24 April 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Weathering the Storm

My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view. 
~ H. Fred Dale

ast Friday, a huge thunderstorm roared through here, knocking out our power for most of the night, and tearing all the blooms off the crabapple, apple, and cherry trees.  Fortunately, the lilacs held strong; as for the other, I was able to get pictures of all of them before the storm hit.

Apparently, sugar snaps love storms, because when I went out on Saturday to inspect the damage, they had shot up a few more inches since last week: 

As for my wee pots, the both types of broccoli and tomatoes are already sprouting. *Claps excitedly.*  They were actually outside when the storm hit, so they got a tad flooded; we ended up soaking up the excess water with paper towels because I learned my over-watering lesson last year.  Learn one lesson just in time to make another boo-boo.  When the storm hit, only the broccoli has sprouted. 

Temperatures dropped that night, so I brought them in.  A day and a half later, the tomatoes sprouted.  New lesson learned: getting your seeds to sprout requires a little more care and attention in terms of temperature regulation, a fact I didn’t pay quite as much attention to.

This prompted me to wish I had purchased grow lights.  Which then led to me wishing I had a small greenhouse.  I have a ton of old windows stacked up outside ~ might as well use them.  After all, recycling is part of the organic and sustainable lifestyle.  However, that is a project for later in the summer. 

For now, I’ll just enjoy watching my veggies grow up.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

19 April 2013

Top Five Friday: National Poetry Month - My Favorite Literary Periods

The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse... the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be.  Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars. 
~ Aristotle, On Poetics

pril is National Poetry Month.  I sense a meme coming on.  Something along the lines of: “I don’t always recite poetry, but when I do, I make sure it’s one that is completely unintelligible.”

Isn’t that how a lot of people view poetry?  I for one hated Paradise Lost when I had to study it in high school and Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen caused an intellectual aneurysm.  To be honest, however, foreign languages are not my forte, and Elizabethen English might as well be Sanskrit: to this day, it makes my eyes cross.  But then I met The Romantics (no, not the band) and they “with (their) Voice might captivate my mind.”

A Little Night Music (That’s Background to You)
The University of Toronto has a handy poetry timeline that defines different Literary Periods.  For our purposes, I’m sticking to English Poetry (see note above):

Old English - 449-1066
Middle English - 1066-1485

Early Modern English - 1485-1800
Renaissance - 1485-1603
17th Century - 1603-1667
Augustans - 1667-1780
Romantics - 1780-1830

Present-day English - 1800-present
Victorian - 1833-1903
Georgians - 1903-1920
Moderns - 1920-1960
The Beat Generation - 1950-1970

Although I now recognize the importance of the poets that lived and wrote prior to 1780 (guess those English classes paid off!), I still favor the five literary sub-periods after that date.  And I have many “dead friends” as my pen friend CarolAnn calls them among those five ~ far too many for just one Friday post.  So today I’m just looking at the five periods.

Romantics (1780-1830)

These gents (and ladies too!) are probably the most quoted poets.  Who hasn’t heard of Blake, Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, or Wordsworth?  Oddly enough, you sometimes see them connected with the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (and you know how much I love them!), but most of these poets were either dead or nearing the end when the Brotherhood was founded in 1848 and those painters were influenced largely by Greek and Roman myths (hence the name).  Every literary period has its gifted artists ~ word-painters or picture-painters alike.  But the Romantic period has the bulk of the stars. 

As Anne Eliot said to Captain Benning: “We are living in a great age for poetry.”  And they certainly were.

Victorian (1780-1830)

The Victorian era is a little tricky.  Within this category, we have two sub categories:

American Renaissance (Poe, Longfellow, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman)
Edwardian (Kipling, Housman, Chesterton)

I dare say the American Renaissance was also a great age for poetry; after our Romantic heroes, they are the second most quoted group (at least for me).  I’m counting the American Ren as one of my top five since after the Romantics, I love them the most.

Moderns (1920-1960)

Think Cummings, T.S. Eliot, and Frost.   Okay, I’ll admit it: in college, The Wasteland had me rolling my eyes and running for the prose hills.  But I have since developed an appreciation for his wisdom and talent. Sort of like a red wine:  you learn to taste the finer notes of a dry versus a sweet.

Post-Moderns (1960-Present)

I think that today we’re seeing a bit of a renaissance in poetry.  Think Dana Gioia and Maya Angelou.  It may not be the “great age” that it was, but we certainly are living in interesting times and what better way to capture the essence of life lived then through poetry?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Next Friday: we delve a little deeper into each literary period.

17 April 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Garden and Seed Update

In my opinion, if 100% of the people were farming it would be ideal.
If each person were given one quarter-acre, that is 1 1/4 acres to a family of five,
that would be more than enough land to support the family for the whole year.
~ Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

riday I took advantage of the warm weather and finally planted my “start indoors” seeds.  The weather here in Virginia has been so weird: snow one day, eighty degrees two days later ~ I’m not too worried that my wee seeds won’t be ready for the move to the big kid playground come May.  They will be hardy transplants by then.

I bought organic biodegradable pots, so they’ll can right in the ground and some organic seed starter:

and with some plastic containers (ok not the best idea ~ no drainage holes) and some old popsicle sticks (this does not mean I condone my mom’s hoarding tendencies!), voila!

In other news, my little sugar snaps are growing up so fast!  Hooray! 

You have to understand ~ I am always late putting these babies in the ground.  It was a rush to the finish, but I did get them in early enough to enjoy the cooler spring weather.  Now we’ll just wait and see if they produce pea pods.  Even if they do not, the greens are delicious in salad.

Also, the lettuce Pearl planted also popped up:

as well as what I thought was spinach but now I’m not so sure:

Any ideas?  This is why staking the name of your crops is important: not just so you know what you’re harvesting later, but also for crop rotation.  Obviously, my garden plan was more of a garden suggestion.

In the end, it’s all good.  It’s all deliciously good.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What seeds are sprouting up in your garden this week?

15 April 2013

Wisdom on the Whim (or Why Didn't I Write that Brilliant Thought Down?!)

Write down the thoughts of the moment. 
Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. 
~ Francis Bacon

ast night I couldn’t fall asleep.  Maybe it was the BBC Sherlock Homes marathon I pulled (bloody brilliant!), or the new paranormal series I started reading (Bones is my new undead hero and Cat is a kick acre half-undead heroine!), or maybe it was the atrocious amount of recovery naps I’d been taking (stupid kidney stones!) 

So there I was, curled up in a little ball, trying desperately to shut off the windmills of my mind.  It was like a montage in there ~ bits and bobs and flashes: insight, poetry, drama.  And instead of getting up right away and writing it all down, or at the least, grabbing my phone and recording it, I thought: I’ll remember to type it all out tomorrow ~ much faster.

No, you nit wit ~ you didn’t!!   You never do!  You forget it all! Every. Single. Time.

Gah!  Why do I do this to myself?  If I’m going to wait for inspiration to burst through the door on its own, the least I could do is offer it a seat!  But did I? 

I tried to follow the trail, each sentence a fragment of beauty. . .and very next thought was: “No one will want to read that anyway.  It’s almost three in the morning, it probably isn’t any good anyway.  And the person you’re thinking of reciting this to will never give you the reaction you are looking for.”

Seriously, I am a very strange person who has these long, interior dialogues ~ yes, dialogues, not monologues ~ that end up with me burying my head in one of three places: 
1.  A book (two actually: re-read of Shelly Crane’s Collide and new one: Jeanine Frost’s Night Huntress Series.  There were two others but they were embarrassingly dreadful so they don’t count.  I’m still trying to scrub my grey cells.)

2.  A really great show or movie (did I mentioned the BBC Sherlock Holmes marathon? Gah!  Why do I always fall for the emotionless NTs!? Argh!!!!  It’s the hair.  It has to be.)

3.  My own head (i.e. imagination ~ which strangely enough, is what got me into this mess in the first place!)
The sad thing is, I actually do follow my own advice ~ my journal was at the foot of my bed, and another notebook was on my bedside table, right next to the ever present cell phone ~  just waiting for me to snatch it up and pour out my eloquence into its little tin ear.

Fear is a dirty little bugger.  He always seems to wait until you’re over-tired, over-stimulated, over-fed, over-criticized, over-something and then he just slides right in, speaks his filthy piece, and then simply fades out.  Was he even there?  And you’re left with: “wait, what was the first line?  It was brilliant ~ it caught the emotion just so, and oh, blast! Now it’s gone and I should have written it down.  But since I didn’t remember it, it must not have really been noteworthy.  Ah well, another line will come tomorrow and this time, I’ll be prepared.  I won’t let anything get in between me and my pen.  Or my cell.”

Perhaps I’m right.  Perhaps the little lines that seemed to dance in harmony at three a.m. would have lumbered like elephant feet at eleven.  But now we’ll never know.

Will we?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Have you written anything brilliant at three a.m.?

11 April 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Kidney Stones and the Spring That Wasn't

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: -"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade.
~Rudyard Kipling, "The Glory of the Garden"

he first really warm days of spring (although here in Zone 7 it feels more like summer!) and I’ve been laid low by a 6mm kidney stone. 

#Le sigh. #epickidneyfail.

When the pain meds are working, my brain is too mushy to write.  When the meds wear off, I’m in too much pain to think straight.  So no writing for the past 6 days for me.  And no planting ~ either in the garden, or in my little starter pots.

Good thing I have all these grand plans for a big veggie garden.  All my research says that kidney stones come from a diet high in animal protein and complex sugars, and low in hydration.  I’ve been juicing my veggies for awhile now, but I do love me some pulled pork and grilled hamburgers.

Vegan lifestyle – here I come, looking back at the charcoal grill with the longing of Lot’s wife.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

My garden posts usually appear on Wednesdays, but as I was in the throes of a kidney stone attack...well, you know.


03 April 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Affirming the Artist and the Gardener

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  ~ Pablo Picasso

here is nothing exciting going on at the hobby farm right now.  I still haven’t planted my “Start Indoors” seeds yet, although I do have the little organic pots, the organic starter compost and the seeds.  Just need to find the time! 

Silly nine-to-five, two-hour commute time-sucker job.

But then, that’s what makes this a “hobby” farm, oui?  So here are some pictures of what’s growing around the yard:

Paperwhites - darn!  Forgot to move the bulbs this winter!

Rosemary going strong!

Lilac buds; hoping my prune job this winter helped!

Daffodils are bustin' out all over!

In other news, my maternal roommate has been “encouraging” me to give it all up: my arts work, the farm idea.  And why is she doing this?

Too stressful.”

“Too much money.”

“You need to think about saving for your retirement.”

“I just can’t picture you as a field hand sweating in the sun.”

Oh, I don’t know.  Call me crazy, but I think some things are worth doing, even if they cause us a little pain and discomfort; especially if they bring us more joy than pain.  And honestly, if some project isn’t causing me a little bit of pull and tug here and there, then I’m going to lose interest in it and go on to something else. 

But to hear this kind of “I’m just pointing out the flaws to help you” encouragement on a weekly basis can be wearing.  Thank heavens for supportive friends – they affirm my choices and truly encourage my pursuit of beauty and nature without being blind to the flaws in that pursuit.  I only wish they were geographically closer so I could hear more of them and less of the other.

My one consolation?  As soon as I get those seeds planted and the seedlings in the ground, I’ll be too busy weeding and harvesting to hear the negative talk.

To my fellow gardeners and artists: let’s encourage one another and resolve to block out negative “helpers.”

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Remember: constant negative criticism, like water, can wear away the heart.  Feedback isn’t the problem; negatively worded feedback is. 

02 April 2013

The Thinking Woman's Vampire Series: Elizabeth Hunter New Elemental World Cover Reveal

Too many writers are trying to write with too shallow an education. Whether they go to college or not is immaterial…a good writer needs a sense of the history of literature to be successful as a writer.
~ James Kisner

ampires who quote Plato and Dante? A paranormal plot based on the very real Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the infamous Girolamo Savonarola (the bonfire of the vanities) and the Medici family of Florence?

More please!

More than any other paranormal author I’ve read, the above quote fits Elizabeth Hunter like the proverbial glove.  From the opening chapter in A Hidden Fire, the first book in the Elemental Mysteries series, I was captured by Hunter’s extensive knowledge of Medieval and Renaissance literature, letters, and famous people of the time period she was re-creating.  My liberal arts educated little heart went pitter pat when I read Latin phrases and saw the infamous Medici court through the eyes of a vampire “born” in the 1400s.

Who else knows about such historical figures such as Dante and Beatrice and Plato and Kato and Jābir ibn Hayyān (or Geber as he was known in Europe) and can weave a believable, action-packed mystery, served with a side of toe-curling romance?  The ability to create a paranormal world that the reader can actually believe in is rare.  But Ms. Hunter got that gift in spades.

And now she’s done it again.

The second book in the Elemental World series, Blood and Sand is Baojia’s story.  Baojia was a secondary, but still important, figure in Elemental Mysteries.  Now we get to learn a little bit more about him.  Learn more at Ms. Hunter’s website.

Ms. Hunter is hopeful for a May/early June release date;  I’m rooting for May!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela