edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Since I wrote about my peppers a couple days ago for the December Talking Meme, I figured it's time to post my latest set of photos. :-)

This is probably my last pepper photo post of the year. I picked my two remaining peppers on Nov. 25, stuck them in a plastic container, and carted them down to NJ where I was visiting my parents for Thanksgiving. (My mom has been very skeptical about growing peppers from seed -- she thinks I should buy pre-sprouted seedlings -- so I wanted to prove to her that even if they were small, they were ACTUALFAX PEPPERS, so there.)

peppers, Nov. 23rd
my last two peppers, on Nov. 23

two more pictures )

I brought them back home and on Dec. 3rd, I chopped them both up. The green one went immediately into a veggie-and-cheese scramble. The red one got frozen for two days, and tonight joined some onion in a frying pan with a bit of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and became a nice vegetable side to the last of my leftover Thanksgiving turkey. (The bread in both photos is half a steak roll. I find steak rolls very versatile as a carbohydrate.)

red pepper chopped
ripened pepper, chopped and ready to freeze for later use

three more pictures )

I will probably toss my remaining three pepper plants into the garden patch fairly soon. There is no point keeping them around anymore, and one of the problems with gardening in the Fall Creek neighborhood is that a bunch of the local soil is landfill made of sludgy 19th century industrial waste. Upstairs Neighbor E has said she wants to try doing something with the garden plot next spring, and I figure a bit of nice potting soil and some decaying plant matter cannot possibly hurt her chances of getting healthy plants out of our shared backyard.

I'm keeping Mom's pepper, though. It has been tenacious beyond my wildest expectations, and I am curious what it may do over the winter.
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 2: pepper plants origin story, or how did you get interested in gardening? (for jen) [Tumblr crosspost]

For gardening in general, well, I've always thought that seeds are amazing -- these tiny, dead-looking specks are actually alive, and with nothing but dirt and water, light and air, they produce such marvelous and varied ends. And then some of them you can eat. How is that not astounding? When I was a kid, my parents tried a few times to have a garden, plus we had a little strawberry patch and some raspberry bushes/vines, and an apple tree. Even when they gave up on the garden per se, we still had a row of asparagus, and you have not tasted proper asparagus until you've had it grilled less than half an hour after it was picked. Delicious.

But I am lazy at heart, so I never did much gardening after I moved out. I kept houseplants -- I don't think I've ever had fewer than six houseplants at a time, even when I was living in tiny rooms in shared apartments and group houses, and I currently have twenty-one and counting -- but houseplants aren't really gardening, you know?

The peppers, therefore, were an accident.

My friend Susan came to Ithaca in spring of 2013, and since her visit happened to coincide with the Cayuga Wine Trail's annual Wine & Herb event, we decided to buy tickets and see what that was like. It turns out that at each participating winery, ticketholders get to sample a small selection of wines chosen to accompany a dish prepared with the herb (and/or vegetable) which that particular winery has been assigned. You are also given a small live version of that plant in a little plastic seedling pot. Susan and I got to twelve wineries that day, which was only possible because we stopped for a long lunch at which we drank nothing but water. (FYI, I do not recommend following our example unless you have a designated driver.) So we arrived back at my apartment with twelve small seedlings, which we decided to split equally.

I don't remember exactly why I ended up with all three peppers -- one jalapeño, one plain bell pepper, and one fancy bell pepper -- but I did. A week or two later, I gave my three actual herb seedlings to my mom, since she was more likely to use them in cooking. Then the peppers sat on my coffee table for a month while I wondered what on earth to do with them.

Eventually I bought two plastic pots from Target and dug out a big ceramic pot I had been vaguely intending to use to repot one of my houseplants. I also bought a bag of potting soil from the local Agway and walked a mile home carrying it and three stakes to tie the plants to as they grew. And I potted the peppers and stuck them onto my back porch, where they sat on a weird, low, metallic table left by the previous tenants.

The fancy bell pepper succumbed to squirrels within a week, but the others survived and I discovered all over again how ridiculously amazing it is to watch plants spin dirt and water, light and air, into life and growth. There were leaves! And flowers!! And I got actual peppers out of the process!!!

Of course I had to do it again the next year. And I will continue doing it again until it stops being amazing, which I think will happen approximately half past never. :-)


December Talking Meme: All Days

(I still have seven days open -- the 14th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 27th, and 30th -- if anyone wants to claim them.)
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
It's been a while since I posted any pepper photos, hasn't it? As you may recall, in our last update I had four medium-ish peppers and one smaller pepper. I picked the small one and used it to make scrambled eggs with stuff in a week or two ago. It was way too messy to qualify as an omelet, but hey, onion + pepper + ham + cheese + scrambled egg = delicious. *grin*

(I apologize for the blurriness of the following photographs. Sometimes my phone doesn't like to focus.)

all my pepper plants, indoors
all my peppers, Tuesday Nov. 11, 2014

more pictures )

Mom's pepper is apparently making one last-ditch attempt at blooming and fruiting. I have no idea how that's going to work out with winter levels of sunlight, but I'm doing what I can to open curtains before dawn and turn on my kitchen lights as early as possible in the day.

Mom's pepper
I'm using the Nov. 5th photo of Mom's pepper since the Nov. 11th one was horribly blurry; note the tiny bud!

Tonight I picked two of the medium-ish peppers and used them in a potatoes au gratin recipe that I have modified to turn into proper hotdish. (Basically, where the recipe calls for onions alone, I have added pepper and ham. Look, onion-pepper-ham-cheese is a GOOD COMBINATION.) This was necessary since the pepper that was finally turning red was simultaneously ripening and threatening to rot -- you can see how it was starting to wrinkle and get mushy. I will probably pick and dice the remaining two peppers within the next couple weeks and freeze them for later use.

two peppers on my stove
the peppers I picked tonight to use in potatoes au gratin hotdish

two peppers in my hand
same peppers, different view; note that the one turning red was also starting to go mushy, which is why I decided tonight was hotdish night
edenfalling: stained-glass butterfly in a purple frame (butterfly)
We've had really warm weather in Ithaca this past week or two, but as of this weekend the forecast drops to the 50s and low 60s during the days, and down into the 40s at night, so I think I will bring Mom's pepper indoors. (It's only just flowered; it's the most delicate.) I will probably bring the others indoors as well within another week or two, to give them extra growing/ripening time. My kitchen doesn't get the best light in the world, but at least it's warm.

peppers, Oct. 1, 2014
all my peppers, Wednesday Oct. 1, 2014

cut for more photographs )
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
1. I got a flu shot today! Thus far, I have not encountered any of the weird side effects I've had in some previous years -- I mean, my shoulder aches like somebody smashed it with a hammer, but that's normal and expected, so eh -- but one year my body didn't glitch out on me until about twelve hours after the shot, so... we shall see.


2. In other news, there's a frost advisory for Tompkins County from 3am to 9am Friday morning. This is more relevant for areas up on the hilltops than areas down in the lake valley, but even so, I think I may bring my peppers in overnight. It would be a shame to lose them because of one bad night when the following week is forecast to be much warmer.

ETA: My peppers, back indoors:

peppers, temporarily indoors

They take up a lot more room these days!


3. My parents, having arrived home on Monday, took two days to do laundry and readjust to American time, whereupon they packed their car (...okay, minivan, whatever) and headed back out west to Minnesota. They will arrive in Bemidji on Saturday the 20th, pick Vicky up from the airport, and all reach Star Island that afternoon. Vicky will stay with them for about a week, as I did back in August.

I will be heading down to NJ one last time on the 26th and 27th, to collect my parents' mail and send any relevant bills to them, care of the local marina. They intend to close the cabin around the 8th or 9th of October and pick up the Camry on their way home (at which point we will do lunch and I will make them help me take my AC out of the window for the winter), but if the weather turns nasty and/or very cold, they may leave up to a week sooner.
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
vandalized pepper 01

vandalized pepper 02

Some animal bit one of my baby peppers off its stem yesterday. I have no idea what happened to that one... but the same animal or one of its compatriots in crime bit off another pepper this afternoon, and I found that one half-buried in the soil of a neighboring pot.

I brought it in, washed it, and stuck it in the fridge for the moment. I’m not sure what to do with it, really. It’s nowhere near ripe, and it’s tiny. Also covered in tooth-marks.

But hey, look, I have a pepper. *wry*
edenfalling: golden flaming chalice in a double circle (gold chalice)
It’s time for another dilettante tabletop gardening photoset!

my tabletop garden
All of my peppers, Sunday 9/7/2014

I have accepted that not all of my pepper plants are going to produce peppers. The two in the gray circular plastic pots got their buds knocked off and have not regrown any. The one in the lime-green plastic pot is the one that went all funny at the growing top, probably from a pesticide overdose. (It also used to be in a terracotta pot, but it either fell or was knocked over a couple days ago and the pot broke. I repotted it before it could dry out, but the shock didn’t do it any favors.)

But setting aside those failures, I have four plants that are currently growing peppers, one that is currently in bloom, one that has a couple visible buds, and a bonsai pepper that may yet surprise me! So you know, all in all I have not done too badly.

Next year I am going to plant my seeds in March, though, and apply anti-squirrel measures from the moment I move the seedlings outdoors. I would like my plants to be a bit further along by this time of year, because regardless of Ithaca’s lake valley microclimate effect, you never can trust the weather. *sigh*

more pictures behind the cut! )


In other news, today was Sundae Sunday -- aka, the first regular church service after summer's end. It also doubles as our Water Communion celebration.

Services this fall and winter will be a little odd, since our minister announced his retirement quite abruptly earlier this year and will not be giving many (maybe not any?) of the sermons. I believe the plan is to do a lot of congregational soul-searching, since this is the second... um... irregular ministerial job termination we've had in the past decade.

I think the main problem is that the old long-term minister who retired in the later 1990s got a lot of congregants used to really exciting and well-delivered sermons. Then, for inexplicable reasons, the next two ministers called -- Rev. Sears and Rev. Grimm -- were fairly pedestrian and/or repetitive preachers. This created an obvious source of tension. (In Rev. Sears's case there was also, IIRC, some conflict with the office staff. I personally liked Rev. Sears a lot, but that may have been because he was really into campus outreach and small group ministry, so I got to know him by talking with him on a personal level instead of listening to him talk at me on Sunday mornings. I was not attending services at that time.)

I have not been much involved in these issues, since my main point of contact with the church has been the RE program and thus the quality of weekly sermons was irrelevant to my spiritual life. But since I'm not teaching this year, and since I would like to stop being embarrassed by my congregation's high maintenance reputation, I think I will try to attend more congregational meetings and so-on -- if only to keep a finger on the search committee's progress.

*crosses fingers, hopes for minimal idiocy and circular arguments*
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Warning: this is a long and very image-heavy post! I am therefore putting most of it behind cuts.


First, the Better Bell pepper that Mom gave me, hereinafter referred to as Mom's pepper. You may recall it was decapitated by a marauding squirrel back in late June, but managed to recover from the shock enough to grow new leaves and even put forth some slightly misshapen flowers.

Well, around midafternoon on August 11th, it got beheaded again. :-(

This time I held onto the severed leaves and dropped them in the empty pot (which was empty because another pepper had been completely murdered earlier in July). Then I went away on vacation for a week. When I got back, the leaves were inexplicably not dead. O_o I think they may be in the process of dying now, but they’re acting as a squirrel distraction so I guess the sacrifice is not in vain?

Also, the roots and remnants of Mom’s pepper are trying to regrow from ruins a second time. I doubt the poor plant will make it to the flower stage again, let alone produce actual peppers, but even so. I am VERY impressed by its tenacity!

Mom's pepper )


Next up, my bonsai pepper!

I first put it outside around July 25th, whereupon it was promptly mauled by a squirrel. I got it rerooted before it could dehydrate and shrivel, and brought it back indoors to recover. Then I put it back out in early August.

It survived my vacation in style and continues to grow despite some incidental scuffling with the local squirrels. It’s still tiny, and still running behind the other peppers -- it’s at least a week or two away from flowering -- but hey, it’s cute. :-)

bonsai pepper )


And the rest of the peppers! Generally speaking, the ones in the terracotta pots have done better than the ones in the plastic pots. The one in the squarish gray-blue pot, however, is doing excellently, and the one on the far left just in front of the onion seems to have been badly affected by the pesticide I sprayed back in early July, since its leaves went all funny at the top and it never developed buds at all. (And it was bent in half by a squirrel last week; I’m not sure it’s recovering well from the shock.)

As you can see, some of the plants have begun to bloom, and a few of the flowers have even dropped off to reveal the beginnings of actualfax peppers! There would be a lot more of these, but, as always, SQUIRRELS. In fact, the tiny baby pepper in the final photo is no longer with us, having been chomped off sometime before this evening. *shakes tiny fist of rage*

I have purchased some animal-be-gone spray and will attempt to apply it tomorrow. The trick is, I can’t spray it directly on the pepper plants since they are meant for human consumption. But I can spray the mulberry tree, and the porch railing, and the porch floor, and the garage roof, and so on. Hopefully that will be enough to set up a perimeter of safety.

all of the other peppers )
edenfalling: circular blue mosaic depicting stylized waves (ocean mosaic)
I am writing this one day after the fact, but oh well, so it goes.

My flight from Bemidji left at 12:30ish, so Mom, Dad, and I left the island at 10:45 so as to reach the airport in plenty of time. Bemidji is a very dinky airport, but their staff are very, shall we say, careful, so getting through security takes a while. I suspect this may be because they are such a dinky airport. The Ithaca airport, for all its tiny size, gets a fair amount of traffic -- it is served by THREE airlines! *gasp shock awe* -- and so their staff are a lot more practiced and efficient.

I had a three-hour layover in the Twin Cities, during which I ate lunch, did a couple crosswords, and read a chunk of The Iroquois by Dean R. Snow. (I have been on a local history kick lately.) Then, right after I boarded the plane to Detroit, the captain announced that a line of thunderstorms was moving over Detroit, which meant planes currently in the air couldn't land, which meant planes currently on the ground but intending to head for Detroit weren't allowed to take off; this is, I believe, known as a ground stop. Anyway, we sat at the gate for about 45 minutes, and ended up taking off almost exactly one hour late.

I had a scheduled two-hour layover in Detroit (which is more like one and a half, really, since layovers are counted with reference to departure time rather than boarding time), so even after losing an hour to the weather I still had time to run and grab some dinner -- a bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions and pickles, from Fuddruckers, mmmmmm -- and make it to my assigned gate with fifteen minutes to spare. The flight into Ithaca was smooth and on time, and my suitcase (which I had voluntarily checked in the Twin Cities, since the flight was full and they didn't have enough room in the overhead compartments) was waiting for me at baggage claim.

Then I discovered my car battery was dead.


Fortunately the guy staffing the parking lot ticket payment booth was just about to get off-shift, and he offered to give me a jump-start. I got my jumper cables out, he duly drove over and fastened them (and now I know how to do that myself in the hopefully unlikely event of another dead battery), and got me going again. I then spent over half an hour driving randomly around the greater Ithaca area, to make sure I got the battery recharged enough to be able to start the car again today. (I haven't checked that yet, but I need to go buy groceries this afternoon or evening, so fingers crossed!)

I think what happened is that when I parked, I turned on one of the auxiliary ceiling lights by the rear-view mirror to make sure I hadn't left anything in the car. Then I forgot to turn it off and didn't notice the light since it's pretty faint and I was parked close to a street-light. But even a small, faint light bulb will drain a car battery over the course of a week, so whoops.


In other news, all my peppers survived my absence! Actually -- and this is the really crazy part -- I seem to have more peppers than when I left. Last week I took the bitten-off top half of the much-abused pepper my mom brought me and stuck its stem into the empty pot that used to hold a completely uprooted pepper. And I think it has grown new roots! At any rate, its leaves are all still green and healthy-looking rather than wilted and shriveled, so I'm pretty sure it's been getting water and nutrients from somewhere, and it is sitting upright in a patch of soil, so... we'll see!
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
1. I had my second reemployment advice meeting today, which went reasonably well. I am officially giving myself my vacation week off from job-hunting (though I will do follow-up on applications I've already submitted), which is permissible so long as I don't try to claim benefits for the days I'm not searching.


2. I am 90% packed, and the remaining 10% is basically my laptop and related stuff, my phone, and my carpal tunnel prevention wrist bracers which I obviously need to wear tonight. (They prevent me from putting pressure on things while I sleep.)

My flight leaves Ithaca at 6am, which means I want to leave my house at 5am so as to reach the airport by 5:10-ish and figure out the long-term parking lot. I have my boarding passes printed, and security never takes much time at an airport as dinky as Ithaca's, so as long as I'm in the building by 5:30am, I will be fine. But I want to put out the trash and set my curtains and so on, so I need to get up by 4:15am.

I am NOT a morning person, and I never sleep well on nights before a journey. But I figure I will drug myself with Benadryl and go to bed around 10pm, and hopefully I will get at least a little sleep.


3. I have asked Upstairs Neighbor E to keep an eye on my peppers while I'm gone, which is obviously necessary since this morning a squirrel (presumably, anyway) tried to uproot one of them and made smaller holes in two other pots, and this afternoon while I was doing laundry, it came back and ate the short pepper my mom gave me. AGAIN. And that one was halfway through blooming and probably would have started producing actual peppers in the coming week.

I am not amused.


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Elizabeth Culmer

October 2017

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