Category Archives: Gardener

‘Tis the season for therapy

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Coldframe in the winter rain, rows of tiny lettuces growing

Truth be told, I’m doing much much better with my mental health compared to how I usually feel this time of year.  And maybe that’s why I’ve started going to therapy: Yeah, I’m feeling shitty, but still have enough energy to try to get help.

I’ve gotten counselling in moments of crisis in the past, but this is the first time I’ve sought out some serious head shrinking as part of a general self-care regimen.  Which is scary.  When in crisis, it’s pretty easy for me to go into someone’s office and just wail about whatever specific trauma has me all fucked up.

But going in there when I’m holding it all together?  Tricky, tricky, tricky.

I found my therapist the usual way: Asked a lot of friends.  Fuck, I love the West Coast!  OF COURSE, everyone has several recommendations, because we heart therapy, hardcore.

I chose mine based on the fact that she’s a pagan, and also because she specifically made mention of respecting “all genders” several times throughout her website, which was a relief from the usual “we welcome clients of different sexualities” or whatever, that I read on other websites.  Just a little nod to those of us who don’t subscribe to the gender binary, but enough to make me feel like I could do this.

And I am, I am doing this:  I’ve only had two sessions, and I won’t pretend that it’s radically changed my life, but it’s… Nice.

Insipid, I know, but I’m not feeling terribly eloquent.

Okay, here’s one thing I will tell you about, that came from therapy:  I realized that I’m not that worried about my stepmom, despite her health scare… I mean, she’s getting the best healthcare in the country, and she’s youngish, and they caught the polyp early.  Selfish person that I am, what’s really stressing me about the whole situation is what it’s bringing up about my place in our family.

Of course I want to go visit during the couple months that my stepmom will be recuperating, but then I really don’t, because I don’t want to set a precedent.  I don’t want them to rely on me, to be that sort of daughter who’ll fly in at a moment’s notice and take care of them. Because this is only the beginning, the start of my four parents’ decline in health… And I love them so much, but I also love my life here on the other side of the country.  If I go, it’s giving fuel to the idea that that’s where I belong, that I’m supposed to spend my life with this family-of-origin as opposed to my family-of-choice. (An idea, I might add, that is most vocally supported by my father and my older sister, and more quietly by others in Ontario.)

Le sigh.

How has therapy changed my experience of this revelation?  Well, in the past I’d get really anxious about such things, so full of angst that I’d get insomnia, fretting over my choices late into the night.  Instead, I just feel sad.  There’s a lot of grief in my heart, grief for the things my family and I haven’t shared since I moved away over ten years ago.

And yet I’m so damn confident that I’m where I need to be, that I spent those ten years doing what I needed to do, that I can’t really get all ramped up and stressed about it.  Instead, I kinda just want to cry.  Which is actually a huge improvement, because crying is something I can do, and afterwards I feel better.

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View inside the coldframe: Tiny little lettuces, so far surviving the nightly frosts

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Self-sufficient in greens! (I hope).

Earlier this week, I had an unexpected (and unpaid) day off, and I immediately threw myself into garden tasks.  You’d think I’d have relaxed and found a friend to hang out with or treated myself to a cafe visit or something else more frivilous, yet none of that appealed to me.  I just really wanted to get shit done, and lose myself in something satisfying, something useful, something for me.

It was midafternoon before I realized that I was wretchedly hungry, not to mention even more sweaty and tired than if I’d been at work.  But the garlic was all planted, rotting seaweed was layered into the beds that’ll lay fallow until spring, the bamboo stakes were all pulled up and tidied into a corner, most of the seeds were harvested, peas and chard and beet starts were finally in the ground proper instead of their tiny pots, a lot of the beds got mulched with straw, and all the over-wintering veggies were given a bit of attention. I even found an old window that fits neatly over the raised bed (actually a bookcase laying on its back), and planted some lettuce seeds inside this impromptu cold frame.  Who knows if or when they’ll sprout, but it’s my own mix of seeds from last year’s crop and I have tons of it, so figured I might as well.

My only goal with creating this garden this year, aside from keeping myself entertained, was to get our house self-sufficient in greens.  We all like brassicas and chenopods and their ilk, and could easily eat them every day, so it seemed like a good plan.  Also, this climate:  Rumour has it that kale and chard will become weeds if you let them, and I’m keen to test this theory.

Considering that I totally ditched the entire care and maintenance of the garden when I got a job (and to be honest was very negligent of it even before then), I’m surprised to find that it’s worked out.  There’s enough cabbage and kohlrabi  heads for a few dinners in the sooner-rather-than-later category, the broccoli and karam and chard are excellent, and even all the kale that got hit with both a blight and grey aphids seems to be doing great now.

Plus, ignoring the garden at the end of the season meant that a lot of stuff went to seed and for the first time, I’ve been saving it.  Crazy, to have been gardening since I was a little kid, and never even thought to do this before now!  More proof that doing something for a long time can mean very little in terms of skills and knowledge.

Mo was stoked to have me at home, but completely nonplussed about my choice of activity.

 

Hello from my island of solace

Dear friends, I’ve been ignoring you.

No, no, your protests are charming yet inaccurate: I’ve actually been completely ignoring you, for real.  I haven’t been reading your own blogs, I haven’t been following the reader stats here at FG HQ, I haven’t been checking my FG email address, let alone F@cebook… And I’ve been severely neglecting the Queer Canada Blogs project, even though I know that several folks have recently submitted suggestions for blogs to add.

Terrible, isn’t it?

The thing is, the whole world is terrible.  Usually, that’s what this blog is about:  One odd queer rambling on about her relatively-privileged life on a fucked-up planet. Not exactly catchy, I realize, but my marketing department is rather small.

In this terrible world, there are islands of solace, and I’m currently relaxing on one.  Physically, in that I live on an island, and mentally, in that I’ve become extremely preoccupied with the minutia of daily life.  I’ve put my attention on a very short leash, and it’s not wandering much farther than making food, sewing clothing, reading books, tending the garden, and playing with the dog.  I spend all my internet time devouring how-to instructions: Tailoring, dehydrating, sausage-making, lamp crafting, reupholstering, permaculture, website design, raising goats, collecting maple syrup, etc etc etc… If it’s a skill I could possible find useful at some point, I’m reading about it.

The way I see it, I’m using this period of unemployment to shore up my resources for future times of need:  When I next have a job, I’ll likely be too busy for testing recipes or learning new DIY skills, not to mention being emotionally worn out by the toll of the usual sexist/homophobic crap that often is found in trades-based workplaces.  With that in mind, now is the time to stock the pantry!  Literally, in that I’m filling my shelves with preserves, and figuratively, in that I’m filling my mind with reminders of all the inspiration and hope I’ll be needing.

“Why doesn’t she blog more about the stuff she’s making?” You may wonder.  Well, the thing is, I want to… But I want to do it under my real name, so that I can use it for promoting the workshops I’m teaching, and maybe even someday make a little bit of pocket money from those initiatives.

Also, I’d like to have a blog that I can share with folks when they hear I’m a blogger and want to know what I write.  Often I’m cool with telling random hipsters about this anonymous little domain, but in a job interview…?  Yeah, it’d be good if I could show those people something a little less personal.  Also, my mom!  She knows I blog: She asked me point blank last time she was here, and all I said was “Yes.”  Ha!

So that’s what I’m up to.  I miss you!  And I kinda miss the fervour I feel when I’m really on a roll and blogging a lot on this site, even though it’s often born from frustration or confusion or another general attempt to process something I’ve experienced. It’s so nice to be able to avoid that right now!  And I’m not taking this chance for granted.

For now, I’m still here, but not here, because I’m oh-so-very exactly where I am.

I couln’t look for a job today because I had to build a sunporch for the cat

And I built it entirely from scrap, including a window and some old wood that we’d hauled along in the move to this house last fall, plus some bamboo harvested from the overgrown patch along the street side of the property. Yay, me!  As my mother, who was born during the second world war and hates waste, would say, “You get points!”  Never a specific amount of points, mind you, just a comment that they are now mine, as the innovator of this excellent reuse.  In my mother’s world, every time a good use is found for leftovers from the fridge or a piece of junk from the alley or a scrap of material from another project, the person responsible for the initiative “gets points”.  It’s the sort of funny familial habit I’ve only recently begun to the notice.

Yay also for the cat, who seriously has been driving us crazy with her desire to go outside these last couple weeks. You know what happens when Ballou goes outside?  She falls off things, gets lost, or trapped in ridiculous locations. She has survived for 11 years, but it’s likely that this is only because Oats has kept her strictly an indoor animal for most of them. In the wild, cats like her do not last.

For months, Oats has been saying that Ballou needed an enclosed area off our bedroom window, to which I’ve been replying that the bloody feline is not getting a single square foot of my precious vegetable garden, also located outside the bedroom window.  All this meowing really wore me down, though… And I like getting into Oats’ good graces when I can, so that she’ll overlook the fact that I never clean the bathroom and am often rather snarky.  Happy cat, happy partner, happy FG.

I’m kidding, with the title to this post… I actually did do some job-related stuff today, including nailing down an appointment at the shipyards, to *finally* sign off on the security clearance and the rest of their forms.  It’s taken them forever to get back to me, so I’m relieved that something’s actually happening.

In the meantime, I’m back at the farm.  Yesterday I picked strawberries for 8 hours: On my knees in the hot sun, bending over the rows of plants, severing the stems just above the bulging red fruits and getting the overripe sticky juice all over my hands, my mud-stained t-shirt, my scandalously tight nylon short-shorts… Sexy as hell, it’s true, but *fuck* it hurt my body.  Tomorrow I’m going back, to hull and weigh the berries leftover from today’s sales so that they can be frozen, a job I specifically offered to do in exchange for a share in the fruit.  Then Saturday I’m earning a cash wage again, running the farm’s stall at one of the markets, which is my most favourite farm job of all.  It’s crazy busy, but there’s a variety of tasks, and tons of folks to visit with, plus I get to take home scraps for my chickens and fresh food for dinner.

Yes, summer is still hitting hard.

Summer hit hard

Summer hit hard a couple days ago, with sun and heat and days that seem to go on forever.  At this time of year, I completely lose my ability to guess what time it is, because it’s just as bright at 6 am as it is at 8 pm. I also lose a lot of my ability to focus, so this blog post will no doubt wander more than usual.

Yesterday afternoon I biked out to the lake for the first time this season, and as another first, Mo came along:  Running next to my bike for an hour and a half each way, with a long swim in between!  We’ve been practicing this trick at the sports track of the local high school for about a month now, and I went at half my regular speed to ensure he didn’t completely exhaust himself.  It’s safe to say that he didn’t, since he then spent the rest of the evening bouncing around the yard as per usual.  What a dog.

I gave my mom this hammock when I was 13 years old, in that phase where I had enough income from babysitting jobs that I could afford to buy gifts for people but didn’t have much sense as to what they’d actually want so would just buy them things that I wanted.  Wait, am I still in the phase?  Hmmmm…  At any rate, my mother never used it, and gifted it back to me when Oats and I were driving back west from Toronto last fall.  It’s so comfortable, I can’t even describe it.  Mo likes to sit on me while I read (or while I take a million photos of him).

A couple weeks ago, during a big yard clean-up, we found a hazelnut tree, a currant bush, and a blueberry bush, all growing quite happily despite having been hidden by weeds and piles of brush.  They’re getting more sun now, and we’ve added my old grapevine nearby for company.  It’s glad to be out of its pot, and I’m glad to think that we’ll actually have some exciting fruit in the next few months.

What I’d really like to grow is a pistachio tree, but I think the climate is too wet around here.  In the meantime, my dad gave me this little jar of crema di pistacchio that he bought in Sicily, and I made it into the best gelato I’ve ever had.  I used David Lebovitz’s recipe from his blog (and then spent way too long reading every other recipe he has posted, and then ordering his books from the library).  My ice cream maker came from a free bin in my old neighbourhood, and though I can’t say I’ve used it more than a couple times, I grew up making all kinds of frozen treats in the exact same model of maker under my stepmom’s expert tutelage.  Maybe that’ll be my new hobby this summer:  Homemade gelato.  It’d sure be a great way of using up the jars of jam that have accumulated from the past four years of canning, and perhaps also my recent failed attempts at homemade yoghourt.

I’ve decided that the only canning I’ll do this year is teaching.  Due to the big move last fall, and spending most of the winter on renovations and house-arranging, my lovelingly preserved food was hard to access until a week or so ago.  I barely made a dent in last summer’s haul, let alone ate up the less popular remainders from the years before.  Now it’s all on shelves and a bit overwhelming.  The greatest lesson here is that I should test out each recipe at least once before making more than a single batch of it:  For example, I have dozens and dozens of jars of quince jam, and we all hate it.  Why did I make so much of it?!!

(Answer:  Because I had a ton of free quince, was under a time constraint, and wasn’t very creative)

But teaching is different:  I may only get to take home a  single jar (if that), yet at the same time I have more fun and enjoy a sense of satisfaction that’s a bit different from just doing it all myself at home.  Plus, it forces me to be more organized and plan ahead!  Though this isn’t always something I manage to achieve:  Last Tuesday I’d already reached the community garden where I was running my class, and it was due to start in 20 minutes, when Oats called to say that I’d forgotten one of the legs for my tripod propane burner… Aieeee!  I turned around and went back home for it, but remained a little flustered for the entire evening.  Not my best teaching moment!  Since then, I’ve made myself a little checklist of everything I need to bring with me.  I’ll get to try it out at this week’s class, which is at a high school, with their environmental club.

In other household news, I’m practicing being a grad school widow, in a precursor to Oats’ entry to an MFA program:  She’s painting a mural on the wall of the steps that lead from the street up to our house, and I have barely seen her all day, nor am likely to as long as this weather holds.

I’m only teasing, with the grad school widow schtick:  I think her art overall is fabulous, this mural in particular is totally fantastic, and I’m super-stoked that she’s so passionate about creating beautiful things.  It’s also quite rad that it’s doesn’t have much to do with me, because I’ve got my own million and one things to think about and do.

That’s actually our number one secret to a sucessful marriage:  We are both very easily entertained by our own funny minds, and while we do like hanging out together, we spend a lot of time doing our own things (sometimes while in the same room… for hours… without talking… I love it). Hey, am I allowed to give out marital advice yet?  It’s been almost 3 months, and we’re still together… That counts for something.

I couldn’t remember the addresses for half of them.

Not one of my past homes... This is my sister's old apartment in Montréal.

I was completely slammed with a tsunami of hormones these past two days, rendered non-sensical and completely fucked up by my body’s insane battle with self-regulating its reproductive cycles. I’m feeling better now, though tired and worn and more than a little concerned: This was by far the worst it’s ever been, and I felt like I was losing my mind. It’s times like these that I think I oughtn’t even consider ever getting knocked up, because I don’t know how I’d cope with the shifts in internal chemistry. Huh. I worry about menopause too, for the same reason, though I like to think I’ve got another 20 years or so before it hits. I know, I know, I should get acupuncture and take these tinctures and remember to stretch and meditate and perhaps even talk to a physician… But it’s hard, when you’ve been sucked into an abyss. Afterwards, it barely feels real enough to address it.

In other news, I spent some time today filling out a very detailed security clearance document, which I need in order to work at the local shipyard. I’d been meaning to do it forever, but hadn’t really cared that much until I met this awesome welder who encouraged me. She was the subject of an interview that a comrade and I did, for a series on women in the trades, and I just adored her. “Come to the shipyards,” she said, “I might even be the coordinator of the apprentices this year! Plus, the electricians are all weirdo artsy types who do things like run a recipe exchange.” Okay, I’ll bite. Who knows if it’ll work out, but there’s not much to lose by trying.

Except, of course, for the hours it’s taking me to find all the required security data.

My favourite part has been listing everywhere I’ve lived in the past 10 years.  Being a Cancer, astrologically-speaking, a sense of home is extremely important to me.  In this city alone, that’s been 10 houses, without counting the times I crashed with friends or house-sat. I couldn’t remember the addresses for half of them, and had to do some intense sleuthing through ancient emails (which I then promptly deleted because really? Lovey-dovey messages to former lovers, giving them directions to my bedroom? Ick ick ick… Delete!). At the end of it all, I still have no idea what the address was of the very first place I lived in this town: I know where it is, and am half-heartedly thinking I’ll drive by this weekend, but really I might just leave it out. I was only there for 5 months anyway, and was subletting from another tenant, so it’s not like the shipyard security personnel can even verify it.

I’ve enjoyed the jaunt through time, though, focusing on each of these past homes. Some of them were so incredibly significant that it’s a shock to add up how briefly I was actually there: The first place I lived with friends (3 months), the battered punk house (4 months), the one bedroom I shared with my first real girlfriend (2.5 months).  At other addresses, I’m surprised to find out I lived for so much longer in than it felt at the time. In one place, I was there a year and a half, yet it felt like a blink of the eye… No doubt because of the roommates, since I was the one constant, while the other two bedrooms had revolving doors. Every other month, someone came or left, and the dynamic was always changing.  That was the last collective apartment for me, because I just couldn’t handle it.

The security clearance forms want hard details of when I moved in, and when I moved out, but my brain can’t just leave it at that. I search my memories for dates and times, and I’m reminded of all the stories, the drama, the way it was when I arrived at each home and the way it was when I left. Most of my past ten homes, I’m glad to say, I left happily and full of optimism, certain of a better future. Some, though, it’s hard to revisit, because they began or ended with heartbreak. I’ve lost lovers, friends, gardens, lovingly tended compost heaps… It’s enough to invite some serious melancholy, all this reflection, especially given my still-not-quite-stable mood.  At the same time, I feel a sense of… Is it too much to say awe?  Awe at the fact that so much time has passed, that what felt so intense in the moment is now simply the way it was, that I didn’t turn out totally bitter or ecstatically fulfilled like I always predicted I would with every new move.  Awe that I’m still here, and I have a great home, and I have no fucking clue how it all happened.

Natural born gleaner

I’m at home this afternoon, admiring the sunshine from the comfort of my bed, while a head cold (or something) does a number on my ability to get shit done. I did work for a while this morning, but no one wants baby greens that’ve been sneezed on and I was slow as hell anyway, so my boss suggested I go home. That’s the crappy thing about labour jobs: It’s not like in my computer geek days, when I could soldier on as needed, through most ill health… I couldn’t always make it to the office, but emails and IMs made my physical presence less than necessary. Which is in direct contrast to now, where my physical presence pretty much *is* the job.

I’m reminded of when I got my period during the months I was working at the construction site: Standing at the top of an 8 foot ladder in an unfinished section of the building, measuring a length of steel conduit for installation on the ceiling, as a sudden massive mentrual cramp rocked my body. I grabbed the top of the ladder and held on until the pain dulled enough for me to climb down, then dosed myself with more pain killers. I think that was the first time I missed working a desk job, where there was nothing much to fall off of save an ergonomic rolling chair, and nothing bad to land on save a dirty section of wall-to-wall carpet.

Before I felt as crummy as this, the illness was just another round of bad asthma, and I was trying to keep busy in between long bouts of laying around in bed with Oats, who has been sick as well. One of my projects has got me kinda stoked, because it might make me a bit of money for a pretty small investment of time and supplies. There’s a lot of random waste at the farm, simply due to the economics of staffing and space: Sometimes, it makes sense to plow in a field of young, under-producing rhubarb plants so that the area can be sown with higher-grossing winter root veggies. Enter the over-enthusiastic farm hand! I dug up as many of the plants as I could, and stored them on my patio in a big bin. On Friday, I went through these rhubarb roots, chopping them into smaller segments and replanting them in 1 gallon plastic pots (also free, from the farm). It made 22 new plants, and that was only 1/3 of what’s still to be done. My plan is to let them grow for a few weeks, then sell them via the local free online classifieds.

I did the same with the strawberry runners, which I had to cut and remove anyway as part of my regular strawberry bed maintenance last Thursday.

Realistically, this little gleaning project is not going to make me rich, but it sure as hell makes me feel better about some of the decisions I’ve made in the past few months. Despite my last post, I’m still uneasy with choosing farming (and sustainable energy networking) over moving up through the world of trades. In fact, I’ll probably always feel like this, because I’m a product of a capitalist system and my mind is warped.

Also warping my mind is the impending visit of my father and stepmom. I love them, and am looking forward to having them here, but every conversation I’ve had with my dad these past several *months* has been about the visit and I’m so bored by it. He oscillates between casually insulting my chosen city, and casually questioning my success as an adult human being. Really, Dad, there are *lots* of things to do here (he keeps lamenting the lack of interesting stuff around where I live), and really, you *don’t* have to rent a car (he’s free to use ours, as we’re far from car-dependent). I haven’t argued with any of his offers of grocery shopping, however, because though Oats and I have a very well-stocked pantry, we’re penny-pinchers who buy store brands in mass amounts, and rarely treat ourselves to the variety or quality of foods my parents would get.

Also, cooking will unite us… I’m even planning on getting fresh goat milk from a local dairy, so that we can make cheese together. Stuff that into squash blossoms, then fry in a cornflour tempura batter? Yes, please!

I hear parents always have trouble treating their kids as grown ups: Is this rumour true? I suppose my mom’s still pretty parental towards me, just differently than my dad, and I can handle it better. She likes to sit and read or write emails in a companionable silence, whereas my dad likes to do more talking. As well, she’s already semi-parented my three older step-brothers into their adulthood, and seems more comfortable with stepping back from her role as guardian. My dad, he’s a hoverer.

My stepmom, luckily, is not, or not with me at any rate… My younger half-sister, her daughter, bears the brunt of that. With me, my stepmom is fun and interesting. She has also been very supportive of me going into the trades, more so than other 3 folks I call parents. That’s the nicest thing about having so many of them: I can shop around for opinions, more so than my peers who have just two.

In other news, wanna know what Oats and I have been doing while sick in bed? Hmmm… Okay, aside from the obvious? We’ve been watching a certain television show about four women in a big city, because Oats had never seen it before and this fact blew my mind. Let me tell you, watching Sex and the City with a (gender)queer feminist for the first time is hilarious, especially if she’s simultanously reading the snarky episode summaries on Television Without Pity. Oh, the snark! Oh, SATC! How I love to hate thee, and even more, how I love to share my hate for thee with my lover.

Hate-ons aside, I should probably add the show to the list of things that are warping my mind, because it made me desperately crave nice hair. I haven’t had my hair cut since before I went to Australia over a year ago, and it was getting not only frizzy but boring. I recognized the teevee-induced vanity for what it was just in time, and managed to solve the problem myself with a pair of sharp scissors. One step further and I’d have dropped $80 at a salon, and that’d be all my gleaning money gone in one fell swoop. Now I’ve got asymmetrical shaggy bangs and the hair on one side of my head is much longer than on the other side, and I like it very much. Take that, New York City.