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I make domestic bliss into a sport. Or something. - Tactical Ninja

Sep. 16th, 2013

09:38 am - I make domestic bliss into a sport. Or something.

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Yesterday was the first day since we moved into the new house that wasn't already booked well in advance to do things that weren't sorting out my craft room. The afternoon was booked for picking up a new desk for the YoT from Porirua (his first ever TradeMe purchase), doing a dump run to clear out the garage of empty cardboard boxes so we can use it, and participating in Meat!Fest with danjite and khaybee.

And oh, what a Meat!Fest it was! But first, to the craft room!


So when we drew straws for the rooms, I drew the short one. Well, not really, but Dr Wheel needs a room with good light and a nice vibe because of the likelihood of him working from home, and the YoT claimed the other large room which is only fair because he pretty much lives in his room when not working. And you know how every house has one small poky room in the back that faces the wrong way and most people use as a guest/spare/junk room? That's the one I got.

On the upside, the second the YoT leaves home I'm claiming his room, which is huge. But meanwhile, I have a craft cupbaord! Look!




I shouldn't be facetious - it's big enough to fit everything in, plus a table of my very own that I can leave stuff on. Right now, Yorick is on there awaiting his horn mache, since he's the first project that will be completed in the new room. On the right you can see my drug books and paper rolls and the loom and my ONE COUNTEM ONE bin each of fabric and fibre. On the windowsill are all my brushes, pencils, knives and moulding tools - where I can easily find the one I want OMG. Note also that the curtains I've shown you so far have increasing levels of hideousness.

On the left are my computer, games, the Hoff in his Grey Warden suit, and the shelves (covered by that green thing) with sewing machine, overlocker and various sewing gubbins. That basket contains spinning spools and a wool winder. The spinning wheel is in the loungs.



And then there is the cupboard. This used to be our hallway cupboard and had all our manchester and tools in it, but now we have a shed for tools and an airing cupboard so I got this back. Check it out:



Bottom to top: power tools, wire, bin of paints, electronics projects and gubbins, clamps, craft and leatherworking tools, latex gloves, glues, finishes and modelling clays. I would like to put another shelf in there because there is definitely room for one. But that's a project for after Yorick and when I have some spare cash. I am so happy to get this stuff out of every drawer in the house and into one place where I can just grab what I need.

SO HAPPY

So with that being done, I'm now turning my eye to the garden. It's pretty much a blank slate, in that there were established gardens but they haven't been maintained for years, and the previous tenants took their plants with them when they left. Vis:



This is probably the first one I'll tackle because it's already mostly done and only really needs a good dig over, some compost and a weed. This one faces east/north and is right outside the kitchen door, so I'm thinking herbs. Although what sort of herbs, I'm not sure. I have parsley, and we use a fair bit of thyme. Basil doesn't do well outdoors here - too much sun, wind, cold really. Dunno what else. Suggestions welcome.

And then there's this bit:



The lawn around the back here is flat, then drops away steeply into a bushy bit that's pretty much inaccessible. However, between the flat lawn and the bushy bit could be terraced and vegies planted there. It's a suntrap and low enough to be sheltered from the worst of the prevailing wind. I'm thinking trailing plants like melons and courgettes and pumpkins, interspersed with upright ones like peppers and silverbeet. There are already self-seeded potatoes and a fennel that I'll leave in.

And finally, this bit, which the landlord basically said "Have at it" about when I mentioned I like gardening:



This is sheltered from the worst of the wind but will still catch some, and will get sun till about mid afternoon. Here I'm thinking tomatoes, beans, peas, broccoli and spinach in the shady bit to stop it bolting. I eat a lot of spinach.

So yeah, there's some digging in my future. I should remember to grab my gardening tools out of storage next time I'm there.

Part of what brought this on is that my client from Saturday paid me partly in kind. This is fairly common, and I get given a lot of eggs, but this time it was seedlings. Michelle and I share a love of gardening (in fact we have a lot of shared interests and I see her more as a friend than a client), and when I mentioned my upcoming vegie adventures, she pressed these on me:



That's two pumpkins, two butternut squash and four chilis - all from heritage seeds. I've grown capsicums before but never chilis. I will have to think carefully about their placement. Right now they're in the shed/glasshouse and I'll harden them off while I get their beds prepped. Michelle also gave me some spinach seeds, and a couple of years ago bekitty gave me some other heritage seeds:



Watermelon, sugar snap peas, roma tomatoes, radishes and soybeans. So over this week I'll get some of them started in the shed and hopefully by Christmas we'll be munching on tasty homegrown vegies!

And then I'll get to play in the flowerbeds, which are actually my first love. There are existing beds waiting for TLC in the front area, and they are also full sun exposed blank slates.

FLOWERS!

*is excited*


I am leaning more and more toward taking another year off from academia, because my life is so full and every time I think about writing essays I think about all the other, more fulfilling things that I am doing right now, that I haven't yet had my fill of. I think about how much more mental and emotional space I have now for doing things that make me happy, and I think about how much more time I have for pursuit of said things as well.

And academia looks pretty damn grey by comparison. But, we'll see. I still have a month to decide.

And on that note, have a cartoon. It's about the little-known Rat Park drug experiment. You know that story about how rats addicted to drugs will push a lever for drugs instead of food until they die? This experiment demonstrated that the tendency towards destructive addiction in rats is associated more with their environment and how well it lends itself to fulfilment than with the drug itself. Basically, isolated rats in wire cages might push levers till they die, but rats in large spaces with other rats and toys to play with tended towards breaking their own addiction by choice. Read it - it's a short and easily accessible summary, and it's pretty damn myth-busting. Here's the original report (paywalled).

Comments:

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From:tatjna
Date:September 15th, 2013 10:13 pm (UTC)
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I need to make a shelf 750 x 400. The thing is, given the way the shelves are mounted in this cupboard, it'd need to be all one bit, or made from very lightweight wood. You has thin wood or wide wood?

Edited at 2013-09-15 10:13 pm (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:September 16th, 2013 01:37 am (UTC)
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It doesn't have to be pretty either, so I guess that makes it a bit easier.
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From:pombagira
Date:September 16th, 2013 12:23 am (UTC)
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ohh..that rat park is is most interesting.. and yay cartoon.. *grins*

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From:tatjna
Date:September 16th, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
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Seriously, the implications of that experiment align with everything else I know about the demographics of problematic drug use. Yet, I'd never heard of this experiment even though it's been round since forever.

It's.. interesting how these things disappear into obscurity without seeing the light of day, while anecdata about how LSD makes you think you can fly becomes 'common knowledge'.
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From:rivet
Date:September 16th, 2013 04:57 am (UTC)

My informed by not evidence-based opinion

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Another year off would go a long way to rehabituating to relaxed happiness. Postponing a PhD by another year when you've got a job in which you're reasonably happy doesn't actually make much difference in the grand scheme of things.

Also, you've got that article to work on to keep your foot in the game.

Edited at 2013-09-16 04:57 am (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:September 16th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC)

Re: My informed by not evidence-based opinion

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Yep. That's on my list after Yorick, which should be finished next week or so. I can't say I'm looking forward to starting, but once I get into it it should be ok.

And, rehabituating to relaxed happiness is a pleasant process, I must say.
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From:spotsofcolour
Date:September 16th, 2013 10:19 am (UTC)
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Your craft room looks great! I'm very impressed with how neat and tidy it is!

That comic is fascinating - although perhaps because it's in comic form, I'm feeling a bit sorry for the poor rats! I'm normally pretty pragmatic about animal experimentation, especially given how robust the laws on it are over here to prevent unnecessary harm to animals - but gosh darn those slightly anthropomorphised illustrations!
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From:tatjna
Date:September 16th, 2013 08:09 pm (UTC)
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Hehe yeah - I thought them screwing up their faces and sticking their tongues out at the taste of the morphine was really cute. ;-)

Also, my craft room is only tidy because I haven't done anything in it yet!
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From:pundigrion
Date:September 18th, 2013 01:03 pm (UTC)
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First, before I am distracted by herbs, I'd never heard of the Rat Park experiment and that comic was highly thought provoking!

Now then, herbs!! Da green stuff, no that green stuff :-p

So as you might have noticed, I have more than one herb garden. One is in the back which I have had all along. That location is partly shady and fairly exposed. Most everything has still done great there with a few surprising exceptions.

Sage - Five kinds of sage have done great! If the winter is really rough, the common sage comes back a bit beat up, but so far I haven't managed to completely kill it even in a suboptimal spot.

Thyme - This stuff is pretty tough. Again it might pout after a bad winter, but it springs back. Having a couple different types helps and so does placing it next to a rock for shelter/heatsink.

Lavender - See sage.

Rosemary - Hahaha! I've never had this last the winter and have resorted to bringing indoors where I can keep about half of it alive.

Tarragon - Grow this. No, really! It was a bit slow to take off, but still it in the back and it'll be as tall as you before you know it. It does spread, but slowly and it just makes an ever increasing clump rather than invading the whole garden like say...mint. Nice looking and good to cook with.

Oregano - I thought I killed this one year, then it came back all the merrier the next year and has now started happily spreading. If you let this get into your lawn it will smell like pizza when you walk on it. MMmmmm....pizza.

Basil - Oh dear. I kill a lot of basil. Luckily the plants that do make it are superhulk plants and provide me with all the pesto two people could ever hope to eat plus loads for drying. This makes it still worthwhile for me. I've learned part of the trick here is don't put it anywhere you wouldn't plant tomatoes. In fact it makes a nice companion plant if your tomatoes are not thugs like mine. It is not Mediterranean, but rather tropical so it wants heat and water. Plenty of water.
Parsley - Parsley, parsley, how do I love thee parsley? Let me count the ways. This is the herb I grow and dry the most of. You will want to put some in this year and more in next year because it is biennial. I throw it in nearly everything I cook in winter, super nutritious but more importantly, home dried parsley actually has a flavour.

Savory - Here's another of my grow this herb strong recommendations. This stuff is superhardy and tastes really good. Great in beans and in meat dishes or just thrown into mashed potatoes or with a bit of butter in peas or whatnot. I prefer winter savory which chef-sorts look down upon. They like summer savory, but it is an annual. They say winter has a stronger flavour, but I have grown both and see little difference. Except the dying. Winter is much easier to grow.

Lovage - Stick one or two in the back since they get tall. I find it doesn't love, love wind, but it survives and by putting in back along the wall it would much more sheltered and probably a lot happier.

To be continued....
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From:pundigrion
Date:September 18th, 2013 01:03 pm (UTC)
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Golden Oregano - I'm listing this separately because I like it so much. Put this cutie in the front where it can creep. Looks super nice and tastes a lot like marjoram. Much easier to grow though and nothing seems to phase it.

Mint - It is possible to kill mint, but improbable. All the warnings you hear about it spreading are completely true. Even if it lies in wait for two years lulling you into a false sense of security and smugness *ahem*
Lemon Balm - See its cousin, mint. If I knew then what I now know then I would have never bothered planting it.

Bee Balm - Another mint relative. Other people have trouble with it being well mint-like, but mine barely eeks out an existence and thus has not given me any trouble so far in five years.

Comfrey - So comfrey is a tricky beastie. If you plant it, I recommend finding a sterile variety like Bocking 14 or you may curse the day I was born. It spreads you see and it has amazingly deep roots. If you miss a bit of them or try to cultivate land where it once was you will quickly have a field of it. Those deep roots also make the leaves super nutritious and great for compost activation or comfrey tea. (Don't make this near a window) It's the darling of the permaculture crowd for good reason. Also used in salves and such.

I grow a few more, but I think I've covered the common ones.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 18th, 2013 08:42 pm (UTC)
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Right then. So, of your list, I had already shortlisted thyme, sage, oregano, comfrey and parsley. With sage as a potential.

I would like to grow mint because I actually use it - and the apartment building I lived in before did kill several plants. Apparently it doesn't like being potted, and doesn't like dim light either. But I know the bucket trick so I'll do that. I also have catnip on the maybe list, because kitties!

There is an existing rosemary (one of the trailing varieties which do really well here and are a staple in most gardens). It's hanging from a retaining wall and with that one I'll just leave well enough alone.

I will definitely put in a lavender even though I don't really use it (smells like Grandmas), because it'll attract the bees.

Basil I'm not sure I'll plant out. I can grow it on the windowsill in summer, but even in midsummer it can drop below 10 degrees here at night, and growing basil outdoors isn't really worth the effort.

I hadn't considered tarragon or savory or lovage but I was looking for some taller plants and I can definitely see a use for tarragon and savory.

Also on my list were lemon verbena (will probably do better here than lemon balm), and chives because NOM.

This weekend is the grand dig-over and planting session. I may not be able to fit all these herbs in the one space (it's about 1m x 4m) but there are plenty of other spots for the crowded or the fussy.

Photos to follow in due course!
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From:pundigrion
Date:September 20th, 2013 08:43 pm (UTC)
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Oh yeah, go ahead and grow the sage too! Even if you don't eat it, it can go with the flowers. It is tough and many types have very pretty leaves like the purple and tri-colour. I've been meaning to do that myself. I actually have lavender in with my flowers too and am planning to throw in chives next. Forgot to put those on the list above, but I recommend both normal chives and garlic chives. The normal ones give some of the first spring veg and then the garlic chives are good into fall after the regular has given up the ghost.

I ought to have done the bucket trick...*hangs head* I do have a couple of spots where I just let it run wild though since not much else grows. Haven't tried catnip or catmint, but they are on The List.

Jealous that you can overwinter rosemary! Even the trailing ones are iffy for me.

Another that I recommend for bees is hyssop. I found I don't like the the taste much and hardly use it, but I keep it around just to keep my pollinators happy. I think they would stage a winged revolt if I took it out!
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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
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I did my run to the garden centre this morning! Eeee!

The only thing I was unable to get was tarragon, and I'm unsure which type of savory I got because they didn't differentiate. Instead of tarragon I got a second sage, and lacking lemon verbena and heeding your warning about lemon balm, I got a variegated lemon thyme instead. I even managed to find a bay!

Our climate is described as cool temperate, so while it rarely goes over 25 degrees (maybe 1-2 days a year), it also doesn't go all that low so the average is about 10-12 in winter and 18-20 in summer (daytime). It means we can grow a lot of frost tender type things, but nothing that likes it to be properly warm.

Planting day tomorrow! Which may be a bit of a damp affair since it's currently hosing down and blowing a northerly gale. ;-/
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From:pundigrion
Date:September 21st, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
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Oooh, that sounds like a fun growing zone to play with!
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From:meathiel
Date:September 18th, 2013 04:33 pm (UTC)
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Yay ... the craft room looks good. It's great when you can just leave stuff and don't have to tidy every time.
The garden looks like a rather big project ...
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From:tatjna
Date:September 18th, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
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The garden project just got bigger too, as I was mowing the lawn last night and found a set of steps hidden away in a corner that lead to a path that is completely overgrown and runs around the side of the hill to another wild woolly bit and I love taming wild gardens and ..

*gleee*
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From:laughingmagpie
Date:September 18th, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
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Oh wow - I loved that cartoon. Thank you for sharing that!

Yay! New craft space! I love it when the workspace is all clean and well-organized - I always get very excited and full of plans at that stage. Then chaos reigns for awhile and it gets all messy and out of place.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 18th, 2013 08:47 pm (UTC)
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I have so many plans but at the moment I have to be restrained because of finances and also because I have projects I must finish:

1. The Yorick project. I expect this to be finished next week.
2. That article about BZP for publication. I've been procrastinating on this and should just bloody do it.
3. The brainfart. Needs to be ready for Kiwiburn in January.

And then I can get onto the thing I really want to do, which is dress Dr Wheel up as Cullen so we can play The Templar and the Naughty Apostate.

*cough*
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