noideadog: (Default)
I hope this works. There's a lot at stake.



(Do you see what I did there?) That's beans and peas and sunflowers and garlic and things. I've never successfully harvested anything I've planted, apart from a bit of mint and basil, so I have exactly zero hopes for these things, but... eh... you never know. The apple trees are doubling their leaves every day, and the lavender (why did I plant lavender?) is shooting off in every direction, so if we ever get our soil sorted out, we'll have a pretty decent garden.

After a substantial amount of stress and irritation, we've found a contractor who reckons he can replace our soil, install non-toxic insulation, fix our flooding issues, build us a grape trellis, and replace our windows with super eco-nerd windows, all for a fairly reasonable price and inside about three months. He was wearing a woolly hat and muddy boots and a furrowed brow, which is actually pretty compelling attire for a contractor guy; previous dudes have been all sharp suits and clipboards and smiling too much. We said great, we'll start with the soil, and he immediately went to France and stopped answering our emails. So that's a bit weird, but we'll see what happens. We think he's legit, but just a bit nerdy and odd, which is probably why we liked him.

We had breakfast this morning in a new Southern-cuisine sandwich shop in our neighbourhood. Joel had fried chicken and I had fried catfish, and they let me bring in coffee from the Stumptown place across the street. It was all pretty good. I pulled out my phone to make sure that catfish was a sustainable thing to order, and Joel laughed at me: catfish, I now know, is the cockroach of the bottom-feeding world, growing happily in dirty tanks behind trailers everywhere. I've added it to "hens" and "bees" on the list of things I might someday keep in my back garden if I ever don't live on top of eight million other people.

The restaurant is the sort of place that gives you crayons and paper tablecloths. The couple beside us had written their names and coloured in the first letter of each. He was Jack with a red J and she was Sarah with a green S. On a different day it would have been revolting, but today it was sweet and I wished them well.
noideadog: (meerkat)
This weekend I: planted tulips, hiked in Cold Spring, went to the gym, mourned our stolen tomatoes (I should have hung that squirrel corpse as a warning, damn), went to the Red Hook Harvest Festival (a day late, whoops. We got a nice walk down to Red Hook Farms anyway...), watched the West Wing, bought a spork (a blue one), played fetch with a cat, read chapter 6 of GEB and went to a knot tying class. We did the bowline, figure of eight, cleat hitch, a couple of slip knots and the insanely useful trucker's hitch. Anyone need a load secured to a truck? I am here for you.
noideadog: (meerkat)
This weekend I: was uncharacteristically social, ran in the Hudson River Park, planted sage, repotted tomatoes (when the root structure is perfectly spherical, it's just possible that it needed more space), played too much Dragon Age, got a lot of work done, went to a birthday party, did some of the Gruyere codelab (it's fun!), watched Billy Connolly, got a haircut and ate all of the jaffa cakes. You didn't want any, did you?
noideadog: (meerkat)
This weekend I: hiked in the Palisades (the giant stairs and the aptly named 'long path'), planted lavender, made english muffins, ran in Doc Martens (not very far; it's hard work), finished reading The Unfolding of Language, ordered a Scooba, worked on my green card application, walked the whole way across Manhattan and back again (which took about fifteen minutes because I was on 175th street), continued watching Seinfeld (24 episodes left ever), and played way too much Dragon Age. It's good, but I'm starting to regret starting it. I'm twenty hours in, and I can see it growing to fill all of my available free time for the next year
noideadog: (meerkat)
"Squirrels are eating my plants. What do I do?"

"There are two approaches. Some people spray the planters with this product -- it's like mace -- that will burn the squirrels' feet and teach them to stay away. That works ok, but the more common solution is to add the smell of other animals around the plants. Squirrels won't come into the area if they think that there's a bigger badder animal around, and it works better for keeping them away."

"Sounds good to me, excellent hardware store guy."


And that is why I now own a bag of 'Espoma Organic Traditions All Natural Organic Dried Blood, a pure source of nitrogen for vigorous dark green growth. Use Espoma Dried Blood with the confidence that you have chosen the very best dried blood available.'

"One warning", says excellent hardware store guy. "Make sure you don't breathe it in when you're pouring it. It is what it says on the bag."

I'm not actually sure I'm ok with this.
noideadog: (meerkat)
I was crushed yesterday morning to find that my courgette-zucchini (courzini?) plant had mostly died overnight. Yellow leaves, drooping stalks, flowers collapsed into mush. What the goddamn hell? This is a plant that has been quietly rewarding the careful attention I've bestowed on it: it had three fruits, three flowers and a healthy demeanour. It's the golden child of our garden, easily outperforming the slovenly cranberries and the frankly incomprehensible beans (what's with all of those runners? Where are you going?). The pride of my garden just giving up? I was bewildered.

Later, looking out the window, I saw a little asshole squirrel sitting on the side of the pot, chewing at the roots. Chaw chaw chaw [pause to get a better grip on the pot] chaw. Perfectly at home and relaxed. Brooklyn grey squirrels are not the delightful little woodland creatures you might imagine, but dirty, fearless little thugs that scamper along cable lines, hang upside down from bird feeders, and are near impossible to keep out. Our top-apartment neighbour Julie has had an exterminator in a bunch of times to clear them out of her ceiling, but they always come back, eating through the ceiling. A creepy thing to wake up to, I think.

Of course I defended my property and the invader retreated all of two feet, chattering and waiting for me to let him get back to his breakfast. Can I win this fight? I'm not sure yet what to do about it, but my dreams of home-grown courzini bread are dashed and my stance on gun control has become 10% weaker.

Amanda at work has suggested that we install falcons (for the pigeon menace, but maybe they'd eat squirrels?), but I'm not sure you can get them over the internet. Between pigeons and squirrels and mosquitos and ants and invading bugs in general (and the immediately-above neighbours have mice too, but so far they're leaving us alone), I'm feeling under unfair attack from urban nature. Burn the building to the ground and start again?


Today (and every Thursday) is No Meeting Thursday, a work initiative where you can block out your calendar for the day and nobody's allowed interrupt you. "Make time", some people call it, because you are able to spend the whole day creating stuff without being interrupted and losing your place. Is it awful if this is the highlight of my week? Anyway, I'm going into The Zone now. Laters, internetfriends!
noideadog: (meerkat)
This long holiday weekend I: got paged a bunch of times, planted tomatoes, lima beans, cranberries, zucchinis and courgettes, went to the garden centre (I am old I am old), started on phase two of Project: Have A Goddamn Lawn, ran a couple of times and recorded it using MyTracks, implemented linked lists (still learning C++), baked soda bread, watched Doctor Who, The Middleman and Veronica Mars, started reading iRobot, continued reading Mansfield Park (what odious people, especially the heroes), watched fireworks from a hammock, bought blackcurrants at the farmers market, drank good porter, assembled IKEA furniture, got quoted in my favourite Brooklyn blog (http://pardonmeforasking.blogspot.com/2010/07/flier-of-day-baby-robin-needs-helping.html), and didn't start on my green card application even though that was the one thing I had to do this weekend. Next weekend!
noideadog: (coffee)

Chipper Shredder
Originally uploaded by xymb.
We have a new domestic robot! Meet Chipper Shredder, the newest member of our household staff. She joins Upstairs Roomba, Downstairs Roomba, Dishwasher, Washer and poor creaky old Drier (semi-retired) in taking care of our needs. Broken Roomba still lives with us too, convalescing upside down in my study until he can someday be great again, and then maybe he'll go to live with someone else who needs him. Roombas are useful little guys, if you can get past their weird shoe-hiding cable-chewing habits.

Chipper Shredder does a good job. She's very efficient at chomping up leaves and twigs, and even some branches though she eats those a bit like Cookie Monster did back before cookies became a sometimes food. Nyam nyam nyam spit splutter crunch nyam. Little fragments of wood everywhere. It all goes into the composter so, assuming you don't get stabbed through the eye by flying debris, Chipper Shredder is a good addition to the household.

I don't know yet if Composter counts as a household robot. It has inputs and outputs and it does a difficult job but so far it's hard to anthropomorphise this big wormy yard-digesting box. Maybe this will change once it starts to warm up and actually do something. For now it is a passive collector of old tomatoes, brown paper and bits of ivy, but now that Chipper Shredder is on the case, it's going to have actual work to do. I gave it four buckets of mulched garden and a bucket of water this evening. Go, Composter, go!
noideadog: (Default)
Our clover lawn is coming along, though the clover is patchy. My seed-distribution skills might be lacking. Still, the instructions said that it would be two weeks before we had any at all, so there's still time for the swathes of empty lawn to sprout something. I've been watering the lawn every morning and evening. Nothing so far has made me feel more like a Home Owner.

Taking out the tree stump there uncovered layers of different coloured soil, as well as glass, shells, blackened metal and (pleasingly) a little green monopoly house. It looks like the garden used to be a lot lower and a previous owner, probably the guy who turned the house into co-op apartments, raised it up by bringing in a load of debris. Apparently the shells and the oddly shaped metals imply that it might have come from an iron forge.

Joel's wary of eating anything that comes out of this soil, or using compost made from the things that grow here. We can get it tested for lead and arsenic and so on, but we have no idea what other mad industrial waste it's been soaked in. I reckon we should be ok with planters, but I can't disagree that cleaning up contaminated soil is a good long-term investment. (It is tempting to concrete over it and start again). The internet assures me that replacing soil is insanely expensive, but I haven't seen an actual number; whatever it costs, it can't be an easy job to take a whole yardful of soil up a flight of stairs and out through our house.

In conclusion, something. Time for work.
noideadog: (meerkat)
This weekend I: watched Eddie Izzard's "Dressed To Kill" for around the tenth time, pulled up very many weeds, helped uproot a tree stump, dug a lawn, planted a lawn, watered a lawn, yelled "get off my lawn" at the cat and meant it, planted herbs, rode a rental bike on Governor's Island, listened to a lot of punk bands on Governor's Island (there was a festival), lay in the sun on Governor's Island reading Bad Science, spent a lot of money in a (bricks and mortar) Etsy shop, called my dad for father's day, sat on our deck in the dark drinking wine with friends, watched Fight Club, and was woken up at 6am by an adventuring party of ants walking across my belly.

I'm generally pro-ant -- our bedroom has a door that opens into the garden, so we get ants a bit and I mostly let them get on with what they're doing -- but using humans as terrain is going too far. It's on, ants.
noideadog: (Default)
The woman in front of me in the bakery ordered "a large ice coffee, five Splendas, half and half[1], fill the ice up to the top." I was laughing to myself about what a wanker she was, but then I tried to order brown bread and couldn't remember the incantation ("Wholewheat loaf"), so they had to ask me more questions than they had to ask her. So I guess I lost that one.

Yesterday, I walked to Manhattan and bought a Garden Gourmet, which is the compost bin I've been promising myself since last October. Our yard is hidden under three foot tall weeds and I hope that some day it will instead be hidden under a nice clover lawn and beds of happy vegetables, but it seems like a long way away. I spent hours out there last night chopping up twigs and turning old bags of Autumn leaves and newspapers into a nice brown-matter base so that I can get started adding the green stuff[2]. There is still some work to do.

Gardening is good though, and composting is pretty interesting. "You can't possibly do it wrong!", assures the little pamphlet, before going into a long list of all the ways you can do it wrong. Too wet! Too dry! Not enough oxygen! Smells like eggs! Smells like ammonia! Draws rats! Clouds of flies! But apart from all of those, and the possibility of it falling over, and (I just realised while typing this) the extra route out of our garden that it gives the cat, it's guaranteed to be a success.

Today Diane and I ran in the park. It's my second run with Vivo Barefoot shoes and New York Summer, and it was easier than the first. Last time it took hours before the dehydration headaches stopped and five days before my calves stopped burning enough to even walk quickly. I'm hoping that this time I'll be back to normal by Tuesday and able to get back into some sort of running routine. Running's lovely, actually. I missed it while we were away.

[1] half milk, half cream.
[2] Two parts brown to one part green, apparently, and I have no idea where all of the dead stuff is going to come from. I've chopped a bunch of weeds and left them drying in the sun, but I think this might be optimistic.
noideadog: (meerkat)
Today is gorgeous, very sunny and bright, but still clean and cold cold cold. The sun is shining right through our new orange curtains for the first time and the whole upstairs is glowing. Somehow the light turns pink in the hall, yellow in the kitchen, golden in the bathroom, so our house is a visual playground. It's beautiful science.

While the rest of the world is starting to tentatively get its spring out, our garden is still hidden under snow. The sun's not warm enough yet to deal with it, and there's no traffic back there to help, unless you count the small chasing footprints of a cat who's not sure what to do about the squirrel menace. I stood out on the deck looking at where the tulips will be, if they can ever fight their way through the frozen ground and the carpet of dead peach tree. I'm looking forward to the tulips, the first plants I ever put in a garden that was my own. I hope they come up. We need to clean up the old tree as well and call the city to come wood chip it, then plant a lawn of whichever clover bees like most, and some vegetable beds. I'd love to take a week off work just to dig in the garden, but I should probably save my days for wedding things.

God, it smells great out there today. Fingers crossed that Spring will start right now and keep on going until June. It's not even a bit likely, but I'm wishing hard nonetheless. I've blogged about how much I love spring around a million times so I won't go on about it today, but... yeah! Spring!
noideadog: (meerkat)
This week I have been mostly wondering where all of the time is going to.

Owning an apartment has so far been marvelous. After something like twelve moves in ten years, it's such a happy thing to be making long term plans, setting up house and planting things that might take years to grow but it's ok because we can stay here forever if we want to. I'd expected it to be exciting (and it was) but I hadn't predicted the inner peace and contentment and niceness of it all. I'm pretty peaceful and content, I have to tell you. It's all lovely.

The first project is painting the downstairs, which we'll probably start this weekend, once we decide whether the chosen colours (gloriously obnoxious children's television green and retina-searing fiery orange) are really what we want for the bedroom and the under-the-stairs-room respectively. They're splodged in swatches on the walls, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in real action and experiencing the regrets that my mother claims are inevitable: "You have to make your own mistakes", she says, cheerfully explaining that the stupidly-bright palette is one that new homeowners grow out of very quickly indeed and then have a hell of a time painting over. We'll see.

While Joel's doing all of the work of sanding and preparing the walls, I've moved on to project two: the far more fun job of finding the garden underneath the mosquito-clouded jungle outside. TV programmes about polar bears have taught me that destroying habitat is the approved way of reducing the number of a species, and out I went on Sunday with a pruning shears and a spade and a rake and I joyfully annihilated almost everything in my path. God, destructive gardening is brilliant fun.

Foot-thick ivy perimeter? Gone. Twenty years of ant-infested tree bark? Gone. A-for-effort but ultimately failed tomato plant? Gone. Little leafy things that I don't know what they are? All gone. "Wait! I'm a perennial! I'll be lovely next year!": Gone. No mercy. Cleverly hidden pot of stagnant water, all tucked away behind the leaves? Aha! So very gone. No more illicit sex for you, mosquitoes. Go breed in someone else's garden.

Oh, of course they fought back. I counted 34 bites on Monday morning.

Lucy's been outside three times now, with increasing curiosity and confidence each time. She thinks it is the best. thing. ever, enough that she almost forgives us for the collar and the little bell.
noideadog: (Default)
Things that I like today
- Chelsea. I went to get takeout Italian last night, and on the way home passed a dude giving out free samples. I was in a hurry to get pasta in my belly and I didn't stop, so it was half a block later that I registered that he was saying "Try the new KY!". I love living in Chelsea :-)
- Kindle. the Kindle is so great. It's a fantastic purchase. I read all of Making Money and I'm now halfway through Lord of the Flies. It seems like it's faster to read than paper, but that might just be the novelty of a new toy meaning that I read all the time. I certainly read for almost all of yesterday. Only bad point so far: if I read in public, someone always asks about it, and I get into a conversation about its merits, and I think that could get old. But the Kindle! The screen saver is a different line-drawing each time, and it looks like it's drawn on paper. It's hard to look at these pictures and remember you're using a screen.
- Ashes to Ashes. From the people who brought you Life On Mars comes a similar idea, a few years later. Everything that LoM did for cop shows of the 1970s, A2A does for 1981. The shots, the theme tune, the music: it's perfect. I love it so much. Potentially more than LoM, in fact, since the cultural references are my cultural references. Episode two has George and Zippy from Rainbow. So good.
- Family. My sister's wedding grows ever closer, and the excitement in my family is a lovely thing. I was the the phone to home as she was asking a cousin to be a bridesmaid, so heard enough background shrieks of excitement and joy to keep me in a good mood for weeks.
- Family again. My mum and dad went out with friends last night, and my dad almost had a small accident when he missed a step and stumbled. But he landed in the lap of some (very amused) beautiful blonde woman, so he didn't mind, my mum said, pretending to be indignant.
- Coffee. Freshly ground Costa Rican something something. God, that's good coffee.
- Being oncall. Well, so long as I continue not being paged, it's great to have an excuse to laze about the house all weekend, reading and relaxing and for once not feeling guilty about wasting precious free time.

Things that I don't like today
- Dark clouds. Enough rain. Let's have some daylight please.
- Gardening failure. The wilting lemon tree loses two or three leaves every day and is showing no signs of thriving. Tell me how to help you, lemon tree! I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
noideadog: (meerkat)
Things that I don't like today:

- trying to buy a Peters Projection map of the world that is in any way attractive. They're all labelled as "laminated" and "educational tool!", and all the blurb is about how the Peters Projection is very exciting and mind-changing and new. So, ok, I already knew all of that. Let me buy one that doesn't look like it belongs on a classroom wall.
- searching for things on amazon.com and getting three pages of "out of stock" and "unavailable". Is there an option for "just show me stuff you are actually able to sell me"?
- forgetting to use the gift voucher that was the reason I was buying my gardening supplies from amazon in the first place.
- neck ache. Something ergonomically bad seems to have happened to my desk, and I don't know what it is.
- sloppy focus. I keep accidentally jogging the mouse and typing random shite into vim. Stay where you're put, mouse.

Things that I do like today:

- Salman Rushdie in the office talking about his new book. He's an entertaining speaker and we all sat there with glowing faces, fankids that we are. It was great.
- buying a Meyers Lemon Tree online. Apparently it'll grow indoors and produce lemons for me. I'm excited about this and I hope it's true.
- being oncall but not getting any pages. Hurray!
- Tortoise
- having a new volume of Fables to look forward to. Fables is the second best comic ever, after Alias.
noideadog: (science)
Hey, [livejournal.com profile] mollydot, the chillies have started to grow :-D

I have a small pot of four types of chillies. Today they hit phase two of their instruction page which is to wait until shoots are visible and then move them out of the wardrobe. Little scribbly tendrils have started appearing these last few days, so all that's left is to let them finish growing, harvest them and do chilli-eating science. I can't wait.

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