The last three months, the hubby has been doing something a little different in our garden. I’ve wanted a raised bed garden for years, mainly because I knew I wouldn’t always be able to get down on my knees to plant. But also because our soil is almost pure clay, and difficult to get anything to grow lush and green and strong without overwatering. And in this time of drought in California, bigger water bills are NOT on the menu.
a 4’x8’x16″ dirt coffin
Above is the newest “dirt coffin” as the hubby likes to call it. This is #3. The soil is a mix of our own dirt (that had been amended in other planting beds), soil for raised beds, steer manure, and vermiculite. Since it gets so hot where we are, and our back yard gets the setting sun, he decided we should situate the planters near the shade of the oleander (above photo, to the right). This bed gets the most sunshine. Beyond the bed, that black thing is our composter. All our green food waste and our coffee grinds go into the composter.
Dirt Coffin #1, 4′ x 8′ x 16″. This has all veggies planted in it.
You can see the squash on the left – yeah, that didn’t work out too well, so we had to pull them out recently. The squash needed more light – they weren’t setting fruit, but they grew lush and big after being puny in the regular back yard. Hubby also built netting cages, to keep the birds and the grasshoppers from eating the tender lettuces. The left side of this planter faces north; all of the climbers should have been planted along that left side. Live and learn! We have several types of lettuce, spinach, bush beans, pole beans (at the back), and sugar snap peas growing in this bed.
We also have Malabar Red (or Asian) Spinach – yes, that’s spinach! It’s thicker, and has a completely different taste. Works great in salads, grows fast, and has pretty pink flowers.
Dirt Coffin No. 2 is our herb bed.
Here, we have a row of basil (that almost died before we transplanted it – we weren’t sure it would make it); in front of it, you can see the thyme. Behind it to the right, the first two squares are Mexican tarragon (which I LOVE!!!), the other two are Thai Basil. Behind them, the two middle squares at the far right is anise, and the two on either side is fennel.
Here, you can see curled parsley in front and Italian parsley behind. Marigolds tend to keep bugs away, so each bed has marigolds planted.
Here’s the parsley a month later – it’s gotten so big!
And look at the basil, also a month later! (In the background, the anise has been eaten. Sad face.)
This is the basil I picked last night in order to make pesto. 2.5 cups, put into 4 oz jars and stashed in the freezer. When I went outside this afternoon, the basil looks like I haven’t touched it. So I’m guessing more pesto will be made. If you’re local, you just might end up with a jar!
So what my hubby and I learned, is that where you plant, as well as what type of soil you plant in, is very important. We’re finally finding the right home for everything. Vegetables and herbs need the soil loose enough, so the roots can grow deep enough and the plants tall enough. If all we get is our fresh herbs and salad greens from these beds, we’ll both be very happy.
And here’s number 3, planted. The back row has broccoli (it’s supposed to get to 3′ high); the row in front of the broccoli has onions and garlic; the row in front of that has 2 kinds of kale and collard greens; the very front has spinach from seed and more collards, as well as the marigolds. You can see planter 2 in the background, beyond the hammock. Planter #4 has just been installed this weekend, where the blue water barrel sits. In front of the barrel is a “winter” tomato plant. (We’ve found the best, most exotic things to plant at a family-owned nursery not far from where I work. Really must get back there!)
Planter #4 will have potatoes in it, and not sure what else. Maybe cauliflower, and beets, when they come into the stores. Still keeping my eyes open.
So, this is where my hubby’s energies go when he’s not learning lines or songs or working in the tv/film industry. I dabble here…and I love it.
Happy Monday, my friends. May this transition time from one season to the next be good for you.
Wine for the Audience
It’s a thing out here in the Los Angeles area small theaters, to have wine available for a “donation” before the show, and again at intermission. This post is for those Small Theater Producers who regularly commit all sorts of wine crimes against their audience; but the rest of you feel free to listen in.
Dear, wonderful, brave Small Theater Producers. We really need to talk. I know your love for theater is why you put up with having no budget, actors who go missing because they’re getting a day’s pay by working in a commercial or (more frequently) doing background work (because you can’t afford union contracts), and basically worry about paying the bills.
I also know you serve wine to patrons of your theater in the hopes that you’ll make money (and quite often, you do – because only half of the 56-seat theater actually has butts in the seats, but half of those folks didn’t pay squat to get in because your cast is desperate for an audience and no one can find your theater without Siri barking directions at them plus lets not even get into the no parking situation, or the dicey neighborhood you’ve chosen). When patrons arrive at your place, they’re tired, cranky, their feet hurt and they would much rather be home but instead they’re standing in front of you, staring doubtfully at your wine selection and praying it’s not total dreck. A little wine can loosen up a cranky audience. I get it. Truly.
Don’t Go Cheap!
But please, if you’re going to serve wine, please don’t get the cheapest wine you can (that you wouldn’t drink for love nor money) and then charge a $5 donation for three measly ounces. First, three ounces of wine isn’t going to make us like your production more. Second, cheap wine leaves a bad taste in the mouth, which we’re going to unconsciously equate with your production. Which means we’re not going to tell anyone we saw your show, thus killing that much-needed word-of-mouth advertising.
So here’s my white wine choice for you. Don’t think, just go buy, and thank me later.
Kirkland Signature California Chardonnay, 2012 1.5L bottle Alcohol 13% by Volume; under $10 at CostCo
On the Label: “Kirkland Signature California Chardonnay is a classic Chardonnay with vibrant tropical flavors of pineapple and mango surrounded by fresh notes of peach, brisk green apple and sweet citrus which is polished to a finish with hints of oak, honey and butterscotch.”
On the Web: “I have previously stated that I am not a fan of heavy oak, buttery chardonnay. On the other hand, chardonnays fermented only in stainless steel are often taste like lemons to me. I most like a chardonnay that has been aged in neutral, older oak. The Kirkland Sonoma County Chardonnay always fits in this middle ground. I think the current version is even more fruit flavored with less oak than last year and to me, that makes it better.” ~ South Carolina Wine Joe
(I know. Sonoma County Chardonnay and the Signature California Chardonnay aren’t the same, and yet they are because. I haven’t had the Sonoma County Chardonnay, but I have had the Signature California Chardonnay. TASTY.)
“Vineyards and Vintages
“Chardonnay, the most widely grown grape varietal in the world, flourishes in Sonoma County, one of the greatest producers of wine in California – even surpassing Napa Valley AVA! Sonoma County is home to 13 different American Viticultural Areas. The wine from this 100% Chardonnay is blended from a variety of the top AVAs throughout Sonoma County, including Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Carneros and Russian River Valley. Each region offers different flavors and aromas that merge to produce a flawless combination. Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, known for its natural expression of terroir. This Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay reflects the Burgundian ancestry while still harmonious with the style of California and specifically Sonoma County.” ~ CostCo.com
Yes, I said don’t go cheap. Yes, this bottle is under $10, which qualifies in the cheap range. But no. Cheap, to me, is any bottle of wine that you wouldn’t happily drink yourself. This wine is inexpensive, true, but it is TASTY. So, 1.5 liters of wine at under $10 a bottle means you, dear Theater Producer, can fill that plastic cup to the brim. Make that theater goer happy, and they might grab another glass of wine. Or two. They may even buy their ticket price in wine. You can “accidentally” make enough on wine sales to make it look like you actually had a full, paying house! Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Plus, two people buying a glass of wine, and that bottle has been paid for.
Oh, and please – by all that is holy – keep the Chardonnay COLD. Yes, grab a big ice bucket. Have a cooler somewhere. Get all classy. Because warm Chardonnay is almost a worse crime than a short pour of bad Chardonnay.
Next week, I’ll talk about red wines for you Small Theater Producers (because I’m running out of time and need to get to work). Until then, stock up on the Kirkland Chardonnay and fill those cups, people! Your patrons will thank you, and they in turn will appreciate the show much more. Who knows? You may even get some positive word-of-mouth advertising out of it!
When I need my mind refreshed before diving back into working on a novel, I like to “see” through a camera lens. Somehow, it changes my internal focus.
On Saturday, Tom and I went on a hike. It was a beautiful, cool morning, and not many people were on the trail. I had my camera with me, because I find I hike better when my mind is distracted.
Isn’t this a lovely path? Not too steep, not too straight, lovely curves with oak trees guarding it. I like to think even hobbits would be tempted to walk on this path.
But what I found my eye drawn to were the smallest of flowers, no bigger than my pinkie fingernail.
Another dainty flower…
And yet two more – while I was focusing on the yellow, take a look at the pink one in the background.
But what took my breath away was this beautiful guy. The biggest Coyote I can remember seeing, he owned the landscape. I was lucky to capture his photo – he obligingly posed a couple of times, staring at us across a huge meadow before running along. This is an extreme closeup, plus I cropped the photo even closer.
Isn’t he gorgeous? The best part about this hike is it’s not difficult to get to, at all. Give me a hat, sunscreen, some water and my camera, and I’m ready to go. It was a lovely, refreshing time that helped clear the cobwebs and steady my brain for the creative work to come.
How do you clear your mind for a creative challenge? I’d love to know!
It’s a slow journey. This month started out well – the first two weeks, I only took Monday off. The next two weeks were intermittent – sickness in the house. Nothing major for me except weariness and a determination to sleep as long as I could. Difficult when I need to get up and out the door by 6 in order to get my workout in (AND breakfast, AND shower/dress) before I had to leave for work.
Difficult, also, when I’m changing my eating habits. Trying to eat before seven at night (difficult when there are times I don’t get home until seven). Cutting out sugar (this was surprisingly easy – yes, even the alcohol, though I make allowances now and then). Cutting out dairy (not so easy) and wheat for a couple of weeks (this was interesting – I don’t miss it, but I realize now how much I reach for the pasta when I don’t know what else to make for dinner). Oh yeah, and getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
I’m hoping I’ll look like this again soon.
Christine, at the “new” house in 1985. Photo by Tom Ashworth
But I’m pretty sure I’ll never look like this again. (See second photo, below. I can’t get the formatting right, sigh…)
Christine Ashworth, publicity still, 1978 – Photo by Chet Cunningham
I loved this tutu, though for the life of me I can’t remember which ballet this was from…this photo is from a shoot that my dad did for me, with California Ballet Company costumes and backdrop. I was bound and determined to audition for companies across the country, and in New Haven, Connecticut, I got my chance. I like to think this is one of the photos that helped me get my audition.
So, this journey I’m on is a see-saw. Back and forth, back and forth. But I’m happy to say I’m sleeping better, feeling better when I wake in the morning, and I’m slowly losing the pounds. I’m determined to go out of this life (years and years from now, mind you) still standing on my own two feet, dressing myself, caring for myself and my family. Not dependent on anyone but those I love, and them only for love and laughter, friendship and squishy hugs.
How’s your journey going?
I’ve been a stress puppy, instead of a sleepy kitty. (I prefer to be a sleepy kitty, in case you were wondering.)
A total stress puppy. I’m getting snappy and snarly at work and at home, and I’m not loving it.
And then this happened.
My head exploded.
Yep, my head totally exploded. Okay, so I was coughing (but I didn’t have a cold!) and that kicked off my gag reflex, but still. Head. EXPLODED.
Artist’s interpretation of the pain close up.
I could barely breathe, it hurt so bad. Like someone had taken the back of my neck and tried to stretch it to my nose. I haven’t hurt that bad since brain surgery. So, I went to the doc, and got myself diagnosed with a post-nasal drip, plus an ergonomic stress headache. Fix the body, fix the stress, lose the headache but, in the meantime, here’s some muscle relaxants.
What has the hubby been saying to me for the last month? “Get your cough checked out. Sit up straight at the computer.”
Tom Ashworth, Self Portrait 2008 (?)
So, yeah, he’s been saying “I told you so” and nagging in a loving way ever since. (Please note – I am sitting up straight and my shoulders are down as I type this.)
And now I’ve got more stress coming (in a good way) – The play development group I’m with, Fierce Backbone, is doing a full reading of my play tonight. Gulp. And I’m on muscle relaxants.
- Title page to Cassandra Cries.
My two actors were supposed to meet to rehearse – one couldn’t make it the first night, the other couldn’t make it the second night. My leading lady now has an interview at 6pm tonight – which is when they were going to get together to get a quick rehearsal in. And I’m still not sure if I have a narrator (but I’m assured I do). We’re supposed to start by 7:30pm tonight. I’m on muscle relaxants and I’m still somewhat of a stress puppy, but at least it’s a “good” stress. (???) And a milestone event!!!
So, in order to celebrate this milestone, Hubby made cuppy cakes. CHOCOLATE cuppy cakes. Which we shall take with us tonight to bribe everyone. Along with some red wine.
CUPPY CAKES!!! Unfrosted, true, but still…CUPPY CAKES!!!
As I look back at the last two years and three months since I started this new Day Job, I realized one thing – I haven’t had a vacation. I’ve taken time off, but that was always to go to writer’s conferences, not to sit in the Mammoth mountains and chill out for ten days. If I had, maybe I could have missed out on this little stress headache adventure. Because writer’s conferences ARE NOT VACATIONS. They are work days. Fun? Yes. Stressful? YES. I wouldn’t have missed them for the world, but…sigh.
My advice? Vacations. Take them.
Big Squishy Hugs to you ALL!