Dust bowl

Greetings from the depths of the dust bowl! Yeah, it’s been a while…etc. etc. All I can say is home construction is *really* disruptive. At least to me.

One of my friends asked me recently if — now that I had a chance to think on it — I would have scheduled this kitchen remodel so soon after all the other disruptions in my life. I did hesitate for a while before answering with a definitive “Yes.”

Because as crazy-making as it has been, it has also brought good stuff into my life, too. Like baking. Although the kitchen has not been officially finished yet (there’s still a bit left for the painter to do, hence all the dust, and some minor electrical fixture manipulating), I’ve already used the oven twice in the past week. And I love it.

Last Saturday, I baked a frittata to bring to a party. And tonight, I baked a chocolate zucchini cake that I just can’t wait to cut into.

I know it’s late July, which is not prime baking season. But this summer has been unusually cool here in Chicagoland, so baking doesn’t cause much upset. The weather has actually worked in my favor quite a bit. I mean, it is “high summer,” yet I can open the windows during the day to let the freshening breezes waft through to clear the house of construction odors and dust. Yeah, I’m being environmentally responsible by using low-VOC paint, but there is still some odor and lots of dust involved.

The amount of dust kicked up by the wall-prep process has actually caught me by surprise and stressed me out a bit. I’m not typically considered a clean-freak, but once the big construction work was done, I just had to clean up the house for my own peace of mind. I just couldn’t stand to see the furniture covered with dusty paw prints, the floor dulled by residue, and the wine glasses in the bar cart covered with a fine coating of…whatever. Plus I needed to test the dishwasher. (Yes!!! I now have a dishwasher!!!)

So, I cleaned the house. And while it may not have been sparkling, it was quite nice to sit on fresh from the clothes-line slip covers on the sofa while I sipped wine from my newly sparkling glasses.

And I *love* the range. Yep, it was worth the splurge to get the Jenn-Air convection range with all the fancy controls. It has baked like a dream on two occasions now, and I used the stove-top in a very satisfactory manor, too, the other night as I made a pasta dish.

The cool weather hasn’t been affecting my garden negatively this year. On the contrary, my plantings are all doing fabuloso this year. I stupidly planted 3 patty-pan squash plants this year in addition to the one zucchini plant. I always thought the patty-pan squash was cute and little. And it is if you harvest it when it is cute and little. Like zucchini, it seems to double in size overnight, and I’ve now learned my lesson: I need to check on the summer squash daily.

Like many Northern gardeners, I’ve now started on my “all zucchini [or general summer squash] all the time” diet. Zucchini and eggs for breakfast, veggie hash (which has generous amounts of summer squash in it) for lunch, and zucchini desserts in the oven. Today I also tried dehydrating some shredded zucchini, and before the weekend is over I expect to shred and freeze several pounds of summer squash for later baking pleasure.

I’ve also enjoyed crisp cucumbers and tasty broccoli from my garden, too, so I’m not complaining. Gardening is often about years of plenty balanced by years of scarcity, so I’m enjoying what I have now.

Other aspects of my life are also rather topsy-turvy, which has contributed to my general uneasiness. I have a boyfriend, and while this could really be a good thing it is also a pretty challenging thing for me to deal with.

First, there’s just the fact that I’ve moved past the “just dating” phase to the “boyfriend” phase so quickly. While neither of us has said “you’re my boy/girlfriend” the fact that we spend every weekend night and some week nights in each others company makes this a certainty; we don’t have any availability to date someone else left at this point.

Then there’s this: as I’ve observed elsewhere, I take care of myself much better when I’m not distracted by taking care of someone else. It’s true that the construction and normal work demands alone make it challenging for me to find ample time to work out/sleep/eat properly. Add in trying to mesh your schedule with someone else’s and you’ve got a pretty messed up situation.

I don’t want to stop seeing G. I don’t want to be so attached to someone at this time, either. So I’m stuck in this seemingly awkward situation. Don’t go away, G. Don’t come any closer, either. I give him bonus points for not yet walking away in disgust at my instability.

There is some relief coming, though. I booked a workshop at Esalen in late August that is all about relaxing and rejuvenating.  I just need to get by until then and I know I’ll be feeling much more balanced when I return. Right?

Animal stories

It’s been hard to keep up blogging when there are so many disruptions and so many chores to do.

The kitchen remodel started on June 22 and there was a whirlwind of activity that first week. In week 2, the floors were laid, sanded, stained, and sealed with polyurethane. This is a messy, stinky process and I had to leave the house for a couple nights. The dogs were taken to the veterinary clinic and boarded and I slept at a friend’s place. I did get lucky with the weather, though. It was dry and not too hot so the windows in the house could remain cracked to let out some of the smell. I’ve been taking photos as the project moves along and putting them in a Flickr set.

Other than those 2 nights away, I’ve been doing pretty good in my basement lair. I have everything I need down here now other than loads of natural light. There are windows down here but they don’t allow as much natural light to flood in as the ones on the first and second floor. So I tend to feel a bit like I’m hibernating at times.

The Independence Day holiday weekend was a great example. July 4 was a bit drizzly and rainy until late in the day. So I lounged for the day on my comfy futon. I have a TV down here and it was on most of the day tuned to public television. I also had a book and knitting. The day went sort of like this: watch a bit of TV, read a few pages, take a short snooze, wake up and knit for a bit. It felt very decadent and I loved it. I finally got around to doing a few chores on Monday (I took that day off, too) and that’s when I was able to snap this photo.

Caterpillar on butterfly weed

Caterpillar on butterfly weed

Weeding may seem like a tedious chore, but it’s moments like the one captured here that make it worthwhile. I never would have spotted this little muncher if I hadn’t been down on my knees pulling weeds.

My little menagerie has had a tricky time lately. Some of their exploits have not been very fun for me, either.

First, my Delaware hen, Speedy, had fowl pox. It’s not usually fatal and a chicken with fowl pox is akin to child with chicken pox. She got bumps on her legs and comb, and she stopped laying. But she continued to eat and drink and seemed otherwise healthy. So it was just a matter of waiting for it to pass. She hasn’t had any bumps for over a week now and it looks like she is laying again.

The other hens were vaccinated when I got them so they didn’t succumb to the virus. If I had remembered to get the chicks vaccinated before they were shipped it’s likely Speedy would have been safe from it, too. I have no way of knowing if having the pox was painful or uncomfortable for her, but it was an experience I would wish to avoid in the future. Even though the rest of the hens were immune, their laying dropped, too. For a few weeks, I was only getting one egg a day from my reliable layer: Maisy.

The worst problem was caused by the dogs, though. Just a few nights ago Hannah and Sadie got skunked. Of course this happened at about 1:30 AM, a time when I am not at my sharpest. They woke me up with their whining and agitation and I just assumed they needed to go out to do some business. When they seemed even more riled once they were out there I thought perhaps they were trying to chase off the stray cat that sometimes visits.

I had to go out in my robe to try and get them back into the house since they refused to respond to my calls. Once out I could see the problem, but it was too late to do anything: the skunk on the other side of the fence that was backing up getting closer to the dogs who were frantically barking and lunging at this cocky imposter. I succeeded in getting the dogs far enough away that I was in no danger of getting sprayed, but my senses were completely overwhelmed with the stench and I had a lot of clean up to do.

A trip to the 24-hour pharmacy was required to pick up the supplies (lots of hydrogen peroxide and some baking soda). Then I had to wash both dogs before finally getting back to bed about 2 hours later. Needless to day, I was rather tired the next day but at least I was working from home. In between my meetings and commitments, I washed and cleaned the bedding, the floors, the throw rugs, etc. Everything seemed to be permeated with the stench.

The next night when the dogs started whining again in the middle of the night I just let them. A few minutes of ruined sleep is much better than losing several hours.

Kitchen work resumes next week and I’m hoping it will continue to move swiftly and problem free.