Cabinet Decluttering

One of the difficulties in decluttering is the question of where to start. A good example is my garage. I have an idea of what I’d like the end to look like. But it involves moving a bunch of items from shelves I want for my food storage, to shelves for personal items, which currently also have some food storage articles. The difficulty in trying to declutter, and organize while shifting around items can make getting started difficult, and keeping momentum even worse. Most of us are all too familiar with the sensation that clean up involves making an even bigger mess at the start. And once you’re in that mess, any motivation you had to keep going can be even more difficult than getting started was in the first place. The garage is a particularly difficult area because it is a place where my projects are worked on. But the garage is only a part of the decluttering story I’m about to tell you.

For a while now I’ve had the sensation that something wasn’t quite right with my cabinet under the kitchen sink. That are has been full, but well organized for a while now. My worry was with the drain itself. I’d been hearing some odd noise when the water ran, but when I glanced underneath, I didn’t see any specific issues. I suspected it might be time to take apart the P-trap for a thorough cleaning. But a few days ago, as I’d finished the dishes, I went to pull out the dish soap for a refill and was hit with a blast of steam from under the sink. Again a quick look didn’t reveal anything, but your cabinets are not supposed to steam, so I started shifting some items. One of the first was a bulk box of trash bags, still unopened…or at least, it had been. When I went to move it the bottom collapsed out. And that was just the beginning. Directly behind that I kept the SOS pads, which were now a puddle of rust and suds. The box of trashbags was like a dam holding back the rush of water, which started to flow out onto my little rug. Frankly, that distressed me much less than the realization that even more had probably run to the back and under the cupboard to the floor underneath. The tile can handle a brief soaking. But the subfloor cannot. The piping to the garbage disposal above the P-trap had come loose, and judging by the rust mess, had done so at least a few weeks earlier. The plastic bottles were find, but there were more than a few cardboard boxes than had not fared as well. And that doesn’t even count the subfloor.

Damage aside, this left me realizing that in the future I don’t want anything obstructing a proper view of my plumbing, no matter how organized the spaces may be. But this left a question of what to do to reduce the items under the sink. In taking everything out I started by separating out items specific to the kitchen from those that I generally use for cleaning. I spoke to my roommate about access to another shelve in the linen closet that she has thoroughly taken over. She was not receptive, which is another issue that needs to be dealt with at some point. But more immediately I didn’t want cleaning supplies lingering on my family room floor. With lead me to another problem space. The cabinet in the laundry room. This space has vexed me since I moved in. There is clearly room for multiple shelves, but it didn’t come with any. I even bought a few, only to discover that they’re slightly too large, and the pins I bought were slightly too small. Still, it should be a small matter to buy the proper pins and trim down the shelves with my wonderful little shop in the garage. My wonderful cluttered shop that I can barely move around in.

Anyone who does even minor woodworking knows it’s important to have a clean space to work in. So here I am, bouncing from the kitchen, to the laundry room, to the garage. This is exactly the sort of thing that derails me badly. It doesn’t help that I’m already discouraged about the original mess and tired from just getting that under control. It was very tempting to do what I often do and try putting it all off until later. But again, the shelves shouldn’t be a large project. So after much pacing and delay, I did that run to the hardware store, and started creating yet another mess while pulling existing items from the laundry room cabinet, and shifting around items in the garage to make a usable space. But here are a few results.

Laundry cupboard before
Laundry cupboard after. When we moved out of the old apartment we inherited a ridiculous amount of bleach. Considering it’s uses I haven’t been able to just get rid of it, only consolidate some of the bottles. Funny enough, this lead to a discussion with my roommate about cleaning supplies she didn’t even know we had, which might convince her to free up a shelf in the linen closet. Towels on the top shelf need to be donated. I have plenty.
Down to kitchen stuff now. And if we get another leak, it will be easier to spot.

Moral of the story here is that sometimes you have to dive in. If you don’t, the mess will eventually get worse anyway. The mess from decluttering and organizing is discouraging, but man that after picture of the laundry cupboard is a relief. There’s still too much stuff floating around, but at least now it’s more manageable. Baby steps around this place.

Maintenance Declutter

So my last post was on decluttering my bathroom area. Today I really want to be able to get my little car into the garage. But it’s currently 19 degrees out and the sun isn’t up yet. It’s supposed to get into the high 40s toady. Add a little sunshine and it shouldn’t be too bad working in my north-facing garage…eventually.

One of the struggles of decluttering is maintaining a space. So while I wait for the temperatures to climb, we’ll be doing a round of maintenance decluttering. But I’m writing this post because I think people might be amused by what that looks like. I think we all have times where we’re kicking ourselves for being worse than other people. So I’m hoping a little post about what has managed to accumulate in my formerly clean spaces might be a bit of a boost. The following is a list of spaces that I’ve done declutering work in, and what has managed to creep in:

Living room:

  • Two cups
  • A bowl
  • Salt
  • Packets of garlic that need to be planted
  • Seed packets
  • A coat
  • Two bottles of sun screen
  • A tent (rolled up)
  • A folder with paper
  • Paper for my car registration
  • Hand towels and wash clothes
  • Socks
  • Rubber cement
  • A couple books
  • Shoes
  • Receipts
  • A PVC coupler
  • A scoop for the rabbit food
  • A piece of rope
  • A fan
  • The vacuum cleaner
  • A bottle of shampoo

Additionally I moved a few plants indoors. They’re not going to count since they’re staying until spring. It actually doesn’t look that bad, as you can see below. But I’m somewhat amused with myself due to how easy it is to just put some of this stuff away. Also, the tent…

Dinning room – So this area isn’t too bad. It needs a few more things decluttered in general (things that need to eventually go to a space that is not yet decluttered), but maintenance on this space is minimal.

  • Tulip bulbs
  • Led light bulbs
  • Canning jars
  • Dust pan
  • Dead and dried out plant matter that needs to be composted

Entry Way

  • Halloween Candy
  • Measuring tape
  • Telescope lens
  • Batteries
  • Mail
  • Backpacks and climbing gear
  • Iris bulbs
  • A Stick
  • An Ibuprofen packet

Family room is in much the same state as it has been for a while. There’s an extra book out, and I moved a bunch of tomatoes indoors, but this pace is pretty good since I don’t even really do much in it.

Bathroom – a few things have made it back onto the counter, like bandaid boxes and my hair brush. The funny one in the space is the water filter that parked there.

Bedside table

  • Eight PVC caps
  • A headlamp
  • A SCUBA flashlight
  • A music program
  • Too many books
  • A USB converter
  • A screw

All in all, it’s not going to be hard to do the maintenance declutter. I’ve probably spent more time on this post than I will on going through the stuff. I wrote it because one aspect of clutter is items ending up in places they completely do not belong in. When embarking on a decluttering journey, this can really stall us. It’s hard to put the tent and PVC items back in the garage because the garage is not yet decluttered. When you’re just getting started, this can be extra difficult because there’s a decent chance no part of your house is decluttered. We get frustrated just shifting stuff from one room to another.

I’ve been approaching my decluttering in a similar manner to addressing debt with the snowball method. With the snowball debt method, you make minimum payments on everything but your smallest debt. That’s the one you throw all your effort in to get out of the way. Then you tackle the next one, hopefully with a bit of extra now that you are not paying interest on the first. One of the problems people have with snowball is they often want to tackle the debt with the highest interest rate, since that is the one costing you the most. But snowball is based on the philosophy that you want to start eliminating debt, and it’s best to start small and work your way up with focus.

With decluttering, I’ve bee tackling the smaller or easier spaces first. It’s often frustrating since a large space, like the overflowing garage, is a space that is resulting in clutter spread out. Or put differently, since stuff from my garage ends up all over the house, some part of me wants to do the garage first, so that I can then go gather up garage stuff everywhere else and put it away properly. When I start with other spaces, like the bedside table my decluttering means taking those PVC caps to the garage and just putting them someplace, since there is no designated space yet. This frustrates me and makes me dread the garage declutter even more in the future. Worse, I know the garage is not the final resting place for those PVC caps. They’re supposed to be used to cap of parts of my sprinkler system that I’m not using (switching to drop irrigation).

But I’ve come to realize that it’s still a good method for me. By focusing on a small space like the table, and just putting those caps in the garage (preferably at least close to like objects), I’m not falling into the old farmer trap. The farmer needs to plant his field, so he goes to get his tractor, which needs an oil change, and on the way to the shed he sees the chickens need to be fed, etc. If I try to deal with the PVC right now, I need to go dig up large chunks of the yard, which means I need to get some tools from the garage, and once I’m out there I’ll realize the ground is frozen, etc. There might be an argument for not buying the PVC until I’m ready to use it (I have already capped of two heads), but the fact is, it is here, and it’s part of an active project (I hope, didn’t expect it to get this cold this fast). So it needs to be dealt with. It’s frustrating seeing clutter just move from one space to another, but we need the focus. Tackling these small projects first helps keep that focus. And these spaces are often easier to maintain as you work on larger projects, which helps to build that momentum, like the snowball debt method.

So off to work on the maintenance declutter, before I tackle a larger project, like getting the car in the garage.

Where to start

I’ve been on a decluttering journey around my home. Recent successes include my family room, the living room, the dining area, and the front entry. These areas are still not perfect, but I’m enjoying these spaces a great deal more. But all things considered, these were small areas, at least in terms of how bad the clutter was. Areas like the kitchen, pantry, garage, laundry room, bedroom, and my bathroom are all areas that were going to take more effort.

The first weekend of October is when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds its Semi-Annual General Conference. That’s 4-5 two hour sessions listening to speakers give spiritual messages to members of the church. In the past members would pack into their meeting houses to watch and listen to these sessions. But many years back, The Church increasingly took advantage of new technology, initally allowing members to hear the messages from their homes over television and radio. More recently you can watch it live from The Church website, or watch and listen to it via affiliates, like KSL and BYU radio and TV, or even watch it stream on Youtube. This year, I employed a new method to listen live. I enabled an option on Alexa that allows me to listen to BYU Radio, which broadcasts the session, and synced up my different devices, which allows me to move through almost the entire house and still listen in. Having set this up, I resolved to do a round of decluttering on my master bathroom. Here’s what I was up against:

It’s a space that’s hard to tackle. Anyone who has ever taken on a project like this knows that it’s hard to figure out where to start. I started at a fairly typical point: avoidance.

Having committed to decluttering this space I started a load of laundry, washed the dishes, fed all the animals, did a few things on Facebook. The usual. But with conference starting and my commitment in mind, I finally stood in front of the mess, and wondered where to start.

Showing a picture like this is very embarrassing, another feeling anyone will feel who has a space like this. As you can probably guess, there is more than just bathroom stuff piled in this space. That’s pretty typical for a space that has accumulated items. Once it starts, it gets to easy to just toss an item on the pile that you don’t want to deal with. It’s usually shrouded in good intentions. You don’t intend the item to stay there, but it often does. And this was a start for me in terms of tacking this. I started by looking for things that just didn’t belong here. I quickly developed a side pile that needed to go to the garage. When decluttering, it’s best to not let yourself get side tracked. So instead of taking the items out to the garage one by one, I put them into a pile that needed to go to the garage. The downside of this method, is that at the end of the session, those items will probably go to the garage in bulk, instead of being taken out to the garage an put in a proper place. For now, that’s a sacrifice that might keep this project on track. Though I can’t help but kick myself a bit. Why the devil did I have a can of wood stove spray finish and tree root booster here?!

Another pile is the medical/first aid pile. This gets out of hand at my home. I have two drawers already devoted to those sorts of items. It’s a decluttering task on it’s own. But for now, I just put in in a pile. A future project will be to at least go through and organize that stuff, if not throw out or donate quite a bit.

As with many cluttered spaces, there was also an abundance of items that…I just don’t know what to do with yet. Honestly, most of it is also trash, but trash I’m not ready to let go of yet. In this space that includes a fair number of batteries of questionable charge, half empty hotel toiletries that I want to use completely before cleaning and recycling the containers, ribbons, gadgets that I want to work (but that don’t seem to work well), etc. I put that into a pile, and if there were similar items, I tried at least grouping them together, like the batteries. The interesting thing about this pile is that, despite the fact that it’s stuff that I should throw away, that I’m refusing to throw away, I feel like this pile is the most helpful in getting me to throw away other items. I had a bunch of old, smooshed but still sealed food items in the clutter. I can’t explain this rationally. But it was easier for me to throw those things away than add them to the “I don’t know what to do with you right now” pile. I think if I’d tackled the area one item at a time, those food items would not have ended up in the garbage. And while I think most of that was still sealed, it’s been crushed and sitting in a pile of rubbish. Having confronted that, I realized it was probably safer to throw it away, in case there was a small break in the packaging.

The nice thing about decluttering this space is that I keep a garbage and recycling bin right there, so rubbish is easily thrown out. I think that when I tackle future spaces I’ll move those bins to the area for ease of access. Allowing a trash pile to accumulate and clean at the end is not ideal.

Additionally there were items that I do tend to use everyday. Makeup, jewelry, lotions, contact solution, hair brushes, etc. So I created a makeup pile, a jewelry pile, and started a pile of things that I do think I want to keep out for easy access, like the lotion and contact solution. Stuff that I use regularly, but didn’t want to keep out started to go in the drawer that is most accessible.

A few years ago I found a wooden box in a cave as part of a promotional geocache. I rather like the box. For now that’s a space where I’ll keep makeup and jewelry, and it also gets to stay out.

One thing that’s hard to discuss is the general mess that this caused. The dust bunnies on the left side of the vanity were horrific. A side effect of a space like this is it doesn’t get the regular hygienic maintenance that a clear space will get. The right side was also cluttered, but that’s the space I actively use, and it does get a few items shifted around for a regular wipe-down. But considering some of my hoarding habits (the food items, and collecting seeds), the left side could have been much worse. It was mostly dust bunnies, some hair, and a hint of mold around some pumpkin seeds. I wasn’t happy with confronting that aspect of the mess, but at least I got through it, and it wasn’t bad enough to cause any damage to the area.

So here’s an updated look with some of the piles:

Top of picture: rubbish bins, garage pile, box (eventually used to store makeup and jewelry), I-don’t-know pile. Bottom of picture: medical, extra contact solution, seeds (there are seed packets all over this house).
More smaller piles, counter tops are clearing.

I think the surprising thing about this space is how quickly it came together. Now mind you, there is still work to be done in terms of organizing the drawers, under cabinets, and organizing a lot of the rubbish that was moved other parts of the house. I think overall I spent about 2 hours on it, which in many ways makes it less of a project, than the family room, which I spent quite a bit of time on, but for some reason considered a smaller project. I think a major part of this is that the bathroom space was such a pile of rubbish that I struggled to even wrap my head around the problem. And there is a lot to yet be done in this space. But presentation wise, well, see for yourself:

I want to again re-iterate the approach. Putting like items together, putting items that belong in another space together, accepting that there are some things that I don’t know how to deal with yet, and putting them together, and whittling away at the space. I hope that helps someone else in the future.

Small Successes

I have a lot of trouble writing about my garden. I have a vision about what it will look like someday, and at year seven in this house, it feels like I’ve made little progress. There are a lot of complaints about social media showing a gilded picture of our lives. But maybe we need that on occasion to remind ourselves that we have made progress. When I’m mountaineering it tends to feel like I’m getting no where, until I turn around and look back. This is a gilded post inspired by a request to post a picture of the things that are blooming in our yards. Each picture is carefully angled to try and avoid showing off too much of what I don’t want people to see.

This space is probably less than 3 square feet. Thanks to some weeding this spring, it’s actually doing pretty well. What you might not notice is the bit of dead grass in the top right corner. Right next to this space is a large bin overflowing with things that weren’t growing where I wanted them to grow.

Another careful angle of the same space. And by careful angle, I don’t mean in the good photography sense. Kinda wish I’d put the de-icer away before taking the photo.

Chives in front of horse radish. It was probably a mistake planting the horse radish directly in a bed. I should try to pull it out and put it in a large container. But the chives are never a mistake. These came with the house. I found them growing wild in the front lawn and transplanted them to this bed for now. This is the story of my life with the front yard. I have a ton of grass in the garden beds, and a ton of everything but grass in the lawn. In fact, this careful angle doesn’t show that this garden bed only has about 4 feet of area cleared before you get right back into dense grass. It took a few hours to clear that 4 feet. Seriously, what does it take to get that grass into my lawn?!

And finally, a few tulips in the kidney-bean island in the lawn. These came from the Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival a few years ago. Around memorial day they sell a ton of tulips for pretty cheap. But it’s a grab bag. No way to know what you’re getting. Even so, I’ve gotten a pretty little mix of color starting to come in. In the background is comfrey, yarrow, and my almond tree. And more grass. But not grass in the lawn area.

I’m hoping to get far enough this year to be able to rip out the island early next year. That will mean pulling a lot of stuff out of this space that I want to save as the season progresses. There’s a lot of work to be done around here. But the Facebook challenge reminded me that there has been progress. It doesn’t feel very proportional to the work I’ve put in, but the truth is, I love this crazy yard and it’s potential.

The Front Yard Catch-22

Last year I came across the Utah Localscapes initiative. It summed up almost everything I’ve been wanting to do with my yard and garden: Limited lawns, low maintenance, fewer weeds, less watering, and an attractive look. Utah is a desert. We need to conserve water. But while most aspects of Localscapes seem simple in the videos and descriptions, I’m running into a major catch-22 in implementing it in my own yard.

Both the Localscapes and the Utah Water Conservation Facbook pages have been admonishing Utahns to not water yet. We’ve had a generous spring when it comes to water, and lawns really don’t need watering at this stage. That is, healthy lawns don’t need water, as my backyard will attest. But my front yard is a haven for water-wise perennials like dandelion, bindweed, and black medic. I actually don’t mind the black medic that much, I even threw down clover to mix in with the grass. The real problem is those dandelions and the bindweed.

The clover and black medic don’t bother me too much, but those dandelions and the bindweed that’s starting to come in…

The lawn area of my back yard doesn’t have dandelion or bindweed. It used to have both. And just the other side of the fence separating the lawn and garden there is an abundance of both and other water-wise perennial weeds. As far as I can tell there are two reasons that the back lawn is largely weed free: grass density and chickens. The chickens love dandelions, especially the puff balls. And that matters. By eating the puff balls they prevent the spread of seeds. I’ve never seen them eat bindweed (no surprise considering how high it is in oxalic acid). So I can only assume that I don’t have bindweed because the grass is crowding it out. In years past I’ve had a few other weeds, mostly mallow and dock. But after I pulled them, they didn’t really come back. There is still a small patch of dock trying to work it’s way in, but it’s so small you can’t even see it’s there unless you know where to look.

It’s not perfect, patchy in a few places, but every year it gets stronger and healthier. You can also see hints of the garden space I’d rather be working on today. And a temporary tarp shelter made by my scouts.

So in regards to the front yard, far as I know at this point, I have the following options:
– Put chickens and rabbits in the front yard
– Overseed
– Pull by hand
– Herbicide

So let’s break down those options.

Chickens and rabbits: Yeah…probably not. Funny thing is, once I have my planned localscaped yard in, this does seem viable to me. But it will involve that central open shape lawn, surrounded by trees and shrubs to hide what I’m doing. And probably a portable electric fence to keep everyone contained and in line. As the yard is right now, I just don’t think it will fly with my neighbors (though they’d probably find it marginally entertaining watching me try and chase the animals all over and keep them contained).

Overseed: I actually did throw down a bunch of grass seed the other day. But as far as I know, you need to water grass seed quite a bit while it’s getting established. And Localscapes and the Water Conservation district are, justifiably, asking us not to water yet. I think I might have just thrown away a bunch of perfectly good grass seed. The clover seems to establish well, but in the parts of my front yard where it’s established, it doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of crowding out the dandelion or the bindweed. If anything, it’s making it more difficult to remove the dandelion. Hard to say for sure. Also, I think I busted the sprinkler lines while popping out the dandelions. That’s going to be fun.

Pulling by hand: This is what I’ve been doing for years. I started this year’s attempt a few weeks ago. Rainy days are bad for this, you end up pulling up the whole yard. Today I pulled five overflowing buckets of dandelions and threw them to the chickens. There’s probably more than 10 buckets yet to be pulled. On top of that, I am mostly pulling the big ones. I’ve been at this method for years now and each year seems to get a bit worse. If I could take a month off with good weather and tackle this earlier in the season, it might be a more viable solution. But the real frustration of pulling 5 buckets of dandelions today, is that I’m pretty sure I was reseeding them behind me. They’re in puff-ball mode and as I pull them, I simply can’t keep up with the seeds that are falling into the ground and holes left behind. Unlike the grass seed, I don’t think they need a consistent source of water to germinate and establish. The truth is, I think that by this stage, I’m making each year worse for pulling.

Just a small amount of the dandelions I’ve thrown in for the chickens. They enjoy eating them, and they turn them into some nice compost.

Herbicide: There are multiple Utah Gardening pages. If you mention a hatred for glyphosate or 2-4D herbicides you’ll be blocked at best, and likely banned. The moderators of the group point out that there is no solid science backing up fears about these herbicides. And yet I don’t want them in my yard. 2-4D at least has been linked to cancer in dogs, and while they admit that more work needs to be done, I just don’t think I want to be spraying this stuff until Patrick Moore or a Monsanto Executive does actually drink a quart of Glyphosate. These chemicals may not be as bad as some people are saying, but I don’t think they’re as harmless as others are claiming. And I’m done giving second chances to the companies tied to Agent Orange, DDT, and PCBs. And even if these chemicals are not harmful to humans or our fur-kids, what about other critters? I’m already feeling like a jerk pulling dandelions out from under honeybees, butterflies, and ladybugs. Recent studies show that dandelions are not as good a food source for honeybees as other plants, but I don’t think the honeybees read that article because they are all over my dandelions. I tried to show it to them but they didn’t seem interested. If you attend a Localscapes class, one thing you’ll hear about is how many people went straight home and sprayed round-up on their whole yard. I just don’t want to do that. I’ve yet to find a single piece of good or bad science saying that dandelions cause cancer. My time in the sun pulling the dandelions might not be good for me, but the dandelions themselves seem a lot more harmless than the herbicides, not matter what the science says. For those of us who do not want to spray…is there any other option?

I worked my tail off today. And I’ve barely put a dent in the problem. On top of that, I’m pretty sure the dandelions are reseeding the ground behind me.

At this point I’ve spent all day pulling dandelions from my yard and I don’t feel like I’ve even made a dent in the problem. I’d rather be weeding my garden beds and planting wildflowers. I’d rather be back in the vegetable garden prepping that area for a summer harvest. I’d rather be ripping out small chunks of my yard in an effort to progress toward the Localscapes dream I have of a smaller yard to maintain in the first place. This is my Catch-22: I’m spending so much time dealing with the issues that Localscapes is supposed to hep with, that I don’t have time to build a localscape. I’m definitely not spending time enjoying the yard I dream of having, because herbicides aren’t an option to me, and neglecting the dandelions in favor of the bigger projects doesn’t seem fair to my neighbors, I’m stuck another year doing the maintenance and weeding that the Localscapes dream is supposed to be helping me escape, instead of actually creating a Localscapes yard. I’m worried that another year will go by with bare minimum results on my vegetable garden. I’m sitting in my house feeling sick from drinking massive amounts of water due to being out in the sun all day (and it’s not even the hot-dry season). For those of us who do not want to use herbicides, what are our options for our yards while we try to make this transition? So Localscapes, if you’re reading this, do you have any suggestions?

Beef Stroganoff

Courtesy of Aunt Lindsay, with garlic modification added by me.

Ingredients:
– 3 lbs boneless round steak
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp pepper
– Flour
– 1/2 lb butter
– 2 large onions, sliced
– 1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
– 2 cups water
– 1 cup red wine
– 2 cans beef consomme or 2 beef bullion cubes
– 1 1/2 cups sour cream, room temperature
– 2 cloves of garlic

Slice the steak into thin strips (1 1/2-inch long)
Salt and pepper the slices and dredge in flour
Heat part of the butter in the skillet and brown meat slowly.
Remove meat and add more butter and saute onions and garlic until clear and sort. Remove onions and garlic, add more butter and saute mushrooms until tender.

Return the meat and onions to the skillet, cover with water, wine and conssome. Cover and simmer 2-3 hours, until meat is very tender. Add water if necessary.

Just before serving add sour cream. Heat through but do not boil. Serves 8

Serve with rice or noodles.

The new Rabbitat. First steps.

I’ve been planning to put a nicer rabbit colony along the back fence for years. But I’ve been more than a little wishy-washy over the details. Last year IFA sold its customers contaminated rabbit feed and I lost 6 rabbits. Over the winter the opportunity came to pick up some replacements, which got a little out of control.

In October I picked up a pure-breed Satin buck, now named Mr. Darcy, and started putting some of the remaining ladies in with him one at a time. I thought for a while that Spring was pregnant, but no babies ever appeared. But her sister, Cocoa, had 10 babies on Dec 21st. About a week prior to that, the same woman who sold me Darcy also offered me a young Giant Chinchilla named Sweet Pea. She was too young to be put out with the others, so I kept her in the garage, and brought Cocoa in to keep her company. I don’t like rabbits being alone. Soon after that someone came through the area with a good deal on a trio of Rexes, also young, who were also put in the garage. With Cocoa and her babies, that was a lot of bunnies in the garage. I’ve been scrambling to try and put together a bigger cage to give everyone some run-around room. 

A few days ago I finally finished enough of a new cage to put the Rexes and Sweat Pea together. This is the current result. It’s nothing too impressive, but it works for now. 

A few notes, I should have added more supports to the front panel. That’s why there is a box and piece of styrofoam in the middle. It’s acting as a temp support until I cut a few more pieces. The whole structure will eventually be 6-7 feet tall and each colony setting will be twice as wide. But this works to give everyone more freedom in the mean time.

Additionally I re-arranged some current groups. The New Zealand male and female my friend from Idaho brought me hadn’t produced a litter. I’ve decided to move the male, Mairelon, in with Spring and Splash. And the female, Corri, is now in with Mr.Darcy and Bonnie. That freed up the rabbit hutch and run for Cocoa and her babies. Cocoa will be pulled out this Wednesday, which is when the babies will be 8 weeks old. Now everyone has plenty of space. There has been some chasing and stomping with the new arrangements, but things are largely peaceful. 

First Fruits

There is a single small hole in the otherwise pristine green cabbage head I hold. I remove another layer. Across from me Kristi is frustrated. She’s removed so many layers of slightly bruised or holey leaves that the head of cabbage is now easily held in the palm of her hand. The work to render it flawless has made it too small, and it is set aside in the “seconds” pile. It has failed inspection. Buckets at our sides gradually fill with slightly imperfect leaves. When full they are swiftly hauled to the compost pile, then returned to be filled again.

The woman in charge is frowning at something over my shoulder. I turn to glance at what has disturbed her, but only see a small cluster of men talking. “Inspectors,” she explains. “They’re constantly watching us. Last time they were here we got these.” And she holds out her hands, covered in blue latex gloves.

I frown as I continue to inspect cabbages for imperfections, my own gloved hands slipping a bit on the surface. “Who is protected by them? Us or the consumers? The cabbages were out sitting in the dirt in the field. We’ve been handling them constantly without changing the gloves. Just rinsing them off.”

She shrugs.

“Food handler rules I guess…” I mumble.

She smiles faintly.

The Huffington Post, among other publications, have been buzzing with the injustice of wasted food. 6 billion pounds of food a year wasted because it isn’t pretty enough. Business Insider estimates 133 million pounds of food are wasted each year, with 10% being from grocery stores and restaurants. A few small groups are attempting to change that. 6 billion pounds of food could go to a lot of hungry people. But as Business Insider notes, the problem with giving people ugly food is a matter of liability and logistics. Today I don’t have to worry about logistics. As I stare at the large compost pile filling with cabbage leaves that had maybe one tiny hole, it is the former issue that presses on me.

We finish the cabbages and move on to the zucchini. Ah zucchini. The bane of children everywhere. Their own personal proof that there is a devil and that he hates them. Our zucchini requirements are much easier then the cabbage: remove the flower, rinse thoroughly, discard any that don’t have at least 1/2″ of intact stem. Extra large and odd lumpy ones are also discarded. But at least a small marring of the zucchini skin isn’t enough to disqualify it. If it were, no child would ever have to eat a zucchini again.

We’re quick this evening, and it isn’t long before the acceptable produce is being driven over to the store-house. A few crates of the rejected vegetables sit off to the side. “Well, if you want any, it’s yours!” A few boys jump in grabbing misshapen zucchinis and starting mock sword fights. I’m not worried. Their fathers calls them to order if it gets too realistic while helping other children pick cabbages. Three end up in my bag, as well as a particularly lumpy zucchini. I, for one, love zucchini.

And what of the poor and needy? Theirs will be the first fruits. The store house will distribute the beautiful produce to those in need, undeterred by the new rules and inspections that constantly come through. And those of us who volunteered are perfectly happy with our ugly vegetables. Though that could change when the zucchini is served up to the boys later on.

My First Swarm

Crazy bee day today. I ran to grab some lunch from Smiths when my roommate called in a panic. According to her, our house was “being attacked by bees!!!” I didn’t ask questions, just drove home. Didn’t really see anything. But I entered the house through the garage. She heard me come in and showed me a teeny tiny cluster of bees near the front door, hanging from the gutter.

I was not impressed.

But I did think to myself that they were just starting to swarm and started gathering my equipment to see if I could grab them. At some point I went out to get a better look, and noticed a pretty darn good sized cluster of bees up on the roof. The bit hanging from the gutter was not even the tip of the iceberg. At that point I called The Honey Company and offered to pay them to come out and help me catch the swarm. Two gentlemen showed up. The bought a spare lid and bottom board for me. I had an extra box and frames, but not a proper lid and base. We climbed up and started gingerly scooping up bees on small pieces of paper and stiff envelopes, then deposited them into the box. It didn’t take long before the rest started an enthusiastic march to the box. After about an hour we’d gotten most of the main cluster and were content to let the rest work their way in. I left the box up there for everyone to settle in. The gentlemen from The Honey Company headed out, and I headed to the backyard to check my main hive.

swarm

This is where it goes downhill. There are still a lot of bees in there. But while there is a good amount of capped brood, including drone brood, no uncapped larvae or eggs. So probably safe to say the swarm is from my own hive. On top of that, I broke open a large chunk of brood burr comb in the hive between the first and second brood box. That had me in a right panic. I’m worried I killed my queens. But I cleaned up the burr, and closer inspection looks like the whole group is drones. But with no eggs, it could still be a queenless hive. I’m probably going to order a new queen tomorrow.

brood1 brood2

It was (not at all) a great deal of fun pulling the full box off the roof this evening in the blowing wind. Thankfully Christopher came over and helped. I duct-tapped the lid down, and wrapped the hive in a sheet. I passed to sheet to Christopher on the ladder, who was steadied form below by Victoria. Victoria also guided his steps down the ladder. Once down, I took the hive to it’s place in the back yard.

The real annoying part about all this is that I was planning on trying some splits this week or next after the nasty weather passed. I guess they’re split now. Hope they handle the cold tonight.

Yoga and fitness

So I’ve figured out why Yoga helps you to lose weight. Most Yoga poses involve contorting yourself into a position that makes a super bulge out of your stomach even if you’re a super model (as for the rest of us…). Once in that position you’re ordered to stare intently at your navel. So you can expect to spend the better part of an hour to hour-and-a-half session intently focusing on your worst feature. But remember, “we don’t judge.” I did have one stellar Bikram instructor put us in Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana and then tell us to remember that even Cindy Crawford hates her stomach in this pose.

So yeah, tonight, I went to 3B yoga in Provo. The class was good, but I don’t know if I can afford to go there regularly. To make matters worse, it’s directly across from The Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory. That must be gold for those businesses, but it’s murder on the Yogi. One hour of yoga undone in a single truffle. I wish I’d had only a single truffle…

In other fitness news, we did receive Fitbits from work yesterday. And there is a Bluehost Fitbit group. My competitive side has already reared it’s ugly head, and yesterday I walked Mari 10 miles and put just over 23,000 steps on my fitbit. That was enough to land me in the top 10, or it would have if I had finished the setup before the workout yesterday. Sad to say, it all dropped off when I set up the fitbit this morning. Silver lining: I can manually enter the workout. Even better, I tracked several workouts with my Endomondo app on my phone, which also had details for a 2 mile run last week, and a hike up and past the Y on Saturday. That was enough to land my in the top 5 on the leader board. 6 mile walk with Mari tonight put me at #4. Ha! However, the fitbit is quite limited in its tracking abilities, and only has walking, running, biking, and swimming on its activity list. No Yoga credit. And due to it’s limitations, it believes hiking the Y is a light workout. You only made 4.15 miles in 3.5 hours? WIMP! Forget the 2000 feet of elevation gain. We’ll see what it says tomorrow when I actually track my steps instead of just entering the workout. I plan on being #2 at Bluehost by the end of the week. #1 seems to be averaging about 9 miles a day. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I hope to break into the top 100 of the Linux group. Man Linux guys are FIT!