planted many trees, picked up litter, organized e-waste recycling drives, hosted film screenings and lectures, partnered with local conservation groups on their projects, hosted upcycled art contests, set up infobooths, had a ribbon cutting for a small solar panel array, and so on.  

About eight years ago the primary organizer asked me to come up with something where the focus was on the little everyday things we can do to reduce our environmental impact**.  Reusable jars.  Mending.  Cleaning with vinegar and baking soda.  Producing your own food.  That sort of thing.  I opted to emphasize all-natural cleaning products--an exfoliating scrub for face and body and a gentle scrub cleanser for around the house (or dorm).  

Though the students seem to really like it, I don't use the body scrub myself.  I'm a classic bar-soap-and-wash-cloth sort of gal.  We use the knock-off Soft Scrub quite a bit in our kitchen and bathroom though.  It works like magic for making the bathtub sparkly white again and scrubbing the kitchen floor.

These cleaners have fewer chemicals and result in less plastic waste.  In addition I love that they can be customized to the user's preferences.  Have dry skin?  Use more olive oil in your body scrub.  Need more scrubbing power?  Add more baking soda to your Soft Scrub.  Sensitive to smells?  Skip all the essential oils!  In a one-size-fits-most world I truly appreciate this level of personalization.
Homemade Soft Scrub (for kitchen, bathroom, and more)
3/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup castile soap
1 Tbsp water
10-15 drops of essential oil (I recommend tea tree or citrus)

Combine the baking soda and castile soap.
Add the water and essential oil and combine well.
Stir until you achieve a paste-like consistency. Add a little more baking soda if necessary.
Transfer to your container of choice and start cleaning!
Use within three months.  If it dries out just add enough water to return it to paste consistency.
Exfoliating Face and Body Scrub
1/2 cup fine ground salt
1/8 cup olive oil
5 drops of essential oil

Combine salt, olive oil and essential oil.
Mix until the salt is evenly distributed and lightly moistened with the oil. If the mixture seems too moist, add more sea salt. 
Put your sea salt scrub mixture in a glass jar with a screw-top lid for later use.
Use within two months.

With both scrubs I'd recommend testing a small area before really going for it.  They're both extremely gentle, but...just in case.  I'd hate for it to rub your skin (or bathroom tiles) the wrong way.
Spring flowers (at home and on campus) in 2021.
*Though we didn't really have much in the way of a campus celebration in 2020 or 2021 because of pandemic restrictions/concerns.

**I feel obligated to mention that one of the most impactful things that individuals can do is demand greater sustainability from corporations and industries.  The small things we do add up, but the things they do really, really add up.  It is all about scale.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Spitzer Schnee und der Bus

One area where my "conversational German" is relatively decent is small talk about the weather.  Today's blizzard presented a great opportunity to practice while texting with friends and family (who so kindly indulge my sporadic inclusion of German vocab and phrases).  I even got all the spelling right all on my own.  This is really saying something since, honestly, I'm not that great of speller in my native tongue.  

Das Wetter heute ist schlecht. Sehr schlecht! Es ist windig und kalt.  Auch es gibt viel Schnee. Und im April!?!

(Today the weather is bad.  Very bad!  It is windy and cold.  There is also a lot of snow.  And in April!?!)

All day yesterday I maintained a Let's-Just-Wait-And-See attitude toward the burgeoning hype over the weather forecast which called for a doozy of a winter storm.   Everywhere I went people were talking about it, actually starting a week previous when it first hit the extended forecast.  It seems to me that people increasingly like getting worked up about the weather.  Like it is a hobby.  It is something to complain/fret about regardless of the season--its too hot, too cold, too rainy, too snowy, too dry, too humid, etc.  I attribute this increased vigilance about the weather to the fact that most people have up-to-the-minute forecasts in their pockets now.  It seems like an overblown degree of concern for the vast majority.  I mean, its not like most of the people I talk to are farmers or have huge, long commutes.  I think another factor in the weather fixation is that, in our modern lives, the weather is still a "wildcard" that we can't control.  Plus, we contend with a ravenous 24-hour news cycle always on the watch for some drama.  So, all day I said I was sure we'd get some snow, but...a blizzard?  I was dubious about the scale of the impending storm.  I cycled home at 9pm last night and it was still almost 40 degrees and there was nary a speck of snow on the ground.

Fast forward to 8am today and I find myself trudging through calf-deep snow to get to catch the bus a block north of my house.  The dry snow is blowing so fiercely that it stabs my eyes and makes me cough.  It felt like someone was throwing sand in my face.  I can barely keep my eyes open.  Thankfully I have a very short walk to the bus stop.  A man kindly stopped to offer me a ride, concerned that I was out in such conditions.  I assured him I only had another minute before I was safely ensconced on the bus and trudged on.

Let's sidebar here so I can gush about how much I appreciate the bus on my wintery work commutes: 

I lived here for more than 15 years before I took the city bus.  I decided to try it during a particularly long and record-breaking coldspell in 2019.  See, we joke that our city is "the San Diego of Montana" or in "the Banana Belt of Montana" because our winters are so relatively mild.  I usually take a few days off from cycling here or there during the months of December through February when/if it gets particularly cold or snowy.  Mostly though, I am able to safely and comfortably cycle to the library 12 months a year because our winters are so mild.  

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut I truly love having the bus option for the days where it isn't safe or fun to commute by bike.  Like today!  I use an incredibly handy app to track the bus so I know if they're running on schedule.  I then walk a block north to the corner where I catch the bus.  I ride the bus a little over two miles and am let off on the southern edge of campus.  From the time I leave my house to the time I enter the library is a mere fifteen minutes or so.

Most important though, is that it is such easy and stress-free transportation.  No scraping icy car windows and letting it warm up for action.  No navigating the snowy/icy streets.  No finding a parking space when no one can see the parking lines on the pavement so the lot is a mess.  I can skip all that hassle with just a $2 bus fare and a couple of minutes walking to/from the bus stop. I bundle up and stay cozy warm and let someone else do the driving.  For me, this is an absolutely perfect solution when the road conditions are dicey. 

I've never had a walk to the bus stop like today.  I was astonished.  It was wild.  Truly blizzard conditions--and they came on so fast.  At 7am it was wintery, sure, but certainly no blizzard.  Yet just an hour later it had all changed dramatically.  I thought of the Little House books and how Pa gets lost in a blizzard and has to ride it out in a snowcave even though he's quite close to home.   I felt a whole new appreciation for that story this morning.  I've never experienced being out in conditions like that.  The wind was relentless.  Visibility was dreadful.  I was impressed the bus driver saw me, actually.  I watched out the windshield as we drove and I don't know how he was doing it.  Plus, he was really upbeat and enjoying it even!  It takes all kinds in this world.

All photos from my walk to the bus stop this morning.

According to the local weather service we got ten inches of snow before noon, nearly double the previous record for April 12th--with more snow still falling.  It is already the snowiest April day recorded here since 1955.  That's the year my mom was born which helps me even better conceptualize the record.

The K-12 school district and the other college in town both cancelled classes today so people could avoid the risky roads.  As I watched the wall of white through the windshield of the bus I couldn't help but wonder what the heck I was doing heading to work...but it is what it is.

On the bus ride home at 5pm visibility was significantly improved. My driver said they’d stopped all routes for an hour not long after my morning ride.