Obviously, this has been quite a month. I didn't realize I'd left things this long! I have a new slideshow up on the Abigail tab.
After another relapse on Abigail's part, we are finally well aside from some various allergy-related problems now that we have some beautiful warm weather. We did end up going to a doctor for Abby's ears after she was up crying in pain all night and it turns out we most likely had RSV, which explains why we got so sick. When my brother Jonathan got RSV at Abigail's age, he was in the hospital for three weeks. Abigail didn't even get an ear infection; although Ben did and had his eardrum rupture - he's just now able to hear mostly out of that ear again. Yikes.
I've pretty much been waiting three months to reach the three-month mark, because it's usually at this point that many things get a lot easier. Babies and parents both learn a lot in that time. Babies usually have their digestive systems develop a lot better by three months and learn to sleep through the night, among other things. I'm happy to report that Abigail's now sleeping for about seven hours at a stretch at night, then eats and goes back to sleep for another three hours or so. Ten hours is a really nice night, folks. Plus, at three months Abby is starting to find things interesting besides just being walked around, so she can be entertained for ten or fifteen minutes trying to reach for the toy hanging on her carseat, for instance. And she laughed at peek-a-boo for the first time this morning. Which is good. What do you do with a little person who doesn't get the concept of a game yet?
Unfortunately, she hasn't grown out of her digestive issues completely yet. She can now handle me having some peanuts, but any dairy at all - and because it's the casein in the dairy, it means even sodium caseinate that's an additive in a lot of food - causes three days of crying and her little stomach gurgling uncomfortably every time she eats. It makes me nervous to eat away from home where I can't read labels because I always wonder what I'm accidentally going to eat without knowing it and have Abigail pay the price for days. Since I'm not dairy-intolerant myself, I don't get any stomachache or other warning. It's a little taste of what it would be like to have a serious allergy myself; and I'm glad I don't actually have it, so I won't have to be so very careful the rest of my life.
Thankfully almond milk turns out to be quite good, actually, and it makes a great substitute in baking so I can still make some good stuff like muffins and my favorite raisin bread. Also thankfully, I'm not doing a gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, peanut-free diet. If you have a kid with really severe allergies, that's what you'd get; and I think that pretty much means celery sticks and plain chicken for a long time. Good for the waistline...but boy, it'd get boring!
In other news, lots of work has gone on behind the scenes to prepare for our addition. We have an amended building permit now posted in the window and we're pretty firmly expecting to start excavating Tuesday - though this could always be changed, having a date to start is new and exciting. Ben and I have been working around the yard the past couple of days, cleaning things and getting stuff out of the way and moving the little peach tree a little further back so it's in a more convenient location...and also a little more out of harm's way when the big machinery comes through.
We had a little surprise pop up in the middle of our yard - the round circle garden that was so totally full of weeds last year that we pulled everything out sprouted a whole crop of tulips this spring. Apparently, they must've been choked by the weeds but sprang right up once they were exposed to sun and water. It's been a serendipitous occurrence; and it's entertained Grandma Lila for weeks as she sits at the breakfast table and looks out at their progress. I'm probably going to go cut all the flowers tomorrow so they don't get crushed; they're completely in the middle of everything and there's certainly no point making machines drive all over the yard to avoid a few flowers. But I'd like them to finish blooming on our kitchen table if they can't stay in the yard.
Ben and I have been attempting to put some order back into life so we can get things done. Abigail definitely slows us up, but we've been gradually taking care of things one at a time and venturing out of the house on little outings. We went to the library a few weeks ago and came home with a DVD collection of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. We watched one episode every evening after Abigail was in bed for the night (usually around 10:00) and got kind of hooked. It's not that all the jobs are really that dirty, but the show focuses on all the small tasks that people make their living at in order to keep what we know as "civilized society" functioning. One of the amazing byproducts of watching this show is that we're starting to look at our surroundings and say, "huh...I wonder who maintains all those lights on the side of the freeway and what it takes to do that job" or "I wonder what it's like carting produce around to all the grocery stores and making sure it stays fresh and getting rid of rotten stuff". There are literally thousands of seemingly small jobs that people spend their lifetime doing that we never notice because it all goes into maintaining the infrastructure we've built up and are familiar with.
I will caution that it's definitely not a show for the little guys. There are some fairly graphic bits involving breeding farm animals (yep, that's definitely a dirty job) and an awful lot of tasks involving what Mike always calls "poo". And I have to say, if I didn't already not eat pork, I'm not sure I could now.
All in all, this month has gone by really fast and I'm starting to see some light at the end of the adjust-to-the-new-baby tunnel. There may even begin to be time to sit and write more often again soon.
Then again...there's always construction!
I seriously have been trying to write this blog post all week. Every time I sit down to work on it, something comes up and I get derailed until it's too late in the evening for me to have enough functioning brain cells left to write anything coherent. Assuming I do anyway, of course.
It's been a busy time, between working on the house and getting our garden produce picked and taken care of. The garden isn't producing as plentifully as I'd hoped (too many plants, not enough room, I'm thinking), but it's bringing enough in that it's taking a few hours every few days to harvest everything and then take care of it. We had chicken curry last night made with our own tomatoes and peppers and Ben was really thrilled - both with the recipe and the fact a good portion of it came from the garden. He's never been around for canning tomatoes before and I sort of regret now that I did the blanching and peeling while he was away so he didn't have the fun of squishing the tomatoes.
Anyone else reading who has been similarly deprived: you have my sympathy. Tomato squishing is the best part of doing any canning all summer. I mean, just picture a great big pan of warm peeled tomatoes just waiting for you to stick your hands in and start squishing them up. Doesn't get much more fun than that.
Since we're beginning the process of getting our building permits for the addition (hooray!), we've finally began doing some of the work on the kitchen we've really wanted to do all year, like getting the transition bar installed between the wood floor in the living room and the composite floor in the kitchen and hanging the vertical blinds. Yes, we know it's all going to get torn out again shortly. In fact, installing things pretty much ensures that. If all goes well, we should begin the foundation work in the next few weeks.
I've been feeling the baby move now and then, but it seems we have a placid one on our hands: whoever this little person is, they're not in a big hurry to start thumping away on Mom. I've been praying for a baby with a laid-back sunny disposition like Ben's and now I just have to remember not to get too worried when he or she is not too worried about being on time with things like movement milestones. One of the big differences between me and Ben is that he's not concerned when he's running late for something; I always feel bound to be absolutely on time even for things that really don't matter. Which is probably why I walked at 12 months and he waited until 15.
Having said all that, as I'm sitting here typing I'm getting probably the strongest movements I've felt yet. It feels...sort of like someone popping popcorn very gently under my skin. I'm very relieved to feel that because I've been firmly resisting using the Doppler monitor to hear the heartbeat again. I've been doing some reading and it seems there are some indications that exposure to focused sound waves from ultrasound or even the Doppler monitor can be hard on the baby's developing cells. So unless there's an emergency, I really don't want to go bombarding Peanut with focused sound waves just so I can feel happy to hear a nice little heartbeat.
All of which makes a little movement a welcome event. Today, Peanut is alive and well and cheerfully kicking me in the stomach.
Hm. That doesn't sound too good, put in those terms.
For anyone who's really fascinated by plants...and I suppose you'd have to be REALLY fascinated to find this interesting...
The worms I dug out of the plants were called Squash Vine Borers. They show up only during a very short window up time, so we won't be getting a reinfestation; and I killed them off before they could burrow into the ground and become adults, so our ground isn't infected.
Furthermore, the blooms weren't dropping as a sign of distress. It turns out that zucchini plants have male and female flowers and you can tell the difference because the female flowers actually start with the baby zucchini forming at the base while the male flowers are just on a thin stalk. The fact that our plant was only producing male flowers WAS a sign of distress, but it's perfectly normal for the male flowers to drop off after blooming.
And once you've gotten rid of the worm, it's best to bury the poor mangled stem with compost so it can re-root and get stronger without getting any more bugs in the crevices. I let ours dry out so they weren't all soft and mushy anymore and complied. We got two zucchini this week and have six more in progress, one even from the plant I was sure we'd lost.
To repel the invading pests, the best method is to regularly use insecticide dust on the ground around the baby zucchini plants and on the bases of the stems throughout the month of June, which is the only time the borers lay their eggs. There is a liquid chemical you can use also, but I didn't recognize it and would probably stick to the dust since that works for cucumbers and beans too.
It's kind of funny because when I first was trying to get rid of the pests, I said to Ben, "These things are just like iris borers!"
And indeed...they are.
There are a lot of computer geeks in this world. This post (and the fact I really wanted to write it) just goes to prove that some of us end up being plant geeks instead. Oh well.
Our zucchini plants brought in their first good-sized zucchini two weeks ago. The plants were huge – the biggest I’d ever seen – and they were loaded with flowers. I was relieved we’d only planted the two; well, actually, I’d only planted one of the little seedling pots, but there were two sprouts in it that I couldn’t separate so I decided to just leave them be and end up with two plants instead of the one I’d intended. I didn’t think we could absorb more zucchini than that without having to resort to pawning them off on unsuspecting neighbors; and two weeks ago, looking at the crop of flowers starting to bloom, it looked like I was right.
Then something odd happened. The flowers were blooming fine, but rather than forming new baby zucchini…the blooms were just dropping off on the ground and leaving empty stalks.
Dad and I discussed the problem. “The plants look beautiful,” I said. “No wilting, no fungus, no yellow leaves, nothing. There doesn’t look to be anything wrong. Could the squirrels be nipping them off?”
“They do things like that,” Dad said. “Maybe we should net the plant.”
“That should work,” I agreed.
As a side note, sharing the garden with Dad has been terrific. I’m used to growing a garden where I do most of the gardening. Between Dad and Ben, I’ve barely pulled a weed this summer; and all I have to do is say, “yes, let’s net the zucchini” and the next thing you know, Dad’s out there with a roll of netting enclosing the plants. I’m going to get really lazy at this rate.
For the next week, I kept watching the flowers; but I made a big mistake at this point. I contented myself that we’d solved the problem with the squirrel hypothesis and I did not closely examine the plants. I also didn’t snip off the stalks from the flowers that had dropped, so I really had no way of knowing if the new flowers were dropping too.
Don’t ever do this with vegetables. They die or lose their crop way too quickly to get complacent.
A week ago, I finally had to face the facts that the new flowers were also dropping and we weren’t getting anymore zucchini. Something was wrong. I noticed one of the baby zucchinis was turning yellow on one end and some of the big leaves were definitely yellow, so my next hypothesis was some type of blossom end rot. I decided to un-net the plants and clear away all yellowing leaves and any weeds or other debris and maybe spray with calcium chloride because we’d had a whole lot of rain. But I decided this at dusk one day while out inspecting the garden.
I should also add that I’ve been feeling pretty consistently crummy all month and the thought of doing any work at all in the garden was a little daunting. Still, I knew I’d be feeling better in a few weeks and then I’d be kicking myself for not taking care of the crop when I had the chance.
Next morning, I came out to work on the plants. I pulled the netting off, pulled off the first dying leaf, and got my first clue that we had a really big problem. Right at the base of the leaf, the normally tough stem had been turned to mush…and in the middle of the mush was an ugly worm, sort of like a cross between a caterpillar and a giant maggot with a black head. Ew. I squashed it. But I was under no illusion that was the only one. Something was niggling at the back of my mind, something that had a phrase “zucchini cutworm” involved. I’d never seen a cutworm before. I had a feeling I’d just squashed my first acquaintance.
Then, of course, it was war.
I got a small stick and poked around the base of the plants. Nearly the entire stem of one had been chewed through and was yellow mush – and that plant was beginning to wilt as the sun was getting warmer. I hadn’t noticed wilting before. I found several entrance tunnels and ran my little stick up them. Worms started evacuating the plant. I got out the insecticide dust, coated the stem, coated the dirt, and began squashing worms. I think I killed about ten of them, big fat ugly things, and every time I thought I’d gotten them all I found another one. They had almost completely destroyed the trunks of both plants, but one was a whole lot worse than the other. I pretty much figured we’d lost one, but there was a chance to save the other. I poked more insecticide dust up into the newly-cleared channels, carted all the debris out to the garbage can (no paper bags for this stuff – I was taking no more chances!), scrupulously cleared everything from the base of the plants, and settled down for sentry duty. For three more days, I policed those plants, removing any dying leaves (debris is attractive to bugs), checking every day for worms I might’ve missed (found three more), and watching anxiously for the plant that wasn’t wilting to show signs of it.
The plants actually began to revive. Anyone ever tells you zucchini isn’t a tough vegetable, just laugh. I don’t know how these things are still talking to their roots, given the interruption in communication, but they’re still growing. And blooming.
And the blooms…aren’t dropping.
There’s a moral to this story. Pay attention to the little things that don’t seem quite right and don’t be content with having solved the problem until you’ve really solved it: until you’ve seen the problem stop. Don’t put off checking on a problem because you’ve decided you’ve fixed it. Be truthful rather than complacent. Because little worms end up chewing away at a lot of other things in life besides your vegetables.
Yes, it's another post about the garden. This time of year is always when there's a big push to get everything in.
But by 2:30 in the afternoon when I got home and watered the seeds again...we had seedlings! I texted Ben and he sent back a message that said, "Woohoo! Yippee!!"
Our little road trip took us up to Marlette and on the way we noticed a number of small nurseries along the road. Given the much more rural area and all the farms about, we had a suspicion that visiting a farm nursery might yield us better prices and a bigger selection on vegetable seedlings we wanted to buy, so after we picked up the parts we stopped at one just outside Imlay City. They had more varieties of tomatoes in one place than I've ever seen before, along with pretty much every other garden vegetable we could want in a couple of small, inconspicuous greenhouses. The other part of the business is selling golf carts, which is what caught our eye. Something unusual about seeing a hundred golf carts all parked in a big lot together!
After looking at every plant, we chose canning tomatoes, Roma tomatoes (special request from Dad Turner), green peppers, banana peppers (yes, we really are addicted...), and a zucchini plant. We decided on tomatoes and peppers that were specially labeled "high yield" and picked out nice stocky, healthy little plants. We almost lost them on the way home, too: when making a patented Abrupt-Ben-Turn-Into-Wendy's-Parking-Lot, one of our stacks of parts fell over on the tomatoes. Good thing they're young flexible vines and just bent over instead of breaking.
Wendy's, by the way, has begun making a baked sweet potato side dish with cinnamon butter that is quite definitely the best sweet potato I've ever eaten. Wow.
We waited until after dinner to plant so the seedlings would get the benefit of recovering from shock in the cool of the night rather than the full blown heat of the afternoon. Judging by their appearance this morning, it was a good tactic: they look pretty happy in their new homes.
So. Garden in, maintenance begun (I've already had to begin weeding...), next project: the big weed patch smack in the middle of the back yard where there used to be a perennial garden. It is a truly magnificently awful sight at the moment. Maybe Ben will take some pictures.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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