A Change in the Weather

It’s such a beautiful day! A beautiful couple days, in fact. The temperature rose about 20 degrees between Tuesday and yesterday, and it’s already quite warm and lovely out this morning.

I took a walk – just a short one, a mile round trip (and isn’t that something, when I remember how long a mile seemed to me before I moved here) – to a nearby coffee shop to get myself a treat. I’m pretty strict with myself about only buying awful, cheap coffee to make at home, because I do like Folgers well enough and it’s not worth it to me to spend so much money on good drip coffee when half the time I’m drinking it reheated anyways.

It’s a beautiful neighbourhood that this little coffee shop is in, and the walk by itself would have been worth it, honestly. The coffee was an added bonus! Their espresso is growing on me – I normally prefer my espresso more mellow, and theirs is, well, not, but I’ve been there a few times now and I definitely enjoy it more than I did the first time.

I did, however, have an ulterior motive for going today. A motive which, unfortunately, came to nothing, but!

I officially have a darling new friend who happens to be one of the baristas there.

Not gonna lie, I have a little crush on him. I’m not planning on doing anything about it, but it’s nice to have a friend I can flirt with a little bit without feeling like I’m leading them on. I had an average amount of romance in my high school years, I suppose, but very few people who made me go all stupid and turn red. It’s a fun feeling!

I was talking to my partner this morning after my walk about needing practice leaving the house sometimes. With my anxiety (and their anxiety, too) it is far too easy to only leave the house for work, the store, or the garden. It’s a slippery slope down towards agoraphobia, and I already have one phobia! I don’t need another! I’m not overly worried about that actually happening, but I do feel it’s something I need to keep in mind.

This spring is starting to really move, now. In a little under a week, I’m taking a class to get First Aid/CPR certified, which is the last requirement I have to meet before starting my internship at the summer camp. Several days ago my manager at my main job told me that they were gonna keep me on over the summer, giving me the single eight-hour shift per week that I requested, which will mean an extra $300 a month for the duration of my internship. My partner has offered to help me make an appointment with an advisor at the local community college, in the hopes of starting in either the fall or winter term if I can stop putting off everything else I need to do first. I’m going to be a vet tech, the only job that really makes sense for me given my driving need to have as many pets as I can possibly afford during the course of my life. I have a plan – first, vet tech, then while I’m doing that, continue studying more specialised areas of veterinary care such as wildlife and farm animals so that eventually I can work as a foster/rehabilitator for injured animals. Once we can afford a little bit of property, my partner and I are going to get a few farm animals, and I want to give them the best, most humane care I possibly can. Which means, unfortunately, college, and all the paperwork and financial aid applications that entails.

Today, though, isn’t for big future things. Today is for writing, and catching up on dishes, and going to the garden to weed and water it later (my fish+seaweed fertilizer arrived yesterday and I’m so eager to see if it makes a difference!), and looking glamorous in my favourite warm weather cut-off shirt.

It really is a beautiful day today. I’m happy that I’m here to see it.

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Witchy Things

Having kind of an anxious day (okay, kind of an anxious, ah, two weeks? Give or take?) and was about one good startle away from an anxiety attack when my partner suggested holding a crystal.

We have a LOT of crystals and stones in our apartment, guys. If you count each flat surface they’re arranged on as a separate altar, we have four – top of a bookshelf, top of the wine rack, and the top two shelves of a little free-standing cupboard that holds some candles and miscellany in our living room.

The little cupboard shelves are my altars, the stones that I tend to pick from for my own needs (although my partner has some really lovely citrine and malachite pieces that I sometimes steal borrow).

I’m not great at crystal meanings, so I go by feel and then look up my choices to see what they tend to help with. I have an affinity for jasper, so that’s usually my first choice, and for cool colours, so any stones that are blue or purple tend to be my second choices.

Today’s little helpers are rose quartz, a green jasper I picked up recently that I wish I knew more about, apatite, and lepidolite.

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(Clockwise from top: rose quartz, apatite, lepidolite, jasper – forgive the less-than-ideal photo, I’m not sure where my camera has gone!)

I wasn’t into crystals for a long time, although I collected rocks and stones as a child. I guess I should say I wasn’t into crystals as healing agents for a long time. It never made sense to me, and still doesn’t if I think about it too hard. But I’m a big believer in the power of my mind and my brain to affect the rest of my body, and crystals make me feel calmer, more grounded, which in turn relaxes my muscles and slows my breathing and calms the lightning shooting through my nervous system. Reading about what each crystal is “for” helps me focus on those things throughout the day – for example, smoky quartz, another favourite of mine, helps protect against negative energy so when I carry it I feel more confident, less shaken by perceived threats, overall safer as I go through my day. Totally in my head, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

I was never a very good Christian by the modern church’s standards. Genderqueer (and aware of it from an early age, as I think most of us are), not straight (…and aware of it from an early age, as most of us are…), always questioning and going my own way and putting a lot of my energy into, well, magic. Fantasy magic in books, ancient beliefs from around the world, supernatural entities like ghosts, personal identities of people who are Other…it was my passion, quiet and not shared with many but probably very obvious to those who looked. And as anyone who’s grown up in a church can tell you, everybody is watching. Stern Christian men and women with Bible verses memorized and strict ideas of what’s appropriate internalized into black and white worldviews who just loved to tell me what I could say and wear and believe and what I couldn’t.

Sidenote: I do still identify as Christian. I’m just….a spooky Christian. I like spooky, witchy, mystical things. They’re not mutually exclusive.

Anyways, I’m trying to embrace and explore my beliefs, of the Christian and magical varieties. Hence, collecting crystals, and learning about sigils, and all sorts of other little things that help me feel in control and grounded and passionate and alive. I tried for so long to deny and suppress all of it but I kept coming back to it, so here I am, embracing the self I was given.

And magic aside, the feeling of a cold stone balanced on my forearm or in my palm (or sometimes on my forehead if I’m laying down) is downright wonderful and does more to cut through the fog of my anxiety than most other things do. For somebody who loses their body as often as I do, external stimuli is invaluable.

Coffee and fancy chocolate are also good grounding methods, for the record!

New Growth

We went out to the garden yesterday – all four of us, for once! It was a drizzly day, but it stayed clear for the hour or so we were working and the damp soil made it easier to get the weeds out.

The peas are looking a bit munched around the edges, but I planted a good twelve more starts, and none of the previous set are actually dead, they just look a little snacked on by bugs. We would have planted garlic chives around them to help drive the pests away but apparently peas and chives don’t get along very well and I didn’t want to risk it. The strawberries are looking great, and the nasturtiums, although the calendula right next to them seemed like it was struggling a little. The rhubarb is barely hanging on, and the beans are even worse – half of them died, but there are five that seem like they just might make it. My friend carefully dug up one of the potatoes just to see and said they’re growing really well and are almost big enough to start showing above the soil.

We bought a blueberry bush at the farmer’s market yesterday, and we put that in the ground, too. We’ll be potting it at the end of the year, probably, before we give up the plot (I’m assuming we’re giving up the plot, but who knows?). Our patio is a touch too shaded and crowded for the blueberry to do well on it, and our friends’ patio is entirely shade!

I love fruit trees and bushes: tough, perennial little things that I can keep in pots and cart around as needed, that provide privacy screens and pretty flowers and delicious fruit. Our black currant is looking like it’ll be loaded with berries this year, and even our little lingonberry has a couple flowers on it. I doubt it will fruit very much, but considering the tough time it’s had this winter I’m proud of it for even being alive right now.

It seems this spring – cold, wet, and winterish as it’s been – has been a good time for life and new growth. Maybe everything isn’t quite as lush or fruitful as it could be right now, but things are continuing to live and grow through the harsh weather. My mental health has been shifting with the season, as well. I’m still suffering anxiety, still slogging through days-long depressive episodes where I get caught in vicious cycles of being unable to do my chores and feeling worthless for not being able to do my chores, but the overall trend has been positive. I’m communicating with my dear partner better about my needs and feelings. I’m hanging out with friends more, which I haven’t really done since I moved away from the town I grew up in.

I realised the other day just how reclusive I’ve been since I moved here fourish years ago. In high school I spent half my weekdays and almost every weekend with my friends, and while it wasn’t always a great experience because I was a doormat it also wasn’t bad. I loved them, and I was confident they loved me, and I learned and grew a lot because of those times. Since moving here, though, it’s been harder – making new friends is always hard. I had a leg up, of course, because I knew my now-partner, then-best-friend who lived here, and who introduced me to their college friends, but I still felt like I was building from the ground up. Now, though, I have a small handful of friends who I see semi-regularly (our gardening friends I see quite frequently now, but that’s offset by the friend I see maybe every other month), which is more than I thought I’d have at this point. I feel more settled, overall. More like I have a community here.

Even at the farmers market yesterday, I ran into the CEO of the company I’m working for and a coworker, who both had kind smiles for me, and I was able to tell my partner and friends various stories about the neighbourhood I work in.

Feeling rooted isn’t just having an apartment and a garden. It’s taking walks and knowing where to find the different plants (the elder, the red currant, the holly-grape, the apples and hawthorns, the mystery-plant I’ve yet to identify), and it’s knowing the man who sells the homeless-produced newspaper outside the store, and it’s waving at my CEO when I see him at the market, and it’s flirting with baristas and waitresses just to make them smile because they’ve done the same for me when I’m at work. It’s a customer I swear I’ve never seen before asking me if I’m the one who’s going to be working at a cool local summer camp this year (how did he know??) and being enthusiastic about sending his son there in a year or two.

I’m hoping the trend continues. There’s a lot I need to do before spring is over, and there’ve been a lot of little setbacks that knock me off-kilter for days at a time, but I think I’ve got a handle on most of it, at least. The big stuff, the long term stuff, like college and my medical needs, those are outside my capabilities right now, but I’m trying not to think about them too much. I need to do what I can, first, before beginning to tackle the rest.

I think I’m drawing this out as a form of procrastination, now, so I guess I’m going to go refill my coffee and wash a few dishes. I firmly believe I am capable of dragging myself kicking and screaming out of this hole I’ve been stuck in!

Gardening (Mis)Adventures

I’m going to make my first real post right away. I woke up this morning inspired to write this and there’s no reason to wait!

(That’s kind of a lie, I did not wake up inspired to write this. I woke up angry at our cats for bouncing off the walls at 4:50am like they do every morning, leaving me trying fruitlessly to sleep that last half hour before our alarm goes off. But after some breakfast and coffee, I got inspired to write this.)

So, something I’ve had to come to terms with about myself is that I’m not good at taking advice. I ask for it a lot, but I’m not so good at actually taking it.

Take, for example, gardening guides.

Keeping plants alive doesn’t come naturally to me, as much as I wish it did. I love plants. I love playing farming sims (hello Stardew Valley) where I can grow all the plants. I’m passionate about plants and about the myriad wonderful uses – edible, medicinal, beautiful, nurturing to the soil and local wildlife – they have to offer. I just have this unfortunate habit of, well, killing them.

Thing is, I’m also stubborn. So every year I plant new things and try new methods and I think I’m improving, overall. I have some wild plums I planted from seed in big pots on my patio. They haven’t fruited yet but they’re lovely little privacy screens when they’re leafed out and I have a soft spot for them because they were my happy little accidents. I’d picked a bunch of wild plums at a bus stop one day, took them home, and planted the seeds of the few I didn’t manage to eat before they spoiled. I forgot about them all winter and imagine my surprise come spring when I looked out in the backyard and saw three little stalks poking up out of the pot I’d stuck them in! I promptly separated them into their own pots and they’ve been with me ever since, holding up through multiple moves and less than ideal conditions. I love them. I’m considering naming them.

But other plants? My radishes, which I try to grow year after year and inevitably scrap so I can use the pot for something new? (It’s a deep pot – I know it’s not ideal for root crops but there’s only so much you can do in an apartment) My strawberries, which I’m lucky to get two fruits off of every year? My cabbages, which start out strong and then stop growing and never form heads?

I know that if I meticulously followed the instructions on the packet, or on this blog or that one, I could grow some fantastic things, but for some reason I just can’t. Why can’t it be easy like in Stardew Valley? Hoe, plant seeds, water daily, and in as little as four days you’re harvesting! My kind of farming.

This year, though. This year I’m trying something totally new.

I got a community garden plot. Not just any plot, either. I got the biggest one, at around 100 square feet.

I’m committed now. I have my partner and our friends gardening with me (thank God) but still, they all tend to defer to me. It’s my garden, and I have to make a good showing. We’ve already planted four types of strawberries, a sage, a single baby rhubarb plant, nasturtiums, calendula, mustard greens, garlic chives, potatoes, beans, a single garlic clove that sprouted in our kitchen, and an unwise number of peas, but there’s still a ridiculous amount of space left. Along with those, our garden plot came with a mint (who put that mint in the ground? Why did they do that?? Even I know better…..but that didn’t stop me from moving it to a more central location. I’ll worry about uprooting it and potting it later, for now I want it to grow big and strong) and a mystery plant that some research has indicated is a caper. I don’t even know what capers are, but bless its heart I’m going to nurture it and see how big it’ll grow. I’ve always had the best luck with accidental plants. There’s also a little bank of blackberry vines by the fence that’s trying to grow, but they’re pernicious and unfortunately I think I’m supposed to call them weeds and cut them back, which seems grievously unfair.

We did, however, pull up the four ancient broccoli plants that our plot came with. I’ve never seen broccoli so big in my life and honestly, I never want to again. Broccoli is fine in a stir fry, or with a bit of cheese sauce drizzled over, but it’s not good enough to waste my precious garden space on those gnarled thick trunks.

Later this year we’ll be planting cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers (two varieties! My partner likes spicy things and I like growing things) and hopefully some melons and squash (I’m hoping for pumpkins, but acorn squash would be a good second choice) I also have an onion that sprouted that I’m trying to get to root so I can try planting that, too.

Our patio is still our little gardening space, although my partner has mostly taken that over as their pet project. We have strawberries, like I said, but also black currants (delicious and already flowering!), lingonberries (which we haven’t seen fruit from yet but I think repotting and some organic fertilizer will help), sunflowers, a lemon balm yanked from the yard of a previous house we lived in, edible flowers from a seed mix (borage, nasturtium, and I don’t remember what else – they haven’t grown very large yet, but they’re trying!) and rosemary, along with some miscellaneous flowers we’ve picked up over the last few years and some bamboo and wisteria from my mother-in-law’s yard. Not to mention, our current pride and joy, a precious little bay laurel we got from a local nursery. We have plenty of dried bay leaves from my mother-in-law still, and with my crockpot broken we’re using them even less than we did before, but every home needs a bay laurel.

All in all, I think, we’re doing alright. We’re nowhere near my eventual goal, which is to grow at least half of our food, but we’re getting there. Last year we ate a bunch of snap peas and cherry tomatoes from our little patio garden, and this year we’re hoping to get enough black currents to make a bottle of wine (or maybe just flavour a gallon of mead?) but our homebrewing adventures are a story for another post.

Wish me luck!

(P.S., I’ve just remembered we forgot to make a chicken-wire cage for the strawberries yesterday when we planted them….oh dear. Hopefully there’s time today to go out and do that, the last thing I want is them to be eaten by rabbits before they’ve had a chance to grow.)

Giving blogging a fair chance

I’ve tried this once before (or more than once before) when I was much younger. It was alright! But I gave up fairly quickly. I’m feeling inspired again, though, and I’d like to give blogging another try, so here we are!

Introductions are in order, I suppose. My name is Nick (well, the name I give my baristas is Nick, anyways – legally it’s a stretch) and I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest region of the United States. I’m genderfluid with no particular attachment to any pronouns, so I usually use “she” because that’s most people’s default for me and “they” with people who understand gender a little better. I’ve got a partner who also uses they/them pronouns, and three young cats who are all anxious unholy terrors (I’m not a cat person but I’ve learned to love them dearly anyways). One day we’ll get a dog! When we have more space!

I tend to confuse people because I’m more than a little bit witchy (I’ll talk about my crystal altars and my first ever tarot deck in a future post) but I’m also a devout Christian, albeit one who is entirely separate from the church. I don’t talk about my faith much but it guides everything I do, including my belief in magic and the spirits and fair folk that inhabit the world around us.

Mostly, though, this blog will be about gardening, and my DIY adventures, and my trials and tribulations with the sewing machine that’s older than me and my eldest sibling combined (possibly older than all three of us combined, at this point, but I’d need to ask my mother exactly when she got this old clunker to confirm that). There’ll be a good dose of herbal medicine in here, and a liberal amount of crafting, especially as summer draws closer and my internship at a radical summer camp begins. Eventually I’ll have things for sale, ranging from the useful to the whimsical – what will you find when you look into the hollow stump? But for now, it’s just me and my winding, meandering road to fulfilling my dreams.

Nick