• The Slimy Way My Garden Grows

    Hoards of readers have written to ask about the finer points of vermicomposting, whether I was joking when I said I was keeping the worm bin inside, and how the red wigglers are faring.

    Those of you who didn’t know we have a full-blown worm farm in the house can click here for the story of the genesis of this operation.

    It’s no joke– Squirmy and his friends reside in the area once known as “the living room” but now known as “the ping-pong/laundry-folding/worm room.” The space we used the least has now become a hub of activity, now that we stored the fancy rug and candlesticks and have games to play, work to do, and worms to care for.

    The weather has been a bit nicer lately, so I’ve taken the bin outside so the worms can get some fresh air, and that’s where I took these photos to demonstrate the latest in composting with worms. Squirmy and his friends eat, poop and reproduce at an astounding rate.

    As you’ll recall, they live in a set of stacked bins, and when they’ve munched everything in the bottom bin, you add one to the top and start adding food scraps to it and the worms climb up to the food and work on that tray.

    Looking at a working tray is not going to take your breath away.  Once you lift the lid and pull aside the newspaper, what you see is a conglomeration of food, shredded paper, dryer lint, coffee grounds, dry leaves, and anything else you’ve stuffed in the bin.

    working tray And if you dig into the mass a bit, you’ll find worms.  Thousands of worms.  You have to take their picture quickly or they’ll burrow back down to finish their eating or pooping or lovemaking.  Single-minded, these worms. workingworms

    The tray below is much more satisfying to look at.  The worms are about finished with it, so it’s mainly full of compost.  Actually, it was totally compost, but I had so many worms crowding the upper tray that I stuck a little food from the top tray that was almost completely digested, and added several hundred worms to see of they’d get fatter when they have more room.  No one has suggested this is a good or bad idea; it’s just a wormy experiment I’m conducting.  It’s better than trying to magnetize them with batteries, for God’s sake. IMG_7419

    Here’s a closeup of the compost.  Look at that rich soil!

    vermicompost

    The fact that it’s really worm poop grosses out my boys.   Yes, the boys who announce, “Don’t leave yet– I gotta take a big dump” when we’re already late for drums.  The boys who brag about burping and farting simultaneously.  The boys who love to yell “frank ‘n’ beans” just before disrobing.

    Of course, in every crowd you have some hedonistic ones and the worms are no exception.  They lurk in the tray at the bottom, which is intended only to catch stray compost and worm drippings. bin1

    Dude, you pour the liquid from that tray onto your garden and you will see some pansies that look like they’ve been hanging out with Jose Canseco.

    Anyway, the horny worms that just want to make love and don’t want to do their fair share of eating and pooping hang out here. They hide on the sides of the tray. Every once in a while I have to gather them up and dump them back in the working tray. wormsfromtray

    “The orgy is over– back to work.”

    So far I’ve mixed the compost with water and watered my winter plants, which have all perked up like the steroidal pansies. When it’s time to change to warm weather plants, I’ll incorporate the actual compost into the soil. I’m giving vermicomposting two thumbs up here. It’s easy and entertaining, depending on how exciting the rest of your life is.

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    Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Blast From The Past: Potty-Training Nomad Style (contains rear nudity)

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    Don’t forget- this week’s Flashback Friday theme is “There Once Was…”

  • Flashback Friday: OOPS!

    Well, I certainly had my share of pictures to choose from in addressing this week’s theme.  In the end, I looked back at the year 1999 when it seemed like the boys were everywhere they weren’t supposed to be,
    twinpottyoops

    like playing in the potty. One minute Drew and Porter were fine, sitting on the floor eating dog food, and the next moment I heard a lot of flushing from the kitchen bathroom. Drew discovered the toilet first, then summoned Porter, who was reluctant to leave his snack. Once he and Blue Bunny ambled over, they agreed that the combination of swirly water and my hysterics were fine entertainment.

    A couple of years later when we had our septic tank pumped, the Pickles (they have a monopoly on all the septic tank work around here) were amused to find not only the usual sludge, but also an assortment of Legos, dominoes and marbles in the tank.  They also removed several pieces of heavy paper.  I bet that if that hot Danny Messer from CSY:NY had been here to analyze those shards under the mass spec,  he would have identified them as Finn’s missing baseball cards.

    I like to take pictures that will remind me when I’m a grandmother (assuming the sex talk has been successful) that raising children was hard and messy. Here’s one of Porter.

    porteroops

    I told Porter not to run down the driveway but toddlers ignore you– it’s to prepare you for when they are teenagers. His nose took ages to heal, but Blue Bunny was with him every moment.

    I wasn’t as talented at taking OOPS pictures when Finn was small.  However, he did show a great affinity for cross-dressing which caused my father-in-law no end of distress.
    finnoops

    I thought the bracelets added an especially stylish touch.

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    Thanks to all of you for your kind wishes about my back.  As I told Finn earlier, I really shouldn’t complain.  Anyone with this amount of hardware in her body ought to be hurting a lot more than I do, and I have far more good days than bad.

    The MRI didn’t give us a clear diagnosis but I’ve been to physical therapy where Jon, who saw me through rehab after my 2004 surgery, attacked my problem with enthusiasm.  He began by shoving his hand under my scapula and forcing me to turn my neck 270 degrees to the right,and followed that move with other contortions.

    The session was quite successful in that it was so painful that I left feeling like maybe I didn’t hurt so bad after all, because Jon certainly proved that I could hurt much worse.

    Additionally, it’s a sunny afternoon, we have about 24 hours before tornadoes come through, and I have a decent stock of Tanqueray, tonic and limes.   I believe I’ll pull out an unbroken wedding glass and toast the rest of my body for hanging in there.

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    Join in with your Flashback Friday OOPS picture(s)! Instructions are here!

  • Problems With Pain

    Today I wanted to write about our recent adventures in Costa Rica or post pictures of the anatomically correct chalk drawings Drew and Porter decorated our driveway with recently.

    Instead I’m writing about pain– physical pain– as it’s had me in its jaws for the better part of three weeks.

    Longtime readers know that I’ve had two spine surgeries, one for scoliosis and a second to address complications caused by the first.  My spine is fused with a combination of rods, hooks and screws.  Here’s a diagram of a spine.
    vertebrae

    The spine is divided into the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions, and each vertebra within a region is given a number.  The green line shows where I am fused, from the fourth thoracic to the fourth lumbar vertebra.  Those of us in the know call this T4 to L4.  The red area shows the vertebrae and discs that are not fused: L4-5 and L5-S1.  Because these two discs handle all the  movement of my upper torso, while the spine is designed to spread all the pressure evenly across the back, my bottom two vertebrae are in bad shape and are the source of most of my back pain.

    Here’s an xray, not mine, that gives you an idea of the hardware inside my body.   I have a few more hooks at the top of my fusion and some big screws at the bottom as a result of the 2004 surgery.
    xray of hook

    During the last thirty years, back pain has been a fact of life for me. It’s been worse at times and better at times, but it always lurks nearby.  I’ve used back braces, pain patches, physical therapists, chiropractors, medications, a muscle stimulator and gin and tonics in my fight against pain. I visited my trusty brace man to fashion a brace to support my belly during my pregnancies and relieve the pressure on my spine, but I still had to take painkillers during pregnancy to make it through some days.

    Generally I’m a rockstar at handling lower back pain.  If your lower back felt the way mine feels on a normal day, you’d be shooting tequila and hollering for your mama.

    Sometimes, however,  there’s pain that no medicine can touch, and that’s what I’ve been fighting most recently.

    It originated near the blue dot on the top diagram, which, coincidentally, is right by the top hook under my right shoulder.

    This upper back pain is a new kind of pain for me, and I haven’t been managing it well.  It radiates up into my neck, down my shoulder, and makes my arm and fingers numb.  The muscles on the left side of my lower back are burning, perhaps because they are compensating for the fact that I’m trying to move my right side as little as possible.

    I hurt when I stand and when I sit, but I hurt the most lying down.  I’m beginning to dread night time.

    Pain affects me physically, but it also gets inside my head.  I’ve been yelling at the boys.  Around 5:30, when it’s really throbbing, I feel like I’m seeing my family through a haze, and I fear that I’m losing my grasp on reality.  I tell Porter to sweep up his cookie crumbs, but impatiently, because I think I’ve already told him once.

    “Yes, ma’am,” Porter says, and he sweeps and then goes outside to write “Porter is cool” in Morse code on the driveway.

    I ask Drew if he’s finished his homework.

    “You already asked me that,” he says.  I don’t remember.

    Dinner is agonizingly slow, but no one else seems to notice.

    “Finn, eat or don’t eat, but let’s get this over with,” I hiss.

    “Honey, I’ll deal with the kitchen.  You go lie down,” Bill says.

    It’s a kind offer, and he means well, but it doesn’t help.  Alone in our room, I cry.  I’m frustrated.  I’ve had a shot in my back and I’m scheduled for an MRI.  My doctor has prescribed a different type of pain pill, but I still can’t sleep.  I wonder if my boys will remember me as a bedridden mom, alternately weeping and shouting orders.

    As the hours stretch on and everyone sleeps but me, my pity party is in full swing.  I cry over the years I’ve spent recuperating from surgeries and liver disease.  I sob about the things I can’t do, like turning cartwheels and somersaults.  When I get good and worked up, I weep about my big feet, my small breasts and the paint peeling in the bathroom.

    I know this season will pass.  Tonight I’ll try not to scream and be impatient with the boys; to keep my hurt hidden until they’re tucked in.

    I’ll try to remember what my mom told me: “My feet might be big, but they sure do hold me up.”

    To be honest, I never was that good at cartwheels, either.

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    Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Get Me Out Of Here!

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    The theme for this week’s Flashback Friday is OOPS!  Feel free to join in– we’re having a marvelous time digging through old photos and blogging about the past.  Instructions are here.

  • Miracles Do Happen

    Every spring my thoughts turn to gin and tonic. The drinks are even lovelier served in these glasses, which Aunt Lulu gave me for a wedding present over fifteen years ago. She bought them at a store in Nashville and I have looked everywhere for others to add to the collection.

    glass2

    They make the gin smoother, the ice colder, the tonic fizzier, and the lime looks gorgeous against the colors of the glasses. The indentations make them easy to carry around.

    Miraculously, although the boys have been unloading the dishes from the dishwasher for years now, and I have only one everyday dinner plate left from those wedding days, all four of these have managed to survive unmolested.

    Do you have a favorite wedding survival story?

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    One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Bavarian Apple Torte With Prejudicial Ingredient