plants


The end of NaNoWriMo 2011 is upon us, and I’m especially sad because this has been my favorite year for several reasons, including local meetups and the fact that I was redrafting, not first-drafting, so my word count was cheatishly easy to get. No shame, no regrets. It looks like we’ll be keeping up regular write-ins (or more properly, “talk-ins”), so I’m delighted about that. NaNo books die lonely and embarrassed in February, but NaNo friendships live forever.

Speaking of dying lonely and embarrassed, every one of my tomato plants has gone on to the great tomato patch in the sky, where the sun is warm and there are no aphids anywhere, not even one. The rest of my plants still have to deal with the darkness of this sinful earth. I showered the aphids off the jalapenos, so hopefully they’ll keep producing delicious delicious peppers, and I trimmed the strawberry back to its freshest, darkest green leaves. It’s never looked so good. In Lime Tree Country, they are celebrating The Feast of Drop All My Leaves and Freak Out Amanda, which I celebrate in the orthodox tradition, Forty Days of Go Ahead and See If I Care. I do need to de-aphid that one too, though. And pick its limes. I was serious when I said I was determined not to let them rot on the branch, but equally serious about having no idea when to pick them. They’re golf balls now. I guess that’s almost ripe? How am I supposed to know when they’re ripe when the final fruit is also supposed to be green? It’s like a caterpillar going into a cocoon and coming out another caterpillar.

I bought three new rescue plants: two decorative peppers and a pot of tiny roses, all of which I immediately repotted and fed and watered and sang to and knitted tiny sweaters for. I’m hoping they do all right despite the fact that it’s already pretty much winter. I’ve got them far, far away from the aphids.

My story went up at Redstone, along with one by David Tallerman, hooray, and I made a major sale that I’m holding close to the chest until the contract comes through, which is being held off until the line edits are done, so in the meantime I am quietly Snoopy dancing over here and cannot tell anyone why. I will report with more details when I am able. Honestly, I may never stop with the details, once they get started.

I continue to move toward my goal of watching every horror movie on Earth; recent acquisitions include Village of the Damned (1995), The Shrine, Insidious, Scary Movie, Ghost Story, The Thing, Paranormal Activity, Cronos, Trollhunter, Gothika, and Lake Mungo. Also another six or so forgettable slashers not worth mentioning. If you have any opinions on any of those you’re achin’ to get out, just let me know. I have things to say about all of them, but don’t want to bore anyone with a long checklist-litany. That’s what I have plants for.

It’s getting wintery, so that means it’s plant migration time. I brought the eggplant, herbs, and both jalapeno pots inside, but left outside the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberry, and tiny nubs of benighted kale (which grew back, then got eaten down by caterpillars AGAIN, and are once more growing back). My living rooms is currently a jungle. I see nothing wrong with this.

The limes aren’t ripe yet. (Probably?) Ancient begonia clings to life. Last year’s Christmas tree is alive enough to be this year’s Christmas tree. Cool! I found aphids on the jalapeno plants. UNCOOL.

Since my last blog post, I’ve sold stories to two anthologies and Redstone Science Fiction, and had poems go up in Enchanted Conversation and Candle in the Attic Window. My flash piece In Memoriam also went up on Daily Science Fiction. (Links an’ at on my bibliography.) I like this autumn. It’s exciting.

I will be participating in NaNoWriMo 2011, in my own cheaty way, because I’m addicted to the forums and always meet fantastic people during the November sprint. I’ll also be tweeting heavily–not word counts and encouragement, because the whole world already has that covered, but USEFUL stuff, like “Never have your character rescued by an outside force when you could have them escape on a dinosaur” and “If you must include exposition, always try to have it delivered by a talking skeleton.” I’m helpful like that.

Anyone else doing NaNo, fielding good publishing news, or going through the agony of the harvest?

This post WAS going to be an end-of-summer gardening report, possibly a lament about how many tomatoes I’m getting compared to how many I can use, but instead I’m going to throw down my new favorite garden-fresh pizza margherita recipe. The amounts are approximate–I know a lot of people would want more cheese–but the basil, I’m serious, it should be like a whole salad on there. It turns out that the dough keeps well for a week or better in a plastic bag, so I make this a quarter of a pizza at a time. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’m sure if I ever start making this with a scratch crust I’ll ascend directly to heaven, but, well, I’ve got video games to play. Pillsbury it is.

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 Pillsbury refrigerated pizza crust (classic)
– 12-20 small-to-medium tomatoes or 20-24 cherry tomatoes

– 2 T olive oil
– 2 T apple cider vinegar

– 2 T sugar
– 1 T coarse-ground salt
– 1 t black pepper
– 2 t garlic powder

– 1/3 t olive oil
– 1 c fresh chopped basil
– 1 c fresh mozzarella cheese

Cut the tomatoes in half and lay them cut-side up on a baking sheet. If using small-to-medium size, scoop out most of the pulp; if using cherry tomatoes, leave it there. Mix the olive oil and vinegar and drizzle over the tomatoes. Combine the dry ingredients and sprinkle it over the tomatoes, reserving about 1 t. Roast the tomatoes in a 450 F oven for 15-20 minutes or until just before the skins begin to blacken. Remove from oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 425. Spray a baking sheet with oil and sprinkle corn meal; then unroll the pizza dough. Roll up the sides slightly to form a crust. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle the rest of the spice mixture on the edges of the crust. Using a fork, slide the tomatoes off their baking sheet and arrange on the dough. Cover evenly with basil and top with cheese. Bake for about 10 minutes or until crust is crispy and cheese begins to brown. Eat, and eat, and eat.

I’ve been away for a week, so the state of my garden yesterday was a much-anticipated surprise.

First, the positive news: eggplant looks good. Cucumbers look good. My jalapeno peppers have started getting fruit. The carrots are tall. The herbs are thriving. Zombie Strawberry lives on. The sweet potato vines have GONE INSANE. The limes are marble-sized and looking fine.

Then…there’s the rest.

Actually, the tomatoes aren’t bad; one fell over and they’re all bowed under their fruit, and the leaves look horrible, but the tomatoes are big and green and they’re in fine shape. My dead cucumber died all the way, finally; so did one of my sweet peas. It’s finally clear that the sweet peppers are just not going to grow under any circumstances. And the kale got green worms. KALE. You are the death of me. (And I, apparently, am the death of you.)

So I’m not doing so well on the “gatherer” bit, but this week I scored high on “hunter”. We go to the same beach every year, where we fish and net crabs and dig for shellfish and generally live on the bounty of the sea and canned pasta. I chalked up some kingfish, some blue crab, and some quahog. I do not think it all would have paid for the tackle I sent flying into the ocean, the squid-bait, and the gallons of bug spray it took to get out to the clam beds, but who’s counting? It’s vacation.

Oh! And I got two new hermit crabs! Big Unnamed died a while ago, so I picked up two to replace him: a largish one called Bruce II, who funnily enough moved into Bruce I’s original Batman shell, and a small one called Jennifer. Lest you wonder if I’m losing my geek cred, they’re named for the Hulk and She-Hulk. Of course. Jennifer seems sickly, and is missing a leg, but I’m hopeful.

Also: Aphids. Sky=blue, Pope=Catholic, bears=unconcerned with toilet facilities.

Triangulation: Last Contact is now available at B&N and Amazon in print, with e-versions coming soon. If you liked the previews, pick up a copy and be awesome.

I’m beginning to wonder if my war against aphids isn’t analogous to the war on drugs, or terror: not a known, finite enemy, but a concept, which casts a wide net with sticky edges. I’ve coated the lime tree in soapy water, scraped larvae from pepper leaves with my bare fingers, and nearly murdered my kale with a sulfuric spray from an organic gardening supplier that, in retrospect, was almost certainly a front for a head shop. I’ve enlisted nature’s mercenaries: black ants helped out in the tomato patch and once on the lime tree, and I’m convinced my eggplant only survived because of the single golden ladybug that spent a month living on its leaves. Yet the aphids keep coming. Do my attacks incite them? Do they lay eggs murmuring to their children of revenge? Can I get my money back from that stoner who sold me the spray that scarred every single one of my sweet peppers? Alas, this is war, and some questions are doomed to remain unanswered.

I’m still getting a crop, though. The first eggplant is ready to harvest, and at least two are on the way. I had sweet peas already; the carrots are looking good and the cucumbers, bless them, are trying hard. I’ve got basil, oregano, and rosemary. The tomatoes have gone nuts: I’ll have two dozen cherry tomatoes at least, and there are three big green heirloom beefsteak tomatoes filling out by the day. My new sweet potatoes vines could guard Sleeping Beauty’s tower. The jalapeno hasn’t put out flowers quite yet, but I’m optimistic. After all the poor kale’s been through, if I get a single leaf I’ll be shocked.

My neighbor’s vegetation is blowing mine out of the water. I am completely put to shame.

Most thrillingly, my lime tree has remembered itself and has two tiny limes swelling into actual fruit. HECK YEAH. Last time, they got to the size of SuperBalls and I, thinking they would grow into actual limes, nearly let them die on the vine. Now, I figure they’re either Key limes or just weak from the Pennsylvania weather, so when they get to SuperBall size, I don’t care how ripe they are, I am eating those suckers. I don’t know how. I’ll deal with that when the times comes. Limes = in my mouth. Somehow.

I’ve also obtained a kumquat seedling from my father, who grew it from a kumquat he ate. NO FAMILY RESEMBLANCE AT ALL, I’M SURE. It looks healthy, but dormant. I’ve got to transplant it and give it a big ol’ dose of TLC. And by TLC, I mean Miracle Gro.

It’s almost August (eep!) so the harvest, friends and neighbors, is upon us. Anyone else get anything out of their gardens? Or are you (like me) unleashing arsenals both holy and unholy just trying to keep everything alive?

Thanks to the ninety-degree weekend, my broccoli has “bolted”–not in the Night-of-the-Triffids wild-escape sense, sadly, but in the sense that all its florets are turning into actual flowers. In short: the time to eat is NOW. I’ll cut the center heads tonight (and roast them, according to the ways of the Internet), and hope some of the side shoots last a little longer.

Other garden status: Big Tomato is big, sickly basil is sickly, the kale, pepper, and (I think?) cherry tomato seedlings have been transplanted, the rosemary and oregano are thriving, the sweet peas are hanging on, the cucumber and eggplant are too new to tell, and THE APHIDS ARE BACK ON MY LIME TREE, GAH. Why you gotta be that way, aphids? I LOVE that lime tree.

I’m actually really proud of how much produce I’ve packed onto my balcony. I hope I get to eat some of it.

Last night I met my mother for dinner, which was as pleasant as it is rare. We had about two hours together in a restaurant in a town neither of us live in before we both headed back home. My parents retired this week and instantly reverted to teenagers: sleeping in, going places, taking their sweet time. It’s not what I’m used to. It’s pretty adorable.

Weekend plans: Yard sales, movies, more fussing with the seedlings. You know, high adventure.

I spent Easter weekend visiting my old stomping ground in Pittsburgh; we ate sandwiches and did lawn work and went to Ikea, and oh I do miss living in an area with a ready supply of my particular type of yuppie. Also one of them is eight months pregnant. Endlessly entertaining! I haven’t been back since the move. I went in feeling as if I’d been dumped by the entire city, hoping I wouldn’t spend the whole weekend crying; I left reminded to live wherever I’m living, as grateful for the people I know here as the ones I knew there. I’m glad I went.

Also, got lost in downtown Pittsburgh. Really missed that.

I’ve been really lucky with fiction and poetry sales lately, and unless you follow my Twitter feed or obsessively check my website for some reason, you probably haven’t heard about them, so here’s a quick rundown:

– The Peril of Stories won publication in Enchanted Conversation
– Jelly Rules the Roost was accepted at FaePublishing
– A Fixer-Upper (poem) sold to the Candle in the Attic Window anthology
– Crown of Bells (poem) was accepted at Bull Spec, which just got voted onto the SFWA approved markets list, so go them!

Arcane #1 was released, with my story Courting the Queen of Sheba, with a scarypants cover and great content. Flashlight Memories came out, with my poem Lies. My sister [info]megengelhardt has a poem in a book by the same publisher, and it’s been very popular with our grandmother and her friends. In case that’s your speed.

In dispatches from the Aphid Wars: I’ve severely decreased the population, and am only occasionally finding pockets of resistance, which I snip off and then crush (sometimes while screaming “DIE DIE”, sometimes with a quiet, contemplative intensity). It’s possible the threat may never be eliminated, but perhaps, with ammunition and iron will, it can be contained.

OH YES. I also spent a few days in Chicago, to watch a taping of A SHOW which I actually had to sign an agreement not to blog about (!) but if you want the not-too-hard-to-decipher deets, my sister has the story.

Next Page »