I’m on the road this week, headed back across this huge country toward the desert. A last look at the beautiful state I had a chance to temporarily call home:
Thank you, New Jersey.
D and I will never agree about NYC. He feels alive in this city. This photo was unprovoked — he was just “city happy!”
By contrast, time in NYC leaves me begging for a shower. And a nap.
For whatever reason, spending time on trains and subways and going elbow-to-elbow with strangers in the TKTS line brings out my inner cowgirl. Anyone who will give me two seconds will hear how I belong on a horse, in Wyoming or Montana. Which is frankly hilarious because I don’t really like horseback riding. And the bugs in Wyoming make the summers nearly impossible, unless you are sitting in a zone that’s already been mosquito-napalmed by the local government.
But I dislike the smell of NYC on a hot summer day considerably more.
So, yeah. I get why it is a romantic city and the cultural gems hidden within cannot be overstated. But neither can the peace that comes from a quiet starry night, sitting around a campfire with friends.
God bless this man’s patience with me. And that he loves a woman in cowboy boots.
Yee haw, friends.
A walk to the mailbox this week:
Have you heard of the app Leafsnap? It is pretty neat. You take a photo of a leaf of a tree or plant you don’t recognize, and their system will name the plant. I have been using it, and this little handy guide to learn plants and flowers of New Jersey.
Now, if there was an app to get used to the humidity. Those “dry heat” jokes of my Arizona days make a LOT more sense now.
Recycling in New Jersey is a pain. I can only imagine the book of rules, no joke, was created as a deterrent. That said, I have yet to find a job and I’ve will happily jump through the necessary hoops to see that these items are sent to the right facility, instead of just carried away with our trash can. This involves tying like items together, marking the junk mail in one bag and the newspapers in another, etc. It doesn’t take long, but I can imagine is a huge hurdle for anyone with little time.
I’ve been laughing lately at the news out of NYC. The mayor controversially wants to enforce a “food scraps recycling program.” AKA: composting. Can you imagine how much compost could be created from NYC in one day? Also: for the international readers — can you believe that this isn’t something we Americans inherently know we are supposed to do?
I’ve seen, and previously owned and broken, the Rachel Ray trash bowl that sits on your counter for compost. Rather that spend the $20 to replace this, I spent $1 on a larger plastic bowl that sits beneath our kitchen sink. In our area, you are not allowed to have a garbage disposal. As such, all food waste that doesn’t contain animal products goes in the green bowl:
The perks of composting this way:
1. If you live in a humid environment, like New Jersey, this stuff will compost quickly outside.
2. You have to take out a lot less trash, using fewer trash bags.
3. If you are a gardener, this stuff will be gold, especially if you have patience. Add some worms from your local fishing store and watch out. You’ll have amazing humus. No, not pita humus. This kinda hummus.
4. You’ll get more exercise, especially if you place your composting area wisely a good distance from your house.
5. You will likely think twice about buying sub-par, out of season fruits and vegetables from a big box store that your family won’t finish, leaving you to later compost. The process can’t help but bring you closer to nature — you’ll be begging for the snow to melt so you aren’t digging and dumping your full bowl. And if you are like me, it will give you a deep sense of environmental smugness that is entirely undeserved as a global over-consumer.
1. If you have a dog and haven’t spent the time enclosing your compost area, chances are you will have a dog who finds a way to eat whatever he can out of this area. Yuck.
2. You may attract other animals into your compost area. Shoo!
3. More trash. More trash bags. More hauling the dumb trash can back and forth. Urg!
Morals to this story:
New Jersey — I see your recycling laws and I will meet them. Also, I am composting. So there!
The second bed is in, and the first bed is going wild:
Grow, little tomatoes — grow!
The second bed is fairly uneven. I’m hoping the newspapers and other old carbons I put under the cardboard will help. Otherwise, I’ll watch the watering in the lower area.
Gardeners — any creative ideas in lieu of using a cage? I need to get something in place in the next week in bed #1. I have done teepees in the past for tomatoes, but it becomes a mess and can make reaching the tomatoes difficult. Other ideas? I may just buy more of that trellising, although each one is $7. The upside: I can fold them flat and move them with us, rather than throwing away money on round wire tomato cages, which are nearly impossible to move.
I’d love to hear your ideas.
A friend on Facebook made the point that New Jersey has issues with heavy metal. No, not Bon Jovi, but harmful waste in the soil. When I planted a vegetable garden several couple weeks ago — I went the lasagna route. Cardboard, newspapers and other carbons, added with compost and organic top soil. I’m watering top down and these plants are going nuts. It helps that it rains here all the time.
I might have repurposed a few building materials as seen above from other areas of the property. As you can tell, most were buried under heaps of pine needles and I highly doubt if they will be missed by anyone other than the roly poly bugs who called them home.
Additionally, I wanted to start some seedlings to transplant. I’ve never had any luck with transplants, so who knows how this is going to go.
I very well may be too late in the season to be putting them in, but I am going to try.
It has been a lot of fun to have these little babies going on the kitchen windowsill. I will plant herbs this way in the future. Today, these will be transplanted into an garden extension, including a trellis for those green beans from Finny. More importantly, I am now studying seed saving and will hopefully have seeds to share and save for next year’s garden too.
I may just pick up some basil seed to start this project again.
Yesterday, I stood on Pier 66 in Manhattan in shorts and bare feet.
And it. was. awesome.
Some friends from Arizona are in town this week and they found a Groupon* for kayaking the Hudson. Along the edges of the pier, trash bobs in the waves. A corporate helipad sits just a few hundred feet north of the pier, making constant ripples and loud whipping noises as profiteers come and go. Folks enjoying a warm, gorgeous Sunday funday afternoon hooted and hollered from the Frying Pan — a bar on the next pier over.
D looked at the trash and then at me and swallowed hard. “Are we up to date with our vaccines?” He smiled. I laughed, throwing on my huge sun hat and smacked his paddle with mine.
“Come on! This is going to be a blast.” It had been years since I’d kayaked last, but I remember it being a killer workout and a great way to see the landscape.
After a brief introductory to the equipment, we slid into our single kayaks and headed out into the brown water.
Some 45 minutes of paddling later, I could barely pull myself back up on the pier. We caught the tide heading south toward the State of Liberty, which meant we fought our way home. The water was cooling as it dribbled down from our paddles on to our warm legs. It was also a beautiful dark blue once you got past the murkiness on the shore. We were all screaming and having the a great time until we realized we’d outlasted our welcome. I couldn’t physically paddle any more, but I didn’t want it to be done.
A kayak just may be the way to see the island that never sleeps. I’d love to see if I could maneuver around the entire thing. We plan to ride our bikes around the entire island at some point this summer with another friend. There is something so much more enjoyable about discovering a new place when it is done outside of the confines of public transport, or a cramped Civic. When the four of us got back to my little car, we were all exhausted. It was 7 pm on Sunday and we’d all traveled, worked and reached the end of our weekend to-do list. We climbed in and prepared to make the typical 45 minute drive home, where dinner was bubbling away in the Crockpot.
A little more than an hour later, our car had barely budged. We had unknowingly driven into the middle of this 100,000-plus person demonstration. When we finally did get around the countless school busses full of Hasidic Jews and their male children, we could barely think. It took more than two hours to get home. God bless Mr. Crockpot for his technology; dinner was still ready regardless of our late arrival.
Regardless of the crazy traffic, I cannot wait to go again. Manhattan Kayak actually rents space by the month. I may just buy one of these babies. There are several spots nearby on rivers near our home that offer hourly rates for canoes and kayaks. I may just sign us up again this weekend. I’m wondering if I can get Nelson interested in going along too. He would look pretty cute at the front of a boat.
*Groupon might be the best way to get to know a new place. Signing up for the “adventure” section gets you out of the house doing crazy fun things for just a few dollars, while the food category can quickly help you find the best mom and pop spots in town.
I am watching my budget with more scrutiny while between jobs. I love being frugal — no surprise to friends, family or long-time readers. I am treating this time of life like a game: how rich can my life be without spending money?
The answer — very. However, this weekend was a hilarious series of expensive missteps. With a little Internet research, I discovered the Appalachian Trail just 50 miles from our home. With a bit more digging, I found a free place to park in the Delaware Water Gap. Score! Since reading Bill Bryson, I’ve wanted to hike a bit of the AT. I’d pack a backpack, grab Nelson’s leash, and we’d made a day of it. The gas for a 100 miles is about $12 — totally manageable for a day’s adventure. (Cheaper than a movie or taking a gander through Target, by far.)
Among other aspects I didn’t consider was the humidity. The trail was wet in some places and the air was sticky. We hiked 1.5 hours along a ridge line when Nelson found some shade and curled up. We had some water and a snack and I realized we needed to turn around.
The walk was gorgeous. The cicadas are out and humming like mad. The birds were chirping. Flowers were in bloom. The smell of a New Jersey forest is entirely different than the Rockies — less pine and aspen, more birch. It was peaceful, and we only saw a few hikers who were all friendly.
Neither of us are used to the humidity. My clothes were totally drenched by the time we made it back to the car seemingly unscathed. At some point during the drive home, I realized Nelson was acting strangely. He couldn’t get settled on the back seat and kept nipping at his sides. This wasn’t like him; after a good hike, he is quick to turn in circles three times before napping like a champ. Driving down a major highway it was hard to tell what was happening with him in the back seat … until I saw something jump off of him.
He was covered in ticks. Then I looked down at my legs, wearing 3/4 length yoga pants and realized I had several on me too. I drove home as quickly as possible, kept him in the front yard, as bringing him inside would’ve caused an infestation of the little bugs and I’d be Googling “terminix massachusetts” trying to sort it. Anyway, I went inside for his grooming scissors and proceeded to spend another hour outside slowly cutting some 200+ ticks out of his hair and carefully wiggling out those that had made it to his skin. He was in agony — both annoyed with me messing with him, and with all of these tiny creatures crawling all over him.
I, in turn, was breathing deeply and really trying not to wave my hands toward the heavens and scream obscenities. I’d seen a tick before when a found one on my stomach after hiking through rain forest in Nicaragua. But this was unreal. I couldn’t get them off of him fast enough. And as I would find them, they would bury into him, making him welp. (It didn’t help that at one point I skimmed him with the scissors.) My hands were shaking and I had sweat pouring into my face.
A trip to the pet store later, I’d cleaned the house and given him a tick/flea bath. He is already on tick medication, but there were so many — I was concerned. As I bathed him, I watched more and more dark ticks come to the surface of his blond hair. I rinsed him carefully and let him air dry on the patio.
You haven’t really lived until you’ve carefully taken off all of your clothes and examined every crease and crack of your body for ticks. Even more so when you find them and try desperately to keep your cool and get them off of you. After I showered, and complained loudly to friends on Facebook about the experience, the reaction was binary:
All of my friends west of the Mississippi responded: “OH MY GOD. THAT IS THE WORST EVER.”
Eastern friends, by contrast: “Meh, ticks. That’s life out east. Welcome!” Several emailed me their strategies for hiking with their dogs when they know ticks are present and how to guard yourself. I wish I’d known before starting this adventure.
Last night, I flipped him on his back and carefully went through each of his toes. I found another 15, happily sucking away at him. He seemed to sigh with relief when I finally let him rest.
This morning while getting ready for church, I found a rather full little sucker stuck to my scalp. Lyme disease was recorded in 3800 people in the state of New Jersey last year; God knows how many dogs are hobbling around with the painful chronic illness because they weren’t treated. It is a bacterial infection that if it isn’t treated quickly, can become a life-long, crippling disease.
I’m starting a round of antibiotics this afternoon; I wasn’t going to bother until a friend in Maryland called this morning to say she has several friends with Lyme and it isn’t something to mess around with. Thankfully, a friend of ours was able to call in a prescription. Nelson goes to the vet tomorrow.
The morale to this story? When it doubt, just go to Target.
Oh, hello there Mr. Nelson. Are you playing with your favorite toy — the Target Cupcake (of which we have purchased and destroyed dozens?)
Wait? What’s that you say? You aren’t playing with your toy? You are trying to distract anyone from noticing the gobs of junk “hidden” under the bed?
Few closets meant I stashed my craft and art supplies under the bed, only to realize they were still in plain view. Thankfully, I found this tutorial, which made sewing a bed skirt for a bed with a frame a snap.
Well, maybe not a snap. But easy enough — even though scooting under the bed with a hot glue gun was probably not the smartest idea.
Voila! A few bucks spent in velcro and canvas and now I can hide my junk with pride. And unlike previous hot glue adventures, I neither burned myself, nor the carpet. Success!