Wednesday, February 14, 2007

'Be My Valentine' is Emotional Mine Field

Today is Valentine's Day and thoughts for all of us are on those we love and hope will love us back. Each age has its own level of apprehension. It doesn't get easier for those just starting relationships and getting it wrong can reduce you to doing -- nothing (which opens up a whole new can of worms) .

Kindergartners-3rd Graders: Parents help select full packages of heart-and-lace-filled cards to punch out and share with all classmates (none left out, here). This is our first social card-giving tradition. Most are funny and introduce our young to the fun we can have with our language with every pun-filled card. The agony of who gets which card is only second to the real feeling of not wanting to give any away but keep them all to ourselves! Mothers and Dads make sure we do the right thing. By third grade, we start winnowing down the number of cards given and only our very special friends and family members are asked to be our Valentines.

New Loves: These require a totally different approach. Turmoil coupled with desire for those just starting out -- how sentimental can you really be without scaring the new love away? How silly, before you're dismissed as too cavalier? Get TWO cards, one frivolous and one serious, just in case? Tricky, tricky ground.

And, what about presents? Candy is the official neutral ground -- and, it's the size that determines the depth of feeling -- unless, of course, the giver eats it all! Whose gift was it? Flowers can be a single rose to a roomful, or a special bouquet of your loves favorite flower.

A word to the wise: find out whether or not your love really does like chocolate. Because YOU do, doesn't mean everyone does. A gift of chocolates to someone who doesn't like them, or is allergic, says that you just grabbed the most convenient thing around and really don't care about their feelings. I, personally, have never really cared for chocolate. It's okay but I'm a salt person, preferring things tangy rather than sweet. The best present I ever received was a lemon-meringue pie with my Valentine card. It told me that my love really understood me and what I liked. Lots of points gained for this one.

More permanent gifts require serious thought. They should be kept light and general for new loves, saving the diamonds, pearls, and Cadillac cars for those who know they are in a more committed relationship.

The one thing you don't do is send the SAME card to all your new loves, if you're still playing the field. That's just tacky.

Relationships over three months old: You should have a pretty good idea about the type of card to give, here, but it's still a very tricky place to be. Is there a real direction? More serious? Less? Both on the same page? Is this a true love for you? Ready to almost let go? The Valentine you give can add fuel to a fire or pour water all over it. Not giving a card, at all -- well . . .

Married: A time to let is all hang loose and gift cards that are funny, poignant, frivolous, full of deep meaning. Gifts are across the board, from the light-hearted to the moon. Having a special evening out at your favorite intimate restaurant, reminiscing about your love and what it means to you, all help strengthen your bond.

What's important is that you don't let it become just another day because you're trying to save money. Try to never save when it comes to chances of expressing your feelings for each other. These are the joys that make the hard times, easier. If money is tight, create your own cards and give "to do" lists. You can always save a dollar, here and there, during the year to have enough for Valentine's Day.

Whatever you do, don't give a really goofy Valentine without an accompanying serious one. Even though the receiver will say it's all right, they don't feel it in their hearts. Give love and, if you don't know how to say the words, take the time to shop early enough to find a card that will say it for you. You might even want to take a page from the Kindergartners and send all your friends one of those pun-filled cards as a "just keeping in touch" moment.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Trellises Shouldn't Cost a Fortune

Thought I'd do a follow-up on the trellises. Using the found materials, after clearing up the woods, I was left with three cattle gates, lots of metal fence posts, and 2"x4" fencing. So, that's going to be the permanent trellising in the back section of the yard for grapevines, raspberries, gourds, etc.

For the inside back yard, will use pvc pipes, painted with fusion. These will be easy to take down in winter and leave the space open for additional layers of composting material. Here's what I'm going to do, just in case you want to try it, yourself. Just remember that most of my materials were "found" and available for free. So, I don't mind paying for the pvc trellises, which will be under $25 for all three beds and will last for many years.

Full-grown plants weigh plenty when full of stems, leaves, and fruit or vegetables. You need sturdy support but you don't need much more than 2"x2" posts or 1.5" pvc piping. First and foremost, use what you have, which includes old ladders, stepstools, door frames, whatever. Bring it all together by painting the same color and folks will think you're really clever.

To make two pvc trellises, you'll need:
  • four (4) 10-foot 1-1/4" pvc pipes
  • one (1) 8-foot 1-1/2" pvc pipe
  • four (4) 4-foot or 6-foot rebars
  • four (4) 1-1/4" pvc elbows
  • two (2) 1-1/4" pvc straight connectors
  • twine
  1. Cut a 3' section off each 10-foot 1-1/4" pipe.
  2. Connect two 3' sections with one straight connector to make crossbar
  3. Cut 8-foot 1-1/2" pipe into four (4) 2' pieces.
  4. Drive (use rubber mallet or place a board over end of pipe and use regular hammer) two 2' pvc pieces into ground, the width of one connected crossbar and elbow at each end. (approx. six feet)
  5. Drive one rebar into center of pipe, leave at least two feet exposed above top edge
  6. Position and drive 7' 1-1/4" pvc pipe over rebar and into 2' 1-1/2" pipe
  7. Place elbows on each top and attach crossbars (see pix)
  8. Attach twine horizontally every 8" between sides of each trellis. Attach a length of twine every 8" on crossbar and connect with a knot at every horizontal meeting to bottom of trellis. Repeat every 8" across crossbar.

The beauty of these trellises is that they are incredibly portable! Create different widths around the yard and use 5-gallon buckets for your plantings. Next year, move the trellis to a different part of the yard and try something new! Put different trellising plants on either side. Train one to grow straight up and the other to extend vertically for an interesting effect. I'll be doing this with some warmth-loving climbers next to the white side of my workshop so they can enjoy the reflected heat! Now, to go root some cuttings!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

February - Planting and Planning

February has brought the cold and wind to NC and lots of garden planning to take advantage of a full 10-month growing pattern. All my seeds have arrived and it's lasagna gardening, all the way!

Have finished my two planned beds (4'x12') in just under three hours for the first 12" of layering using the lasagna method and should finish the rest over the next few days. They're predicing a real drop in temperature, so I want to get these layers really wet to start the breakdown.

Once my camera arrives, I'll post some sequential pix on the website and post just one or two, here. Still have to create my trellises. The back copse of trees has provided me with all kinds of wonderful trellis materials and planting pots! And, still carted away about 2400 pounds of debris off to the dump!

When finished, all the different trellises and 5-gallon buckets will be painted the same color of metallic bronze using my favorite of all paints Krylon Fusion . It covers and becomes a part of everything you spray it on, so it simply will not chip off plastics.

All the seeds that can go directly into the ground are being first set out on a single sheet of 12"x12" newspaper in their finished thinned placement and will be covered with a second sheet of newspaper that's been 'painted' with a very thin flour-paste solution. (The newspaper will keep down the weeds and ultimately become part of the soil; the paste will hold the seeds in position and will add nutrients to the soil, as well.) The benefit of this is that you can use the whole sheet for square-foot gardening or cut in strips for efficient placement in and around other plants. One 12"x12" sheet will hold 64 radishes, carrots, green onions -- well, you get the idea. BUT, you don't have to thin, just put in place and cover with a light mulch.

By the way, you don't ever want to leave the newsprint open to the air! It will become papier mache and take forever to disintegrate!