January 29, 2023

January: A difficult month

2023 Begonia cuttings
I've always found January a difficult month to navigate. So much of my time is spent waiting, waiting, waiting on the days to lengthen and the outside temperatures to moderate. As a gardener, I'm eager to get seeds planted. As the caretaker of this particular plot of land, I'm eager to begin the yearly task of picking up sticks. As a canner, I'm eager to get a variety of soups and such into jars. And yet, I struggle with being motivated in January. I'm eager to do something simple such as take my poor bored dog for a walk in the woods, but the forecast is for rain, and that would be cold rain in January. 

No. I'm not going to reach for chemical aids. Being impatient has only one cure and that is to find a better use of my time every day, make a plan, and stick to it. 

If only it were that easy.

There are any number of things that need doing, but I burn to get outside into the fresh air. I know better. Being out in the drizzle won't make me sick with a cold, but it won't help my achy, aging joints at all. It would be even worse for my seven-year-old dog whose bare paws contact the wet ground. 

Whether or not it's too early for it, I did another round of begonia cuttings. I now have eighteen red and eighteen white starts. I want to add color to my vegetable garden this year and the begonias are a good way to do that. I also have a pack of marigold seeds here (somewhere in this house!) and I'm very tempted to start those as well. Marigold seeds can be started in trays six weeks before the last frost. Well, I have a greenhouse now. I think I'll start them inside and transfer them to the greenhouse around April 1. I'll only be out $1 if it doesn't turn out well. I think that's an acceptable risk. 

I recently reorganized the freezer, as much out of boredom than necessity, and I need to make a few breakfast items and tuck them away. I make a French toast casserole that freezes well. A 13x9-inch cake pan yields portions for five breakfasts. It's been a while since I made scones, and one batch provides four breakfasts. We recently purchased an air fryer and we want to try our hand at making donuts. It wouldn't take much to do some baking and get a few breakfasts ahead. All I have to do is to go do it. 

The view out my sunroom office windows is rather drab, but even that opinion needs to change. The earth needs the rain and a break from the sun. I can almost hear the trees slurping up water. They'll need it soon. Loki the Cat took a stroll through the backyard. He didn't stay out long. He found a good spot for his "outside activities" and made a beeline for the door. Now I have a lapful of damp cat. It's of no matter. I'm finished blogging for now.

It's time to go make myself useful to myself. I guess I'll add a bag of flour to my shopping list. In this day and age, it wouldn't do to allow the pantry to get low. 

The Lady of the Hideaway


Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, baking, January, gardening, rural living, country lifestyle, home food preservation, a writer's life, begonias, cuttings, marigold seeds, country cats, black Labrador Retriever


January 26, 2023

When the truth starts to emerge - EV costs


Have you ever just known that what you sense to be fact is true even when everyone tells you it's not?

Sometimes you know what you know simply by the people who have jumped on the propaganda wagon and touted nary an original idea. 

Being a critical thinker has been discouraged. Do you ever wonder why?

Every day I peruse the news feeds to see what is being presented to the populace, and I about fell out of my chair when I came across this article on Yahoo. https://autos.yahoo.com/driving-100-miles-ev-now-000000887.html  "Driving 100 Miles in an EV Is Now More Expensive Than in an ICE" by Ryan Erik King, posted on Wed. January 25, 2023, at 7:00 PM EST.

Why the surprise? Because it was on Yahoo, which is a Liberal outlet, not that I immediately thought the article had to be fake. Quite the contrary! I thought FINALLY SOMEONE SEES IT!!!

Someone finally dared to publish what we figured out years ago. How'd we figure it out? We did the math. We get a monthly invoice from the local power company with a breakdown of costs. We did the math. Charges and costs are all over the Internet. Google it and do the math. 

The deeper we sink into the fallacy that an electric vehicle is the way to go, the more we're going to find out who is getting rich on our hard-earned dollars. 

Now I'll be the first to admit it costs me a bit more than the quoted $11.29 per 100 miles quoted in the article. Running three hundred horses does come at a cost, one that I accept. My Charger is a dream to drive, has good safety features, and has the speed to quickly move me away from drunken idiots and texting drivers. I'm sure the writer of the article was comparing more comparable vehicles. 

Remember this, too. Everyone who buys gasoline pays a tax to fund road maintenance and road construction. An EV driver does not - yet. It's coming soon, boys and girls. Your government won't let you off the hook forever.

I've included the link to the article and a screencap because one never knows how long these things will be posted. 

As a nation, we do not have this figured out yet. Those of us who live rurally are very aware of the disruption going to an EV will have to our day-to-day living. We don't have the infrastructure. An EV doesn't meet our needs. Chevy may have made an EV Silverado pickup, but we can't afford it. We need trucks that work, not an $80,000 tribute to slavery. Because debt is slavery. 

As time goes on we're going to learn more and more about this bill of goods we're being forced to accept. Wake up now. 

The Lady of the Hideaway


Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, electric vehicle costs, debt, dollars and sense, rural living, critical thinking, math, taxes, hidden costs, real world

January 23, 2023

Questions about decaffeinated tea


We're always making adjustments in the way we approach the foods we eat. It's not that we expect being cognizant of the level of chemicals we inadvertently ingest will enable us to live forever. It's that we think being aware will keep us a bit healthier in our rush to the finish line. Sometimes, though, we end up with questions about just how healthy something really is. Case in point: decaffeinated green tea. 

We've read for years that green tea has a lot of health benefits. I actually like the Bigelow brand green tea with mint. The Lord of the Manor isn't much of a hot tea drinker but every once in a while he'll join me in a late-night cup. 

Drinking green tea before bed is supposed to be good for adding anti-oxidants and removing toxins. It purportedly helps with weight loss, too, but I can't give a personal testimonial to any of that. I only know what I read, so when an article about decaffeinated popped up in my news feed, I read it. And I have questions.

The most commonly used process to decaffeinate any sort of tea is with the use of ethyl acetate. Ethyl acetate? That's what they use in nail polish removers. How the hell is that healthy to ingest? 

This is why I question just about everything. There is a saying, "the truth is out there." Out where? You have to strip back twenty layers of lies to find it.

My great-grandmother grew herbs for tea. I remember trailing behind her when she walked through the woods to snip wood betony sprigs. She didn't need books or the Internet to know what to grow and how to use the herbs. The knowledge was handed down to her. If she passed her herbal tea knowledge on, it stopped with my mother because it didn't make it to me. I have to rely on strangers. 

If nothing else, a cup of green tea before bedtime is a good way to unwind. I'll take my chances with the small amount of caffeine in a teabag keeping me awake. It's a better risk than nail polish remover. 

The Lady of the Hideaway


Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, green tea, herbal teas, rural living, country lifestyle, lost knowledge, herbalist, a writer's life

January 20, 2023

Maple watching

1/24/2021


I don't know anyone who doesn't to some extent utilize a weather app or channel. Here on the Manor, we watch The Weather Channel for about fifteen minutes every morning. I have Weather Bug on my phone and he has the app from a DC tv station on his phone.  This is all well and good. It's useful information. But when it comes to garden planning, I trust something else. I trust the maple trees. 

Two years ago on January 21, 2021, the maple tips showed new red growth. This year - not so much. Can four days make a difference? Yes, but I'm not expecting it in 2023. We're headed into a few cold days with a very good chance of snow. I'll look for the red tips on the other side. 

This is a difficult time of year for me. Our temps hover around forty Fahrenheit, the wind has a bite, and the ground is mushy underfoot. There are warmer days I could be outside doing something, but I can't use the tractor without tearing up the yard. I sit in my sunroom office under the pretext of writing, but I find myself staring out the windows, longing to be outside in the fresh air. 

The begonia cuttings are doing okay, so much so I may start the other half of the tray. Two of them didn't make it, but that's to be expected. I probably cut those stems at the wrong place. 

This morning, I pulled several bags of homegrown green Bell pepper slices out of the freezer and put them in the freeze dryer. I found clear acrylic bins that are perfect for in the freezer, so I tidied up a bit. I found a rump roast and it's in the Instant Pot. We'll be having beef stew tomorrow, a perfect dinner for a rainy/snowy evening. Keeping the freezer organized aids meal planning, so I'm very happy to have order restored in there. 

When the maples do finally show red tips, I'll sow a few lettuce seeds in trays. I'm going to trust the trees above the Farmer's Almanac this year. The writers of the almanac may know my zone, but they don't know my micro-climate. I'm going to trust my instincts, and the trees, and see what happens. The opportunities to re-seed aren't over until the first frost hits in November. 

The Lady of the Hideaway


Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, maple trees, spring thaw, gardening, Farmer's Almanac, seeds, freeze drying, Instant Pot

January 11, 2023

Begonia cuttings: I may have jumped the gun

Begonias, or wax plants, are a staple among my plantings every year. My grandmother loved red begonias and I feel that keeping a red wax plant keeps my connection to her more alive. Begonias are easy to come by in the spring, so I've not always bothered with 'wintering over' a mother plant. Some years the day job got to me that much.

This year, I brought in two red and two white wax plants to winter over as mother plants. Last summer I noticed my veggie garden lacked some color and I want to remedy that in the 2023 season. My plan for this year included space for annual bloomers.  

I have a five-tier planter that was originally bought with strawberries in mind. That didn't work out so well. I think the planting cubbies are too shallow for berries, but they are perfect for begonias. I need fifteen plants to fill it. 

I may have jumped the gun.

A few days ago I noticed two of the mother plants were beginning to fade. My fault. I did something stupid and one evening turned on the space heater in my office without setting the plants in the other room. Sometimes plants don't do well around ceramic heaters and I suspect that's what happened. I ordered a tray of peat pellets and they arrived yesterday. 

I've gone ahead and taken cuttings from the two plants that were looking stressed. It may be too early for the cuttings to grow, but established wax plants are tough enough to rebound if judiciously cut back. It'll be a win/win if all goes well. I'll still have the mother plants in their red pots and I'll have enough young plants to fill the planter. And I have two large wax plants that don't seem to be affected by exposure to the heater. 

With any luck, I'll be able to get the begonias in the planter around mid-April, and let them harden off in the greenhouse for a few weeks. That should give them a good start. 

It's only the second week of January. Did I start the cuttings too soon? Maybe. But since I needed to trim the mother plants, I'm only out a few peat pots if the cuttings don't root. I think it was worth the gamble. 

The Lady of the Hideaway


Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, begonias, wax plants, gardening, rural living, country lifestyle, traditions, annual plantings, greenhouse

January 9, 2023

He'll hear me now!

As if the cell phones weren't enough, we now have a set of walkie-talkies. Yep, we are going old school. And while I rolled my eyes, I said nothing. To be truthful, they are a good safety addition here on the Manor. Too often we don't hear our phones ring when we are outside, which is fine if we're not calling each other. Family and friends know to leave a message. They know we're outside somewhere, probably with some piece of equipment running and it's okay. However, being able to reach each other is vital. 

These little walkie-talkies have THE MOST ANNOYING call ring you'd ever want to hear. It's loud. We tested it out, Himself being in the house and me in the greenhouse, and it's an attention-getter. Did I mention the call sound is loud? I can put this anywhere in the garden and hear the call ring, and since it's a closed system, I'll know it's him. It's supposed to have a twenty-mile range, so I'm going to test it out on my walk through the woods. If it reaches three to four miles, that's great! It won't replace my phone on my walk, though, and after we test it out, I'll likely still rely on my phone only. 

It will be good to have this added connection whenever Himself is outside and I'm at the computer. I'll also appreciate that we won't have to bellow for one another and have my cousin come up to see what's wrong. 

And if our cell service goes out from a sunspot, a backup plan is a good thing.

Don't tell the Lord of the Manor I said that. He's already quite proud of himself for coming up with the idea of going low-tech. 

The Lady of the Hideaway


Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, walkie-talkies, low-tech toys, backup plans, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, connections

January 4, 2023

It's been a day

I slept in this morning, not rising and shining at all. It's a rare occurrence so I can't beat myself up over it. Our recent weather has thawed the ground, so even though our temps are in the 50F range, doing anything outside would be a proposition in mud. We'll pass. Needing to find another productive activity for the day, I choose to make a run to Sam's Club. 

It's a good thing the Lord of the Manor never questions how much money I spend on these "runs." I brought home Honey Buns and Cheetos for him as a distraction. He doesn't ask and I don't offer. 

The thing I like about a club warehouse is being able to get, for example, a carton of tissues at a time. Tissues never go bad and during the winter months, it's handy to have a stash in the laundry room. Is paying $1.41 a box a good deal? In my neck of the woods, it is. And that's the thing. You have to pay attention to individual prices. 

Some things, like Tide detergent, are not a bargain at Sam's. I buy it there anyway because it's so convenient to get the big jugs of the stuff. It doesn't cost more, but it doesn't cost less. 

So I'm home, $225 poorer, but well stocked on a few items. And what did Himself have to say about all the *stuff* we carried in from the trunk of my car? 

"At least we won't have to eat the cat."

#Men

The Lady of the Hideaway


Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, country lifestyle, rural living, shopping, bargains, cats, men, a writer's life


January 1, 2023

New Year's Day, January 1, 2023 - a quote


There is a quote from poet Maya Angelou that I like. 

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. 

I think it resonates with me because although it was never articulated that way, it was a lesson my grandparents frequently taught. Countless times I witnessed them redo something because they had learned a better way. My grandfather tore down an entire shed once just to rebuild it better, and he used the same lumber. He never admitted he did it wrong the first time, because he hadn't, he'd simply learned something new and better. 

Do the best you can. Striving to do our best isn't an onerous chore. There is a great deal of satisfaction in doing our best. It is its own reward. 

When you know better, do better. Ah, this is the rub for many a writer. We write the story and publish the book. A year later we re-read the book (late at night when we can't sleep and our brain is firing neurons in all the wrong directions) and we suddenly realize how we can improve that old story. 

As we step into 2023, the plan is to do better, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. 

The Lady at The Hideaway


Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, New Year's, do your best, pick your battle, rural lifestyle, country living, a writer's life, writers on writing, rewards, poets, simple country pleasures