I have ADD and I'm Okay!

I went to a psychiatrist recently in order to confirm or deny a growing realization - one that I've been coming to over the past couple of months - that I may have ADD. It turns out that, yes, I do indeed have this mixed blessing of a condition. 

And I am thrilled! Really! 

Let me tell you why... All my life I have struggled with certain problems, from poor time management, lack of drive, disorganization, forgetfulness, getting easily distracted or derailed from my intentions...the list is long. And all my life I've been told to "just try harder", "you have so much potential, all you need to do is focus more!", "you're very hard to have a conversation with", "you don't listen", "you always interrupt and talk at people more than to them", "you need to get out more, do more things".

But I do try harder. I do try to focus. I want to listen to people, and I want to do more with my life, have adventures, be on time, not lose things, be organized, and able to start and complete tasks.

I always wondered what was wrong with me, why it has always been so hard for me to do the simplest things that others seem to be able to do without even trying...I would soar along, and everything would seem grand, and then suddenly every thing would fall apart right in front of my eyes.

So I am thrilled to know that I have ADD, that I am not a loser, and that I really couldn't do all the things - not because it was my fault, but because of a condition in my brain. And I am particularly thrilled to know that there is something that I can DO about it! I have so many options now for treatment, guidance, and a path to follow! The diagnosis was actually liberating and very cathartic, because now I don't feel helpless, no longer do I feel down on myself, and no more am I confused about what to do (well, not as confused). 

ADD comes with some pretty great perks, too. Creativity, the ability to think outside the box, intuitiveness, spontaneity, quick-thinking. It's part of why I have always been able to excel at things like art, crafts and sewing, and cooking. People with ADD tend to be highly intelligent, too.

That's why I choose to think of it as a mixed Blessing instead of a Disorder. I value my gifts and talents, and really like who I am. There are actions I can take to mitigate the problems and roadblocks. I am full of hope and anticipation, looking forward to seeing the ways I will bloom now that I have the right identification of the source of my challenges, and the tools to help me overcome my inbuilt obstacles!

I suspect that I will be writing more about this in the future. There is still so much for me to work through and learn.


QA Testing - Not Just a Job

I've been working as a software tester since last April. I started as a total Noob. Turns out, I am a good tester and I like it, and the folks at the start up I work for also like my work, so I suddenly find that I have a new career!!

I may, from time to time write posts about my work...if I can keep the entries short and to the point. It's an interesting and challenging job, and I have found that I need to learn all the things! Well, okay, not all the things...but definitely some of the things. So far I know enough SQL, C#, Selenium, and such to be dangerous. There is far more of these languages that I don't know, than that I do know.

But as the CEO of our company likes to say, "Everyday, a little better."


Let's give this blogging thing another try

Been away from blogging a lot longer than I had expected or planned. I actually have quite a few old posts sitting in the drafts folder, all written in the past two years, but they are all way too long, and, as a result, completely unfinished.

I have detected a theme here. Seems I tend to ramble on and then run out of steam. So I am going to try a new tactic: Shorter posts. Starting with this one.

Let's see if I can ease myself back into blogging regularly by keeping my posts short and sweet.


Internet Meanderings and the Treasures They Procure

I love following link chains on the internet...going from one blog or website to another, sometimes for hours of fascinating reading that almost inevitably leads to me getting completely derailed from the thing that I was looking up or about to order in the first place. 

The latest chain was so interesting and fruitful that I had to write about it and share it with The World (hello one reader, you are now nick-named "The World").

See, it all started with a search for lard. We are almost out, so I need to restock. Usually I get my lard from a farm in Minnesota, but I wanted to see if there was a more local source, so the shipping might not be so expensive. No luck there, but that is how I came across this wonderful article about leaf lard (and discovered what scrapple is - I'd totally eat that). It was so interesting that I had to find the source, which turned out to be a collection of writings about old-fashioned southern food and nearly-lost cooking techniques written by the owner of what sounds like an amazing restaurant in Virginia. If I ever end up in Urbanna, VA, you can bet I will be paying a visit to the Something Different Country Store and Deli. Their byline is "Righteous Ribs and Bodacious Butts", after all.

I started working my way through the Something Different articles, trying not to drool too much, and came to the one about oysters, in which he describes shucking oysters and finding a tiny little passenger called (appropriately enough) an oyster crab. Well, I had to look that up.

It was with a strange mixture of gick factor and hmmmmm that I studied the googled images of this strange little crustacean. The oyster crab is very like a parasite, albeit a mutually beneficial one, since he contributes his share of nutrition to the oyster by catching and grinding up bits that the oyster can't filter, in exchange for room and board. But still, it's a sea "bug" living inside another creature. Bleh.

And yet, according to the internets, it's considered a delicacy. This blogging couple fried the ones they found and nommed them down, then shared an article on several ways to prepare them. And this fellow made me laugh til I nearly cried with his tale of suffering, discovery, confusion, and failed attempt at nurturing Gary the Oyster Crab. Maybe he shouldn't have poked at him so much.

I still haven't decided whether I would try eating one of the little buggers...I suppose if someone served it to me I'd have to try it on principle, but I don't think I'll be out actively seeking - or shucking - them out. I will, however, be keeping a much closer eye on the oysters that I eat.

Anyway, I need to go order my lard now, and put some meat into an ancient Roman marinade. (The recipe of which is the result of a previous day's link chain.) Yes, I did just post two links from 12BottleBar. They deserve it, because it's my go-to site when I want to find a fab cocktail - the bits of fascinating history are an added bonus. Plus, they keep company with some fab folks. Ooh, one more link: BUY THIS BOOK.

Please do follow these links. Especially if you are in love with food, history, and great writing.


Paleo Lamb Bobotie

Bobotie is considered to be a difinitive dish of South Africa, although it most likely originated in Batavia (now Known as Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia). It is one of the finest of the ground meat casserole dishes (at least in my opinion), with it's savory custard-like topping, and is really a must-try.

The version below is paleo-friendly, omitting certain traditionally used ingredients like raisins and chutney (too much sugar) and bread, and adding liver. I did miss the slightly sweet contrast of raisins, and might consider adding a few next time - perhaps minced so that a little will go a long way.

If you don't like liver, I recommend mincing it or even putting it in a food processor before adding it to the dish. It blends in pretty well.

Warning: the measurements in this recipe (aside from the meat portions) are approximate. I seldom measure anything when I cook. Instead I taste and smell and add ingredients til I'm satisfied.

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground grassfed lamb

1 lb ground grassfed beef

1 lb chopped grassfed beef liver

1 large red onion, chopped

4 or 5 tbsp Green Pasture Coconut Ghee

1tbsp each whole coriander seed, mustard seed and cumin seed

3 fat cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced

5 or 6 tbsp favorite curry powder

1/2 cup raw almonds, soaked in hot water for an hour, skinned and coarsely chopped

1 pear, peeled and chopped

8 fresh pastured eggs

1-2 cups fresh raw cream and/or raw milk

1/2 to 1 tsp garam masala spice blend

3 bay leaves

 Salt and pepper, to taste

Start by melting about about half of the coconut ghee in a frying pan. Add the coriander seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and saute til the mustard seeds start popping. Add the onion and saute on medium-low til they start to get tender, then add the garlic. Saute for another minute or two, then, before the onions start to brown too much, set aside in your baking dish. (I think the one I use is 9x13)

Add the rest of your coconut ghee and 1/2 of the curry powder. Mix well in the pan and add 1/2 of the meat and salt to taste. Cook til most of the pink is gone and add it to the baking dish, reserving the fat to cook the next batch. Proceed to do the same process with the rest of the curry powder and meat.

Mix the meat together with the onion mixture, the chopped pear, the chopped peeled almonds, and 2 of the raw eggs. Press it down pretty firmly in the baking dish, and then bake it at 350 for about 25 minutes. 

Beat the rest of the eggs with the fresh cream/milk and the garam masala. Remove the meat from the oven, lay down the bay leaves (I broke them in half first) and cover with the beaten eggs and cream. Return to the oven for about 15-20 more minutes - basically as long as it takes for the custard to set.

By now you will be drooling over the amazing aromas of lamb and curry that are filling your kitchen. I recommend sipping on a glass of red wine to pass the time.

When the custard is set, remove the Bobotie from the oven and let it sit for about 10 more minutes, if you can stand it. Then dig in.

 


Wee Drinkies

Last year I came across a very nice drinks blog called 12bottlebar.com while in search of a cocktail recipe and wound up spending several facinated hours there, the result of which was a plan to go through the recipes one at a time to broaden my tastes. I ended up getting stuck on one specific drink, the Brandy Milk Punch, (paleo version using whole raw milk and - because it was what I had on hand, and I love it - Metaxa) that I loved so much I just couldn't move on. If you try this drink, don't forget the freshly grated nutmeg.

Time, of course, passed and I did move on, and then took a hiatus from drinking in general due to gastric distress ( the result of WAY too much spicy, acidic food and too many acidic, citrusy drinks). Rice pap and water, bleh!

It's only been a couple of months now that I've returned to adult beverages, particularly rediscovering my love for the many varieties and flavors of wine, including the subtle shift in profile as the wine oxidizes in the glass, and how this will usually improve, but sometimes (rarely) ruin it. 

A few nights ago I was in the mood for a drink, but discovered we were out of wine. We had plenty of gin in the freezer, though, and *ding* out of the depths of my subconscious popped the memory of that fab website. It took another while before I could reconstruct what it could have possibly been called, but thanks to some desperate memory tracing I finally found what I was looking for! 

And the recipe I decided on trying was The Obituary Cocktail

Two ounces of gin coupled with a quarter ounce each dry vermouth and absinthe - it sounded like a nice departure from a typical martini.  And I liked it well enough initially, but decided that the absinthe flavor became somewhat overwhelming, cloying, even, as it warmed up. And with my slight constitution and low tolerance, this drink was definitely a slow sipper. I ended up not finishing it, but not willing to give up on the concept...there were enough intriguing flavors in the concoction that I decided to toy with it.

The next evening, I decided to reduce both the absinthe and the vermouth to mere dashes - drizzles, if you will - and to add a citrus note, which I thought would go very nicely with both the gin and the absinthe. I had two slightly shriveled Seville oranges left over from my holiday visit to my mother's house in Sunny Florida, and decided they were perfect for my experiment. The result was one of the finest cocktails I've ever enjoyed, featuring that distinctive orangey-bitter note that only a Seville can contribute, tempered by the botanical...hmmm...anise-ness of the absinthe, which itself was contained and became an enhancement to the drink, instead of a main feature.

A Bit of a Side Note About Seville Oranges

If you are not familiar, Seville, or bitter oranges are known for their amazingly fragrant, thick skins and very sour juice. They are the oranges traditionally used for marmalade.

When I was a teen growing up at my mom's, we all eschewed those bitter little oranges, convinced there was something terribly wrong, possibly even diseased, with the poor, puny orange tree growing in our back yard. They were mostly a nuisance, aside from the lovely fragrance of their blossoms and their use as an occasional garbage disposal freshener. 

And then we met some ladies who changed our minds and opened our eyes to the treasure, the great value that we had so sneeringly derided. 

I'm not even sure how the conversation started...we were at a restaurant, my mother and I, down in St. Augustine, dining with some old school pals of mine (I have always included my mom in my social interactions - she's cool like that) and these lovely ladies - also friends of my friends and who hovered somewhere between mom and I in age - somehow in the course of our dinner conversations discovered that we had an orange tree in our back yard. They started plying us with questions, a very excited, hopeful look on their faces. Once they had established, with great relish on their parts, that we most likely were in possession of a Seville orange tree, they practically begged us for some seeds, some left over peels, anything really.

My mom did them one better and told them they could come and harvest as many oranges as they liked and we'd be grateful for the favor. And they did harvest them. They also told us a bit of the history, uses, and merits of the Seville orange, and how they had searched for years for a source of seeds, so they could grow their very own trees.

After that, of course I had a new-found respect for our little tree, yet, still I was never really fond of its fruits, since their sourness rivals that of a lemon or lime. Never liked them until, that is, until I went Paleo and stopped eating anything with processed or added sugar.

Last spring my husband and I took a couple of our friends with us down to visit my mom and we made pitchers of homemade margaritas with the oranges...Outstanding! A good reposado, the luciously tart and fragrant juice of the seville, and just a bit of fresh lime. There was no need for cointreau. Triple sec? Pah! We pretty much overdosed on Seville margaritas, and I (dis)credit those oranges with my subsequent relish for sour, acidic beverages that ultimately led to my gastric downfall!

A Return to the Topic at Hand

Apologies...I tend to get a bit off track. I blame my fine art schooling in college, which taught me to work an entire canvas instead of focusing on one element at a time. In art, sure, it can mean that the entire piece is integrated, because it is treated as a whole product and flows accordingly. In writing, (and the rest of life, unfortunately) it means that I tend to digress and get sidetracked very easily, meandering and pontificating, and only through a very concerted effort of will do I ever manage to stick to something long enough to satisfactorally conclude it.

Anyway, we left off with the Seville orange addition to the Obituary Cocktail, and how lovely it was. Well, the next evening arrived and I was out of Sevilles. But I had lemons!  

Ok, so lemons don't have the range or depth of that floral, orangey flavor that worked so charmingly with the absinthe, but certainly it must have some charm of its own! So, I gave it a try, but made the error of squeezing the juice of an entire lemon into my drink. Too tart, of course, so I had to temper it with the juice of some brandied bing cherries that a friend of mine made and was so kind as to include in my Christmas bag of goodies. The flavor was just what was needed to temper the lemon, but sadly, the added alcohol from the brandy  - and the added sugar - left me wide awake in the wee hours of the morning with a pounding heart and the sweats. (Paleo peeps, be warned if you don't already know - sugar and alcohol will affect you much more strongly! And for Deity's sake, stay the F*&^ away from agave! Your poor liver is already adjusting to so much, don't thrust upon it the added burden of fructose processing when you are already pushing it through it's paces with alcohol!)

Tonight marked the most recent iteration of this drink, and I started by discovering a surprise bottle of even better absinthe in my Drinkies cabinet. (We entertain a lot, and people bring a LOT of alcohol to our house. The leftover bottles inordinately end up in our Drinkies cabinet, a dark little space filled with strange dusty bottles of things we generally don't imbibe. (The good stuff either goes in the freezer or lives on the counter where it's consumed in very little time.)

I was looking for rum, to try the Trafalgar, a fitting drink since I LOVE anything that is remotely related to Patrick O'brian and his 20-book Aubrey-Maturin historical fiction series. Sadly, there was no Pusser's in the cabinet, which is what 12bottlebar recommends, so that recipe has been shelved for now, but 'lo if there wasn't a partial bottle of Golden Absente, a 138 proof, slightly greenish tinged upgrade to the regular 110 proof Absente that I've been drinking!

I started with a modest margarita glass (the normal kind you buy at the department store, not the fish-bowl versions you find at most Mexi-themed chain restaurants) filled it with ice, then poured in one standard shot of Bombay Gin (my preference is Hendricks, and the 12bottle website recommends Leopold's, but one does what one can with what one has, doesn't one?). Then I added the juice of only 1/2 a lemon, the usual conservative drizzle each of absinthe and dry vermouth, and 3 careful dashes of Angostura Bitters.

WOW!

This drink is phenomenal! The upgrade in absinthe was very noticeable, even with all the other elements. It was smoother and more subtle. My next pursuit will be to get a bottle of Kubler Absinthe, which is the recommendation of 12bottlebar. Just to see if I can taste the difference.

I also found that the bitters, far from interfering with the flavor of the absinthe, actually deepened it, working with it in a very pleasing way. I'm not sure I even have the words to express the subtle difference, but I recommend trying the drink before  and after adding the bitters to really get a TASTE of the difference.

And that, my friends, concludes this little daliance into the realm of adult bevarages. I had intended it to be a short piece celebrating 12bottlebar, but it ended up turning into something a bit more. Hopefully this piece will be of interest to more that just me, but even if it doesn't I've had a blast writing it, and enjoyed a titillation of my taste-buds to boot. (Isn't that a fab word? Titillation. It rolls off the tongue and makes one feel...well, titillated.)


Not just a Gardening Blog - I Can Sew too!

Now that it's just way too cold to venture outside for any length of time, I'm looking forward to focusing on some of the other interests I have such as blogging and sewing. It has always been my intention for this blog to be about more than just gardening and food, and I finally feel like I'm able to start documenting my sewing adventures. I have quite a backlog what with costumes from two Dragon*Cons and several pirate parties, not to mention my love for vintage clothing and a growing collection of fab vintage patterns.

My new blue office is the result of the need to separate my sewing room from my office/computer room. For the past couple of years I had been using one room for both purposes and there were just too many things going on in that one space! It was becoming a chaotic disaster area, particularly in the aftermath of spending 2 solid months sewing 10 - 14 hours a day for Dragon*Con.

I guess I will start by going backwards...Here is the most recent dress, which I made this past Saturday.

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It's from this 1936 evening dress pattern that I bought several years ago at Eva Dress, my favorite online vintage pattern shop. I go there and drool over the patterns, and am on her mailing list so I can know when she posts anything new. 

Now, I have to admit that this is my first shot at sewing one of these patterns, because I was initially very intimidated by them. The instructions for this dress were literally only half a page long and un-illustrated, and I often have a hard time even when the instructions are several pages long with pictures for every step. 

It's possible I learned more about sewing than I realized this summer, but this really was a simple pattern. The instructions were very clear and concise and there were only 4 pieces. I made a mock-up in cotton first, and it went together so quickly that I was able to make the official version in less than three hours. I wore it to a Christmas party that very night!

I did leave out the trim and sash made in a contrasting fabric because I didn't have anything on hand that I thought would be suitable to go with the sweater-like knit that I used for the dress. And that knit was so fuzzy and forgiving that it was very easy to finish the edges without seam binding or other tricky finishing techniques. I expect that it would take an additional 2 to 4 hours to create this dress with the trim in a different fabric - which I fully intend to do!

I've got lots more to post, but I'd like to get better photos of some of the things I've made before I put them up. I really don't have to worry about running out of things to do this winter! So many patterns, too many ideas...and let us not forget next year's Dragon*Con!


Winter Garden Update

It got to be December pretty darn fast, I must say! I've been snuggled up in my cozy new blue office so deeply that I've hardly even noticed the outside world for the most part.

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Cozy New Blue Office. Yes, that IS a map of Middle-Earth on the wall.

For instance, I knew it was theoretically cold outside because someone mentioned it would be in the twenties last week, but it didn't really sink in that it was feckin' freezing out 'til I went to get some greens out of the wee greenhouses I built and found ice between the sheets of plastic!

Which reminds me! I never posted photos of the finished greenhouses!

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Here is the final version, with extra sheeting for insulation on the sides.

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And here they are at night! It looks like there's a party going on in there!

They have been working perfectly so far. I have been amazed at how well everything is growing, especially certain plants that have failed previously. My chard is creating beautiful, deeply shiny green leaves with brilliantly hued stalks (I got the Bright Lights variety), and everything is just lush and thriving. I even have onions re-emerging, that I must have missed before, because they were so puny.

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All of this came out a few days ago...cilantro, parsley and arugula that I had to harvest because they were starting to brush against the roof and lights. I cooked some of it up with some other mexican flavors and ground beef...with bacon on the side. Because, well, Bacon.

Today is December 13th, and we've actually had a bit of snow over the past 48 hours or so. I was just out checking on the greenhouses again, and everything still seems fine.

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This is how it looks outside the plastic walls - ice and bits of snow. 

It's 27 degrees outside right now, and it was still about 40 in the greenhouses. I may need to add a bit more insulation or heat somehow, because it's supposed to dip down to the teens tonight, and it appears that the lights keep everything about 15 - 20 degrees warmer.

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These guys seem to have it all under control for me. Don't mess with my garden, man, or you'll have to answer to them!

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In other news, the seed catalogs arrived the other day! I am already planning next year's garden. I'm going to have to expand again to fit all the things that I want to grow! I am also thinking about starting some seedlings now to add to the greenhouses later. Unfortunately, my "sun-room" is on the northern side of the house and gets no sunshine at all this time of year, so I may have to invest in some grow-lights, or invade another room in the house that gets better light.

I am also hoping to add chickens this spring! I want two or three laying hens for fresh eggs. I'm gonna try the chicken tractor method, where they are in a mobile cage that can be moved around the yard each day. This allows them to eat fresh greens and bugs, all the while fertilizing the yard. It also prevents a lot of the negative things that people associate with chickens, like flies, odor, compacted earth, mud and filth. I will also probably build a coop for them to sleep in at night, so they will be safe and cozy. I still have a lot of research to do, and plans to create, because I suspect I will have to restructure my garden a bit in order to accommodate the hens. 

Winter is yet just begun, so I have plenty of time to plan, daydream and design my perfect Garden 3.0.

 

Update to the Update: It's 8:30 pm and 21 degrees outside. The low is expected to be 13. I checked the temp inside the greenhouse and it was around 30, which just won't do. I added a couple of sheets and another piece of plastic to the main greenhouse, and now I just have to wait and see. I really don't have anymore layers to add. Even if the greenhouse fails and I lose everything, I 'm alright with that. I got an extra couple of months out of the growing season, and maybe next year I will be able to invest in a proper structure. I'll see what it all looks like in the morning!


Fall-to-Winter Garden Update

Today is November 5th and tonight it's supposed to freeze. I am partially amazed that it's getting cold so soon this year, in spite of knowing that we are going through a solar cycle of reduced sunspot activity that will mean cooler temperatures for the next 10 years or so.

As soon as I found out about the upcoming freeze, I starting planning for my winter garden. Basically I want to save the plants that are currently growing, and see if I can continue to grow some veggies well into winter. So yesterday I took apart the bean trellis that I had created out of a modular tomato cage kit (I never did get any bean vines...the bunnies conspired against me and ate all the seedlings) and started building a small greenhouse structure around my two primary garden beds.

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Ye olde bean trellis before the plague of bunnies.

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The greenhouse framework takes shape.

It started raining so I went to Home Depot for some supplies and continued the rest of the construction today. I have to say that I had a blast building this thing! I felt like I was playing with tinker toys! I used zip ties and string to tie the structure together, and hammered the vertical supports into the ground for extra stability.

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Once I was happy with the framework it was time to improve the soil. I decided to use a lasagna gardening method of layering all the amendments around the existing plants. I layered a bit of peat moss, diatomacious earth, steer and chicken manures, vermiculite, crushed eggshells and other kitchen scraps, and topped the whole thing off with leaves from the yard. I'll continue to add leaves, peat moss and kitchen scraps throughout the winter to help keep my plants cozy. By spring, I hope that I will have happy new soil to start with.

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All tucked in for winter.

Next it was time to install the heat source. I decided to use a very simple, cheap and low tech source of heat: Indoor/outdoor C9 and C7 Christmas lights! They were easy to attach with zip ties, and should keep all the plants cozy and warm (not to mention festive).

As I was working I could feel the temperature dropping. My fingers got a bit stiff and it was getting harder to tighten the zip ties. Good thing I had a cozy hat and scarf to keep the rest of me warm!

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See the zip ties sticking out of my pocket? 

I had just finished stringing the lights, and was about to start creating a nice little greenhouse by carefully and attractively arranging 4mil plastic sheeting around my framework, all the while getting fab photos of each stage, when nature said "F-you very kindly, but I don't think so." 

It started raining.

I got the lights hooked up to the electricity and hastily cut lengths of sheeting and draped them over the frameworks, anchoring the bottoms with rocks, all the while getting colder and wetter.

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And then the rain turned to ice pellets.

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I rushed around getting all the tools and leftover bits inside, and then I remembered my tomatoes! NOOOO! I couldn't let them freeze. So I went out and picked all the tomatoes off of the vine, ice pelting down all around me. I guess I'll try pickling the greenest tomatoes, and see if the others will ripen on the window sill.

Look at all these beauties:

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All summer long I think I got 3 puny, sickly tomatoes. It was just too hot for them on the deck. Then fall came along and that tomato plant became lush and thick with fruit and blossoms.

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Tomato plant on 11-1.

After a while the ice stopped and I came back out to get this picture:

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It looks so cozy and fun in there that I wish I could shrink myself down and wander around. And yes, I know how weird that sounds. But it would be fun!

Tomorrow should be nice and sunny, so I will be able to finish the greenhouse properly. I want to attach the plastic to the framework, making sure it's all properly sloped for water runoff and make access panels that I can open to get at the veggies and for ventilation on nice days.

But now it's time to go start supper and spend the rest of the evening snuggled up in front of the fire.