The Not New Rain Gauge

As a kid, an occasional chore I had was to water the plants. I never wanted to, so I never had to be told to not water the plants. But now after getting into gardening a bit myself, that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn. That you can kill plants by overwatering them!

For a while, I wanted a really nifty rain gauge that would tell me exactly how much it had rained. After joining the Buy Nothing New project, I considered making one myself. It would just take a cup, a ruler, and a permanent marker to get my beautiful rain measurements.

But finally it dawned on me that I was still overcomplicating things. I threw a spare bowl outside and it now sits there waiting for rain. Sometimes it rains and then the sun comes out, and by the time I look at the bowl it’s empty or with only a few drops clinging on. No matter whether it was just a light rain or if the sun dried it quickly, it simply doesn’t count as a watering for my plants.

But today, oh, today. There was only some light drizzle when I woke up. I was disappointed that the forecasted rain had failed me again and most of the plants were likely still thirsty. Yet when I got outside the water gauge was full! This meant I could just leisurely stroll around the yard and admire the plants that were growing themselves. No need to even stick my finger in the dirt to check the moisture level. The plants will have their fill for at least a couple more days.

My rain gauge is perfect because I can read it even from the bedroom window, because it’s more durable than the flimsy plastic one I would have otherwise bought, and because once the neighborhood cat curled up inside the dry warm bowl for a nap. You’ll never see that with a store-bought rain gauge. 🙂

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The water gauge today reads “Don’t water the plants!”
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Gratitude

It’s a time of great unrest. In addition to the possibility of the EPA either being eliminated or otherwise losing the authority to protect our health, there’s a lot of debate over our country’s responsibilities for residents who are not yet legal citizens. The past couple of days, there have been protests just down the street in response to recent ICE activities here in Austin.

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During the day it’s been pretty tame, but as it gets later and more people join in, things start to break down a bit.

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While the worry may be sometimes grating, it’s helpful to take a step back and think about those things that I’m grateful for with respect to everything going on.

Freedom of Speech / Freedom of Assembly

I’m grateful for our constitutional rights which allow people to speak their mind and have open discussions. People may not always say things that I agree with, but it’s also important to understand what the people around you are thinking and feeling and that’s just not possible without free speech.

Helpful Neighbors

My neighbors may not all be on the same side of the immigration issues, but everyone agrees that helicopters flying low through the neighborhood keeps us from getting to sleep at night. A few neighbors shared info on NextDoor about how to properly submit complaints about the helicopters that were buzzing the walls when passing over but which weren’t actually doing anything useful. And I’ll share my gratitude with these folks for the helicopters finally leaving so everyone could get some sleep.

Internet Video

Ok, so I’ll admit that I can get a bit annoyed about overconsumption. Do people really need a video camera on their person at all times? Do they really need to share their videos with the whole world? Do they really need the ability to upload it immediately?

But I’ve gained something from this event and I really do appreciate people sharing video of the protests. It was easy for anyone to see that it was a peaceful protest. And as someone living in the vicinity, it was the quickest way to confirm that a series of shots going off was actually fireworks.

Respectful Drivers

At times the protesters were blocking traffic as they paraded around the intersection. Naturally this led to a couple of incidents, but I’m really grateful that most of the drivers just continued on their way without escalating things.

Respectful Police

Yes, there were a few incidents here also, but for the most part there was respect all around. From the protesters, who respected the police who were there to keep both them and everyone else safe. (The protest happened to be at one of the most dangerous intersections in Austin.) And from the Austin police, who respected everyone’s rights. Protesters and police generally had open conversation (rather than yelling at each other as I’ve seen elsewhere). And I’m glad the police eventually shut down the intersection to vehicle traffic to ensure everyone’s safety.

 

Whew, just writing that down makes me feel a little better. Now I just need a little time in the garden to find my balance again. No stressful shopping for me, folks!

Book I Read In 2017 – Part 1

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. It’s free. It helps me better understand other people. And I can totally do it while curled up in bed on a cold day. This year I thought it would be interesting to keep track of what I read just to see how my interests change over time. Even within this past month, however, there seems to be a pretty decent variety.

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The Book of Genesis by R Crumb – If you’ve already read a couple of translations of Genesis and are interested in another perspective, this illustrated book definitely fits the bill. The illustrations are sometimes distracting from the story but more often add another layer of context and understanding.

War with the Newts by Karel Capek – The plot is similar to Capek’s R.U.R. in that there are creatures who start to become more human-like and then get out of hand. This book touches on war, slavery, humanity, and invasive species. It’s a delightfully quick read, but it makes up for that with time that you spend staring out into space just thinking about things.

One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry – If you had to draw 100 of your personal demons, what would they be? One of mine would probably be a leaf-footed stink bug because they’re just creepy. Here Barry shares her own demons in these illustrated stories.

Eco-Chic Home by Emily Anderson – There are only a few projects in this book that I’d do. The rest left me either uninspired or in some cases disappointed that perfectly good items were being upcycled into something of lower value.

90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry by Henrik Lange – In one page each, I finally learned the super high level plot of some classics like One Hundred Years of Solitude (I’ll read it someday) and Lolita. Others I had already read, and the summaries varied from hilarious to meh. And yet others, I had never heard of. (How do you define “Classic Books”?) If you pick it up in the library, you can probably read the pages for just your favorites and be done in a few minutes, so there’s nothing to lose.

The Story of My Tits by Jennifer Hayden – This is a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious graphic novel, telling the story of the author’s own life and the ways in which she’s been impacted by breast cancer. So many people I’m acquainted with have been diagnosed, and the whole time I was reading this book I was hoping she would explain what the hell is going on with the world. But I start thinking that way whenever my brain gets on this topic. Would recommend this book both for the engaging storyline and the insight into understanding how different people deal with hard truths.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond – This was our book club book of the month. First of all, one word of warning, this is a really long book. That said, it contains insights into why people sometimes do things that destroy the environment, against their own best interests. One of the stories involves Easter Island, once full of trees totally deforested by the time Europeans set eyes on it. For the person who cut down the last tree, what was he thinking?

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger – Yet another graphic novel, this time about a bookmobile that contains everything the visitor has ever read, including cereal boxes and journals, and about the lengths that one person would go through to be united with these written memories forever.

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln by Noah Van Sciver – This book left me in the lurch, as I was afterwards wondering how in the world this guy could have ever become president. I may have to read a full biography someday to learn what happened in that gap before my education kicks in about him actually being president. Wouldn’t recommend just because it ends so early.

Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier – Some of these would absolutely not grow in central Texas, but I now have a few more plants on my wishlist. I just wish there was also such a thing as a carrot tree.

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte – Most books about garbage get either excessively scientific or depressing, but I love them all anyway. And this book is even better because it’s told by an outsider of the garbage world who is enthralled to explore what becomes of her refuse. She jumps hurdles to be able to visit landfills, MRFs, composting facilities, and more. In her more personal journey, she tracks those things that she disposes, tries to reduce her own garbage, attempts to reduce the related manufacturing garbage by buying less, and finally discusses extended producer responsibility. Loved it. 🙂

That’s it so far! You may see some other gardening books in the photo above, but I’ve only listed out the ones where I read at least half of the book this year–not just a particular chapter for reference or a quick skim before setting it aside uninterested. These all went back to the library today. Time to pick up the next set of good reads!

Things I bought in January

At the start of the month there were several things on my list of purchases I wanted to make. I must have been on a spree because now that list is totally empty!

I bought food, a bus pass, and paid the bills. As for everything else, there were a bunch of plants and plenty of not new stuff, but there were a few brand new items thrown in as well.

Plants

These are mostly perennials which will last us year after year. The only short-lived plant in this batch is the bluebonnet but, well, this is Texas and the seeds I scattered around the yard apparently didn’t take this year. If they don’t sprout next year, I’ll just have to deal with it and visit a bluebonnet patch elsewhere to relive my childhood memories.

  • Potting soil (my last bag lasted a year, so not too bad)
  • Bluebonnet
  • Spearmint
  • Provence lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Esperanza (to help shade the south side of the house in summer)
  • Fuyu persimmon (for shade and future fruit)

Not New Stuff

I’ve been careful to avoid Goodwill several times this month and didn’t even stop at the Really Really Free Market, so before tallying this up I had no idea I got so many new-to-me things! Fortunately, they’re mostly useful. I’d been wanting/needing a good ladder for the past year, have worn out a couple of pairs of shoes recently, and checked off a few punch list items for the house.

  • Replacement doorknobs (Habitat ReStore)
  • Porchlight cover (Habitat ReStore)
  • Trim paint (Habitat ReStore)
  • Curtains (Habitat ReStore)
  • Jigsaw puzzles (Freecycle)
  • Gorilla ladder (Craigslist)
  • Curtain rod brackets (Savers)
  • Shoes (Savers)
  • Cast iron mini-skillet (Goodwill)
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Comfy new-to-me shoes
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Mini-skillet to melt butter for popcorn (or cook something small like an egg)

New Stuff

This list could have been shorter, but I wouldn’t take any of it back.

  • Toilet paper and bar soap.
  • Rat traps and cementish puttyish stuff because rats got into the attic. I was planning to take care of this myself but then a month passed without me doing anything, with possible chewing of wires and everything else the whole time. Fortunately, we were able to get an expert, who took care of sealing up all entrances to make sure our home is protected. We’re now proudly rat-free.
  • Loppers. I’ve been borrowing my mom’s off-and-on for the past year to cut vines and prune shrubs and small branches. They’ve gotten a lot of use, so a pair of my own was definitely a need. And after a year of not coming across any in the secondhand shops, yard sales, or Freecycle/Craigslist, it was time to return my mom’s loppers for good.
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To prune all the things

That’s it for January. Unfortunately, writing this up has reminded me that there are still new things needed for other home repairs in the near future. Time to update the list and see which I can get secondhand. *fingers crossed*