If you love me, you will take these turnips.

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I spent the late afternoon yesterday digging and planting. This year we have decided to add to the landscaping in the front of our shop. We are adding some shrubbery that will remain green all winter. The current inhabitants of the front yard all drop their leaves in winter. A bunch of naked branches doesn’t exactly scream welcome. So in an attempt to keep color going all year we are tackling an overhaul. The guys and I decided to incorporate edible plants into our landscaping this year. We do our best to help the environment and thought why not take advantage of the fact that we have to water the yard all summer anyway.
We have amassed a tiny collection of seeds to plant. We will have green beans and tomatoes growing along side boxwoods and spirea. I put sunflowers in the ground yesterday. I have to say it felt a little naughty tucking them in behind the formal plantings that wrap our front porch. The idea that their sunny faces would soon tower over their more traditional bed mates would frighten more timid gardeners. It just isn’t respectable to have such flamboyance scattered about willy nilly where everyone can see.
This year our efforts to keep newly planted shrubs alive in the frustratingly hot and humid Illinois summer will also be putting fresh food on our table. I think that is just sexy as hell. If I have to be bent over out there pulling weeds from between the bushes, then I am going to pick peas while I’m doing it! I slipped some beautiful tricolor sage with purple, white and silver leaves into the pots out front that held boxwoods all winter. Tyler and I found the most amazing oregano again this year. It has the brightest lime green and yellow leaves. I love the way it flows over the edge of pots, so we thought, why not put it out there where everyone can enjoy it instead of hiding it somewhere out back.
In a few days we will tuck some heirloom tomatoes into the ground. I can’t wait to make fresh salsa. There is nothing like the taste of the triumph of growing your own food.
Lettuce will go in soon. Don’t spend anytime imagining that it will grow in neat little rows. That Mr. McGregor stuff doesn’t fly around our house. We will plant it in sunny spots between the established prairie plants out back. There are a few open spaces that the bee balm vacated last summer. It will fit in nicely there. I love the colors leaf lettuce comes in. The bright greens and deep burgundy and purples. Mouth is officially watering. The little rabbit that has claimed our back yard for her own will be in heaven. Our dogs have already given up trying to chase her from the neighborhood. I let them out one morning last week and they began their usual Tom and Jerry chase sequence. This time however that little bunny stood her ground. She didn’t even flinch. Just looked up from nibbling the clover and sort of stared the dogs down. They were baffled. Truly disappointed. They haven’t messed with her since. I wouldn’t either. I have seen it in her eyes, she means business. She will of course have first dibs on the lettuce, I will gladly feast on her leftovers.
I would kill for a fruit tree. I think I have the perfect spot for a little apple tree. I would love a cherry tree, but around here that means sharing your harvest with flocks of hungry birds. I picture myself forced into playing the part of Tippi Hedren. Running about in the yard swatting at ferocious swarms of angry starlings as they peck at my eyeballs. In fact if a cherry tree went in I would spend my summers being suspicious of any birds that were congregating in groups of three or more. God forbid a murder of crows land on the deck. I would pee my pants before curling up in the fetal position and dying of fright. Alfred Hitchcock, you were a bad bad man. Twisted sick and I love you for it. No cherry tree for me. My imagination is way to over active.
Summer is here and I am celebrating every minute of it. I was born a man of the sun . I crave the warmth. Vitamin D. Fresh air. I get lost in that color of blue the sky turns in summer. The way the green leaves stand out against the clouds. The weeks ahead will be filled with much mulch flinging and muddy flip flops. Sunny afternoons and dirty fingernails. Nothing compares to the tired you feel after spending the day outside working in the yard.
Hopefully this year with a little extra effort we can coax a meal or two out of the dirt…. if Mother Nature cooperates. Some groups throughout history have been known to prepare a sacrifice to ensure the soils fertility. I think I will shy away from tradition this year and just light my incense and pour a beer or two on my newly planted green beans.
When my sunflowers bloom I will feel like the luckiest man on the planet. A proud papa. I’m looking forward to having way tooooo many tomatoes. The living is easy. It doesn’t get any better than the joy a person feels when you have to force home grown fresh produce onto unwilling recipients. That watery eyed look of terror on a persons face when you hand them a bag stuffed to the brim with turnips or a box the size of a minivan bursting at the seams with the zucchini you picked that morning. Ahhhh abundance.

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Crash landed on planet earth.

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I am a space princess.
It’s just something I have come to grips with. Growing up I would dress up in a ladies white polyester bell bottom jumpsuit and belt on the white poncho I got as a hand me down from my Aunt Mary. I would put a pair of black stirrup pants on my head, twisting and rolling each leg carefully to form two giant black side buns on my head. Trust me I looked just like Princess Leia from Star Wars. I had fashioned what was sure to have been a very realistic laser gun from a rather large and heavy tree branch. I didn’t mind carrying it around. Being a bad ass space princess was hard work. If Defending the universe meant lugging around a 20 pound log with a nail hammered into it for the trigger, then that’s what I would do. Aside from needing to stop every five minutes to redo my slipping hairdo, the outfit was quite comfortable. Perhaps white was a bad choice for crawling around in the cattle barns, climbing trees and wading across muddy creeks. I thought the ground in dirt added a sense of realism. You have to be willing to ruin your garage sale jumpsuit in order to save the planet. I’m sure Carrie Fisher can back me up on this.
Planning and executing the perfect planetary defense was my speciality. I could always anticipate the next move of my imaginary alien adversary. My ability to outsmart them was legendary. I’m certain my efforts to keep the population of this planet from a life of slavery under the control of the Empire would have been richly rewarded. That is if I was doing it for the money or the fame. I was not. In fact I would always decline any reward offered. I was already a fashionable space princess. What could the people of Earth offer me that I didn’t already have ten of. I mean really.
The first signs of spring always remind me of my childhood. Growing up the shift from snow to sunshine meant running free outside. Building tree forts and trying to perfect the cartwheel. A skill I never quite mastered.
Today as the tulips start to stretch from their long winters nap I find myself pulled to the outdoors. The front door to the shop is standing wide open and the air pouring in smells fresh and clean. Customers are coming in to find candles with fresh scents and lotions to get their heels ready for sandal weather. There is a Robbin thrashing about in a puddle left by last nights thunder storm. The world is new. The urge to bring the outside in must be wired into the human subconscious. We have tiny yellow daffodils blooming in pots in our living room and there is a hyacinth preparing to open its purple blossoms on our kitchen counter. It’s like a switch goes off and I’m ready to freshen my nest. Last night we worked on the apartment until our eyes crossed. The bathroom has a fresh coat of paint. The renovation list is down to the final touches.. . Windows are open. It feels like freedom.
The shop is gearing up for the warmer weather with scents that remind us of our trips to the ocean and we have become obsessed with anything that smells of fresh berries or pineapple.
All of the grass is starting to green up and it’s difficult to control the urge to dust off my laser gun. There are trees that need climbing and villains that need apprehended. Maybe this summer I will dig out my jumpsuit, I’m sure it still fits. If you drive by my house and you see me perched in a tree wearing a white poncho, you can rest assured that I am doing my very best to keep the world safe.

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Special Thanks to Lucas Film for the image! You guys are awesome! If you need to get your Star Wars fix, or need inspiration for your space princess wardrobe, head over to Star Wars

How to open an orange using a screw driver.

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Our apartment is almost finished. It took a lot of guts, a ton of energy and a great amount of bargaining with a bevy of the lesser known voodoo loas. It’s been quite a ride. We have been living in a state of transition since what feels like the beginning of time. By transition I mean complete and utter chaos. Living through a renovation is challenging enough, living in the space while you are renovating it,,,pure and absolute madness. When we decided to open the store we also committed to transforming the second floor of the house into a large apartment. The house had been apartments before in a past life. Like most old houses this one has been many things to many people. Each owner has put their own stamp on the place. From an almost abandoned state it was turned into an Inn by a lovely lady that rescued the house from certain death by wrecking ball. I am very grateful for her courage. The house is certainly grateful as well.
The second floor is a series of spacious rooms with huge windows that put you right in the center of the sugar maples that surround the house. In the summer the rooms turn green with light filtered through the foliage. When fall descends on the Midwest the light streaming through the windows turns brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange. Being up there is like staying in a tree house. A very well equipped tree house.
This renovation has played out like a giant game of Tetris. Each piece moving to allow room for the next. Then the pieces and piles of our accumulated lives are picked up and moved again to facilitate another step in the process. Painful. I will now think of any home improvement project as if I were an expectant mother elephant. I will remember that those glossy pictures in decorating magazines are only the beginning. At some point that baby elephant has to come out. That’s what living through a remodel is like. Pushing a mini van out of your who-ha. A special kind of endurance is required. Through it all this project has only resulted in one slightly serious argument brought on by wonky ancient walls that we’re never square or level. It was less of an argument and more me coaxing the guys back from the brink of insanity as they tried to install kitchen cabinets in a room that leans ever so slightly to the left.
The other moment of heated discussion was the guys talking me down from the slippery ledge of unreasonable behavior as we tackled the bathroom redo. At the last moment I decided the old claw foot tub needed desperately to live on the other side of the room. I vaguely remember saying things like ” my happiness depends on it.” and ” if you really loved me.” A truce was signed and the tub remains exactly where it was. The perfect place for it in my opinion. I’m so glad I didn’t let them move it. What a horrible idea.
Anyone who has ever moved knows that living out of boxes sucks. Plain and simple it’s the worst. When everything you own is not only boxed up but those boxes have been shuffled and reshuffled stacked and shifted countless times, you reach a point where you honestly believe you will never again locate any object smaller than a chair or a lamp. Those are piled high in every corner. The remote control… now permanently resides in another dimension. I have to pull out a Ouija Board every time I want to surf through the channels. We have eaten out of paper bags and off of disposable dishes for months. This morning after working out I climbed the steps to the nearly finished space. I stood in the kitchen and admired all of the new surfaces. The fresh paint. Each direction I looked brought a sense of accomplishment one can only find near the end of a long and exhausting adventure. The pieces are coming together. I was actually about to have a meal in the new kitchen. Just an orange. Simple sure, but remarkable absolutely remarkable. I had given up the idea of eating in comfort. The months of doing without a traditional kitchen set up have brought out our primal instincts. We have been inches from reverting to our cave dwelling raw meat eating ancestors. So standing at the counter with a softball sized orange I just plucked from a fully functioning refrigerator that happens to actually be located in our living space…. Triumph. I almost didn’t notice that the months of living with the constant lack of utensils has changed me. My survival skills have surfaced. Now when faced with a challenge even as small as making the first cut in the skin of an orange so it can be peeled. Instinctively, without even processing it, I go for any object within reach that will serve the purpose. I just cut into my breakfast using a screwdriver.

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