Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Help! We've got apple maggots!

Looks like an apple!
My new partner, Daniel, owns a property in the Cle Elum area of Kittitas County in Washington (I mentioned the area in my previous post about checking out rural properties). You'll be hearing a lot about the projects we have going on over there, but as spring is upon this mountainous area, we needed to get on top of the fact that the apple tree on his property was severely infested with apple maggots last year.

I looked into a number of different options but went on the recommendations from our local nursery and that was to start with apple maggot traps and lures. Once we have signs of apple maggots, we will spray the trees with what they recommended, Bonide Fruit Tree Spray. However, the fruit tree spray we got isn't exactly the most organic thing I'd want to use, breathe in and, ultimately, eat.

So, we are running into two problems right now:

Quarantine areas of WA
1. Identification: How do you identify apple maggots on the traps versus all the various other little flying bug things that are getting stuck to it? I'm assuming pictures of adult maggots on the web are what I'm matching the trap corpses to?

and

2. Organic Options: When they do show up, what's a good (or several) organic alternative so I don't have to be concerned with what I'm ingesting both fresh and preserved?

What do you use to treat apple maggots (and coddling moths while we're at it)? I've never had apple maggots before, so I need your help!!


Warning: this post has affiliate links and all that.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mastering Grief - Death and the Dogwood

I was seriously considering starting a totally new blog titled "Young Widow Farmer" or some such thing rather than continuing in the vein of the Crunchy Chicken, but I didn't want my marital status defining me any more than my late husband wanted his fight with cancer to define him. He was, first and foremost, a husband, father, brother, friend, co-worker and an all-around exceedingly brilliant, hilarious, kind, humble and generous person. He just also happened to have a terminal illness.

My dogwood in bloom, 2019.
So, this dogwood. It's annual blooming is completely meaningless to anyone else besides me. Sure, it's pretty and everyone who sees it comments on its beauty, but it means so much more to only me. We bought this house with this dogwood tree when it was in full bloom back in May 2006.

I don't know at what point I started doing this, but every year since my late husband's diagnosis in 2007 I'd look at it blooming in late April and early May and think, "is this going to be the last year that this tree blooms and my husband is alive"? Some years we would be out of town when it was blooming and I'd miss most of the pink flowers and get anxious. That somehow that would portend his demise. It's weird how your mind, and your superstitions, work. And, each year he would somehow survive the torture and the treatments.

After a while, I'd kind of laugh at myself because 11 years of cancer survival is a long time. Worrying about the dogwood blooming and the link to my husband's survival seemed more ridiculous. And, honestly, last year I was feeling cocky enough to not go through the machinations of thinking the, "is this the last year this blooms and my husband is alive" routine.

My dogwood started becoming pink this last week. And, shit, it hit me again. The old mental routine. Except, this year, I already knew the answer to the question. You never really master grief - it just changes color, flavor and texture. I know this from my own father's death back it 2011, just as my book was published. Grief is a strange thing and is different every time. But, this time around, I'd actually been grieving my late husband's death since his diagnosis.

I stopped blogging shortly after my Dad died, so it seems somewhat fitting that I'd restart blogging after my husband died. And, as I head into a weekend in my "new life", with a new partner, and the possibilities of a new future and all its adventures, I can't but help also be tethered by the familiarity and routine of the old to ground me and remind me that life is tenuous. The dogwood is just one of the many things that strikes me into remembering. And, because of that, each day I take nothing for granted.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Teen Trauma - The horrors of no wifi

Always with phone in hand.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization released their recommendations for screen time for children under the age of 5. For the first year of life they recommend zero time, rarely any in the second year and no more than an hour a day for ages 2 to 4. Frankly, this seems entirely reasonable, although I might be in the minority here.

My two children didn't watch any television until they were at least 5 and computer time came much later. My 16-year-old son still doesn't have a cell phone (and doesn't want one). It may sound strange coming from two parents who worked in tech, but we weren't TV watching adults, so limiting screen time in the early years came extremely easily.

Fast forward to today and it's a much different story and I know here I'm not in the minority. While my 15 and 16-year-olds don't sit down and watch network television, they watch a lot of shows using Netflix and other entertainment on YouTube. My 15-year-old daughter got her own cell phone in 8th grade after much haranguing and, for her peer group, that's late. Oftentimes, she'll be on her laptop and cell phone at the same time. But, I think that's par for the course for most adults as well.

We've become a modern nation of connectivity with expectations that we have high speed, instantaneous access through our devices to the Internet. This drives most people all day long, every day. Teens and adults. You see them in elevators, in line at the store, waiting for the bus, all staring into their phones. Myself included - I have no pretense to suggest I'm any different.

The main difference is my ability to unplug and put away my devices. A common theme among my teenagers and other teens I know is that, if there isn't access to wifi or cell service, they aren't participating. Sadly, this has been a huge constraint for my family any time we take a trip somewhere. If there isn't high speed wireless Internet available, they aren't going. Which sounds really ridiculous when you put it in writing.

Of course, sometimes you don't have much of a choice - mountainous areas of Washington state just don't have decent coverage to support streaming video. It's not like there's no Internet or cell service, it's just that it's not good enough. Because, predominately, what teens are doing online isn't downloading text to read, articles, news, etc. It's video. And video demands bandwidth. And without that bandwidth, boredom ensues. And then the complaining that's there's nothing to do begins.

One skill that kids seemed to have lost with the advent of constant connectivity is the ability to context switch off the electronic teat, with its incumbent squirts of adrenaline. But, it does happen, with enough time away from their devices. It's just getting through that chunk of time until they realize that they have to come up with something else to do that can be very trying and is, understandably, why parents oftentimes give in.

What about your kids? Are they able to unplug without protest? Do you have issues with your teens refusing to go on vacation because the wifi isn't good enough?


Recommended Reading:
Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Highjacking our Kids
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains
Digital Detox: The Ultimate Guide to Beating Technology Addiction

Warning! There are affiliate links in this post!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Log Cabin in the Little Woods - Checking out rural properties

Log Cabin - Cle Elum, WA
Back when I was blogging regularly, one thing I always dreamed about was moving to a more rural area on several acres so that I could garden and raise critters to my heart's content. Several things prevented me from living out that dream, primarily location to work, daily accessibility to the cancer treatment center and willingness of the whole family.

Since I have been working 100% remotely from home for almost the last year (and not working the last 2 months), that first barrier isn't really an issue anymore. I don't need to be within driving distance of downtown Seattle. Both of my high schoolers are homeschooled, so that isn't so much an issue now either and both of them are interested in being on more land.

It dawned on me the other night that, when I was working full-time and in the thick of being the primary caregiver for the whole family as well as the primary stable bread winner, the one thing I wished I could do instead of working in software development was write full-time and try to live the lifestyle that I talked about so often.

Being shell-shocked after my husband died, I wasn't really clearly seeing my options and, after I got laid off from work, my knee-jerk reaction was to jump back into a tech job. But I don't have the same constraints anymore. I don't have to spend 10 hours a week sitting in traffic going to a tech job I don't really have to have anymore. I can do something else. And maybe that something else is the thing I dreamed about for so long.

Last night, on my way to Roslyn with my new man friend, Daniel, (more on that later 😄), I went out and looked at a rural property that just came on the market. Two areas of the state that I had my eye on years ago for where I'd like to live is the Skagit Valley (north of Seattle) and Cle Elum (90 minutes east of Seattle).

This property is in the Cle Elum area. It's a little over 7 acres, has a number of outbuildings on it in addition to the home itself and has a canning shed, for crying out loud. When we drove down the gravel drive, the owner came out to greet us. He was probably wondering what the hell we were doing on his property at 7 pm (there's no way you'd accidentally go down the drive), but most likely figuring he had a live one looking at the property.

The owner offered to give us a grand tour of the house and the rest of the property and really took us in, explaining the history of the land, his wife's family's ownership, who lives where on the original 35 acre property as well as their own history and interest in retiring to Yakima.

It wasn't a property I was interested in pursuing (the house is very small and dark, the acreage is a weirdly unusable strip of land and it is too far from town), but the overt friendliness of the owners was really refreshing. I couldn't help but think their real estate agent would be horrified to learn they are divulging all the property's secrets, but maybe that's just the city girl in me.

At this point, it's just exploratory looking - I have no concrete plans to move out of Seattle immediately. My goal is to have a better idea of what I want to do over the next 6 months to a year and figure out how to get there. But, knowing me, who knows. It might happen sooner than I think!


Monday, April 22, 2019

Earth Day - Blogging Update


Getting Crunchy, 2019.
I can't believe I started this blog a little over 12 years ago. A lot has occurred since then. Most notably, in the last year my husband passed away from cancer. I know a lot of my readers followed the early days of his diagnosis and treatment and provided me with so much emotional support. I can't even relay to you how important and meaningful that was for me to be able to mentally survive such an excruciatingly difficult ordeal for my family.

After 11 years of fighting multiple myeloma, my husband passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family. I didn't post about it here because, honestly, I found it harder to tell you all than it was to just do a brief post on Facebook months after the fact and then take a long break from social media and figure out what I was going to do next with my life, without making too many big decisions.

In the intervening time since his passing, I was also laid off from work. I've spent the last two months taking a long-needed break, spending time with my kids and trying to regroup and recover from so many years of medical trauma and stress.

It's been such a roller coaster over the last year. I had switched jobs from a very stable government position to a volatile startup. During my first week of work, my husband's health dramatically took a turn for the worse and he never recovered. In the last year I've gone from having two sources of full-time income to none but I am, fortunately, in the position to take my time to discern what the next chapter of my life will look like.

On one hand, my identity is very much associated with my skills in software development. But, my heart truly lies in the realm of sustainability, green living and engaging with the rest of the world on these topics. So, it seems more than fitting to restart up my blog on Earth Day.

My goal over the next 5 months is to get back into blogging and see where that leads me. One of the reasons I stopped blogging before was because I didn't feel like I had anything new to say or contribute. Because of the changes in my life that, too, has changed and I have a lot I'd like to share with you all and can't wait to tell you all the things I am doing and have planned.

Harkening back to my first blog post, not much has changed and I hope to continue the engagement and, hopefully, the entertainment!

"This blog will cover my various wanderings through trying to add sustainable habits to my life. Things that make me feel less like I'm treading all over mother nature and perhaps lessening my footprint, carbon emissions and all that fun stuff.

In the meantime, I'll try to keep things marginally entertaining."

- The Crunchy Chicken, March 2007

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