Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dragon Challenge

So I've been using speech recognition quite a bit lately, especially on the new iPad. This is appropriate, I suppose, since I do work for a speech recognition company. I love the Dragon Dictate app (get it now while it's still free), and I've really fallen hard for Siri, the "personal assistant" app. This thing is awesome! You say what you want to know, and it finds it for you, or does errands for you.

Want a dinner reservation? "Find a table for two at 5:00 near here." After displaying what it thinks you've asked, and you confirm its accuracy, it searches. Next thing you know, it's showing you available reservations on Open Table. You pick what you want, and you've got reservations.

"What's playing in Imax?" "Where's the nearest supermarket."

"Tweet I'm heading out for dinner and a movie." Yes, it will post it on Twitter for you.

"Remind me to pick up tomatoes after work." It will prompt you for a date and time, and will then email you the message on schedule.

I did just stump the Dragon recognition engine, though. I'll admit, it was a challenging dictation. I wanted to create a note in SimpleNote (another cool app I found today), listing the take out order I was about to place. I decided to say it in Dragon and then copy it to SimpleNote. What I said was:

"Samba style tuna salsa
El topo maki
Spicy tuna tortilla maki
Hibachi filet with fried rice
Fried gyoza"

What it came up with was:

"So much time to cell phone and tempo monkey spicy tuna tortilla month killed so you may have thought she was fried rice."

Oh well, most people would have had a hard time deciphering what I had said, and the output was quite entertaining. Other than this, the recognition has been quite accurate, though I haven't tried it on anything lengthy. Perhaps the next blog post will be dictated.

And remember - watch the tempo when with your monkey, or you may be mistaken for a fried grain.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Four Raised Beds

I spent quite a bit of time, and some bit of money, at Lowes yesterday, equipping myself for the raised gardens. I'm traveling for business on Tuesday through Friday and am hoping to schedule a loam/compost delivery next Saturday, so today was building day.

After much perusing of bird things, garden things, lawn furniture and power tools, I grabbed a couple of boxes of exterior screws and twenty-four 1 inch x 12 inch x 4 foot boards, cashed out and loaded them all into Julie's Subaru. She took my smaller Mini Cooper to the golf course for the day and enjoyed driving in the sun with the top down.

Then I went back in for some bird seed, cracked corn and seeds for sweet basil, parsley and oregano. I know, I know - how many seed packets do I need? Clearly, I don't care to distinguish need from want at this point.

Once I got home, I decided to put off the actual construction until today. But today I got out there with my corded drill and outdoor extension cord (I longingly eyed the cordless drills yesterday but am sticking it out with my twenty-something year old Black and Decker that I received as a gift while in college), the boards, the box of screws, a kneeling pad, my iPod and headphones. And here are the results:

That's the little cherry tree to the right just above them.  It's budding out quite nicely.

Next weekend I'll line the beds with cardboard and newspapers, then haul up the loam/compost that will hopefully be in the driveway by then.

For those of you inclined towards mathematics - you're right.  Those are only sixteen boards, not the aforementioned twenty-four.  The remaining eight are for two raised beds in the front of the house, but I need to rake out very old (previous homeowner old) decorative mulch and unearth the landscaping plastic before I can put those beds in place, and I'm just too fracking worn out at this point.  But good for you for noticing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cherry Tree Attended To

First off, let me note that I'm listening to the American Idols songs I've purchased so far from this season.  Crystal Bowersox rocks the house, and the studio versions are totally worth the purchase.  Okay, on to gardening.

After leaving it nestled in its box in the garage for a few days until the pouring rain passed, this evening after work I planted the cherry in its new home, off the southeast corner of the house.

But first, check out the new growth the raspberries are putting forth:

Raspberry Growth

Now, back to the tree. You may recall that I posted previously on the fact that I stood right next to the box in the garage without paying it any mind. Here's the visual:

Tree in a Box

Yes, this box is as tall as me. Okay, now let's get everything loaded into the wheelbarrow and haul it up the hill around the side of the house and to the designated planting spot...

But wait - first a picture of the daffodils that finally decided to bloom:


Okay, back to the wheelbarrow:

Tools of the Tree

I've got the organic garden soil, the shovel, kneeling pad and of course the tree. Again heeding the information I absorbed all winter, I dug the hole both deep and wide, to give the little roots plenty of loose soil in which to spread themselves. Once more, this shovel does a great job of slicing through the lawn:

Digging a Hole

After lots of digging, prying out rocks, dumping and mounding dirt and so on, I proudly present - the tree!

It's a Tree
The Tree Neighborhood

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Unnoticed Arrival of the Cherry Tree

"Why is the door open?" This is the question Julie posed as we pulled up the street to our house last evening. I tore myself away from the Sookie Stackhouse novel on my iPhone to look up and see that the front door was closed. It's also still proudly bearing the VIP ENTRANCE sign we posted for the Oscar Party, but that's beside the point.

More to Julie's point was that the garage door on her side was indeed open. It has a motion sensor, and there was a leaf dangling from a cobweb that had caused the door to reverse just before it had touched down in the morning. We hadn't noticed, as once we saw the door moving down we had driven off to begin the work week. Our bad.

After we pulled into the garage, I hopped out, captured the leaf and associated spider silk, and returned them to the great outdoors, where they belong. Then I went in to start dinner while Julie went back out to pick up the laundry (an occasional treat - the wash, dry and fold place).

"Is that the cherry tree in the garage?" This is the question Julie posed as she came up the stairs bearing a bag of neatly folded laundry.

"Tree? What tree? Where?"

She replied that it was in the middle of the garage. The only out of the ordinary thing I had seen was the box with the dead steering pump, but that was way too small to be mistaken for a freakin' tree, plus it was against the side wall, not in the middle.

So I tore myself away from the Soyrizo, beans and rice as well as from the gardening podcast I had playing on the kitchen mini speakers, to go down to the garage and investigate.


There, between the two garage doors and directly next to the motion sensor was a six foot tall, three-sided narrow box clearly marked LIVE PLANT. How I had stood next to it and then walked right on by, I have no idea.

Of course, it was pitch dark by then, so planting was not on the dinner menu. And today it's raining. I guess this evening I'll be breaking out the raincoat, rainpants and totally awesome neoprene and rubber gardening boots with the dragonflies printed all over them so I can get that tree settled into its new home.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Raspberry Planting

I'm sure you'll be relieved to learn that I got the little raspberry twigs planted snugly into their new home, hopefully without any lasting trauma to them (or to myself).

The night they arrived I had nothing in which to plant them, other than the lawn.  I thought they'd need something more than that after their journey from Territorial Seeds.  The next night was bowling night, so they had to stay in their temporary cardboard crib for another day.  Then Thursday after work Julie and I stopped by Lowe's on the way home (carpooling due to Mini issues) and picked up some topsoil/compost mix.  I wanted to go to Russell's Garden Center in Wayland, but with all the rain we had last weekend and their close proximity to the Sudbury River, we couldn't get to them.  Had I been by myself I probably would have persevered and gone the REALLY long way to get there, but when carpooling with Julie, the shortest route and time spent is generally the best.  This is particularly true when it involves yard and garden themed events.

Four very heavy bags later, we finished our drive home and I went to work.

I brought out the raspberry shipping box from the kitchen, then emerged from the garage with a pair of gloves and assorted gardening tools, and set them down on the field of battle:

The Tools

Next, time to unpack the plants:
The Bundle The Twigs

Hard to believe these are going to turn into a thriving raspberry patch, eh?  Now came the sweaty portion of the evening - digging the holes.  I used the straight edge of the shovel to cut into the turf and then to undercut it so I could yank it out in chunks.  I did take the time to knock back some of the dirt and as many worms as I could spot, so they could continue their good deeds for the soil.  Then the grass chunks went into the purple bucket (since the wheelbarrow was full of the Lowe's dirt) for later transport to the back of the house.  I think I got better as I went along, and the second through fifth plantings seemed to end up with larger holes and bigger mounds.  But I'm sure they'll all do just fine. Here you can see the first one in the ground, with the second one underway, then the second one all done:

One Down, Four to Go Raspberry Two

I like this shovel, as the top of the blade has two little platforms on which I can jump/stand to push the blade into the ground.  I would have been in serious trouble if I'd had to rely on my shoulder muscles rather than throwing my formidable weight into it.

Fast forward to an hour later:
The Blurry Row Focus on One Planted, View from Living Room

Okay, that last one's from the next morning.  Since I started this after work and after the side trip to the big box store, it was getting dark by the time I packed up to go back inside.  Thank goodness for the clocks having jumped ahead the previous weekend, or I would have been doing this by the glow of the solar driveway lights!

Of course, once the plants were in the ground I still had to haul the turf clumps around to the back.  My, my, but those things are heavy!  I had to use the purple bucket to gather them in sets and dump them into the wheelbarrow, and then I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get the wheelbarrow up the hill on the side of the house.  But I persevered, and soon was able to unceremoniously dump the clumps around back to dry out.  In a couple of days I'll toss them into the woods.

Yes, I know I still need to add a support system for them.  However, I don't expect them to shoot up two feet before next weekend, so just back the hell off.

Julie was kind enough to take on making dinner and cleaning the litter box while I was out in the yard.  Good thing, because by the time I finished I would have settled for a handful of granola and the litter box would have been ignored.

SO - the landscaping and gardening makeover has begun.  Although Territorial Seeds didn't give me any heads up about the raspberries, I did get an email on Friday that another package of live plant(s) had shipped.  No indication of what.  I checked the website, and since the asparagus crowns don't ship until mid-April, it must be the cherry tree.  I have two bags of the Stuff from Lowe's left, so that should do nicely.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Orphan Raspberries on the Doorstep

Last evening I arrived home to find five baby raspberry bushes swaddled in plastic and cardboard and left on my doorstep. Okay, so they were from Territorial Seeds, and I ordered them back during the mid-winter inaugural seed catalog fest. But I'm not ready for them yet! I thought I'd have another week or two to get the planting area ready. Now I live in fear that I'll come home to find twenty-five asparagus crowns also waiting. And a little cherry tree. I'm not ready!!!!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In the course of trying to figure out what happened with the long post on the down events with associated up events, I encountered another up.  The Blogpress app claimed it posted, but it in fact had not.  The post wasn't even listed in the history in the app, which is usually complete.  While checking the various settings to see if I had screwed something up, I discovered the facebook and twitter connect features.  I set them up, and now I can easily send links to posts to my facebook and twitter accounts.  Yet another plus from a minus.

The biggest plus from a minus today, though: after spending 6.5 hours at the Apple Store or wandering the mall waiting for some procedure or another to be attempted on Julie's MacBook, including a 1 hour and 52 minute call with Apple Support (including a brief conversation with an actual iTunes representative - which is apparently unheard of - I let the Apple Store Genius who was assisting us get on the phone because he was acting like we had a direct line to god), Julie's iTunes is now fully functional once again.

But bottom line - how could the day be all that bad?  I started it off by pre-ordering an iPad, followed up by listening to some of my favorite gardening podcasts.  Can it really get any better than that?

I Guess I'm Over It Now

I just wrote a fairly long post about the various events conspiring to bring me down, followed by a list of the corresponding brighter side to each.

Yeah, the post supposedly went up, but it's gone.

Oh well, no point in wallowing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Garden Planning is Hard Work

I'm worn out from thinking, sketching, looking out the window, reading seed packets, thinking some more... you get the idea.  I'm trying to turn the garden thoughts in my head into an actual plan.  Last weekend I lost myself in the world of the Territorial Seeds website, for the first time ever, and on Sunday morning I had Julie review my selections.  After a few additions, we submitted the order, and the magical package arrived Thursday afternoon!

At the bottom of the pile you can see that they thoughtfully included a hard copy catalog, so I can peruse from the comfort of my living room chair.  They think of everything!

After pulling out the various packets, I began having what I've dubbed Gardener's Panic.  It's akin to Buyer's Remorse, but without any actual remorse.  It's just an overwhelming feeling of, "Oh god, what have I done?  Where am I going to plant all of these things?  When will I plant them?  What will I start inside and what will I direct sow?"  But this weekend I've begun tackling those questions head on, so I don't sink into an abyss of overwhelmed indecision.  I always feel better once I actually do something tangible rather than just rolling the questions and options over and over and over in my brain tumbler.  

So, what did we get?  I hear you thinking the question.  Here goes:

Seeds (mostly organic and/or heirloom):
Arcadia broccoli
Christmas basil
Black plum tomato
Boothby's blonde cucumbers
Carrots (tossed in by Territorial as a bonus)
Green ice lettuce
Green zebra tomato
Grow the Best Asparagus (book)
Guardsman onion (scallion style)
Ellagance purple lavender
Lady lavender
Lemon cucumber
Midnight ruffles lettuce
Royal burgundy bean
Silvery fir tree tomato
Creeping thyme

Live plants, shipping in warmer weather:
Lapins cherry tree
Purple passion asparagus crowns (25) 
Royalty raspberry plants (5)

Are you sharing my panic yet?  Have no fear, I've sketched out the start of a plan.  Five (maybe six) 3x8 raised beds along the side of the house, the raspberry bushes along the back wall, lavender along the front walk, some lettuce and broccoli under the living room window, cherry tree near the southern property line, behind the raised beds.  I'm also thinking of a raised bed island type garden in the front lawn for the lupine seeds I picked up last summer.  

With all these raised beds, I surfed around to price what it might cost to get some actual dirt with which to fill these yet-to-be-constructed beds, and after calculating the cubic yardage I'll likely require, found a place in the next town that seems reasonable, and will deliver what appears to be a nice loam-compost blend.  Julie asked if they would deliver it right into the raised beds, and when I told her that they would dump it in the driveway and then I'd spend the weekend hauling it to the beds in the wheelbarrow, her face alternated between horror and hysterics, but she finally settled on, "Oh, yuck!"

Still deciding what to do on the other side of the house and driveway.  One of last year's first-attempt gardens in the northeast corner is being handed over to the strawberries, which I transplanted from their containers in the fall.  It's also partial shade, so we'll see what happens there.  The other garden, right behind it, is being returned to lawn since it's what started my first property dispute with my neighbor, who feels that a corner of the garden is over the never-actually-marked property line.  

Julie's pushing for the flower garden around the mailbox, but that just seems so done to me.   Of course we'll have lots of container herbs on the back deck, for easy access from the kitchen, but the deck only gets a few hours of sun in the late morning and early afternoon.  I'm also thinking of either some large containers or small raised beds of herbs scattered alongside the house and driveway, and/or in little garden islands here and there.  Anything to reduce the lawn!  


Clearly I have more to ponder.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What To Do?

It's a cold Sunday in New England with nothing on the schedule.  There are many enticing options, however:

  • Catch up on TV and DVD's: American Idol, Caprica, Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, BSG: The Plan, Star Trek VI
  • Bake something (or many things)
  • Transpose that googlemaps satellite shot of my yard into a template for garden planning
  • Actually do garden planning
  • Read some of the garden blogs I've recently started reading
  • Sift through the people I'm following on Twitter, to weed out the inactive ones or those that I just don't actually find as interesting as I had thought they might be
  • Pat my cat for hours on end (he requested that I add this to the list)
  • Play Wii Fit Plus (the healthy alternative to almost every other option on the list)
  • Order seeds and plant starts
  • Upload all the pictures that have accumulated on my cameras (iPhone and digital SLR)
  • Read some of the travel blogs I've been neglecting
  • Reorganize my office (who am I kidding?)
  • Read some of the books that are piling up next to my chair
So many choices.  I think a good place to start would be a nice cup of tea.  After all, it is a cold Sunday morning in New England.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Babka Success

The Babka Experiment was a success!  As noted in my previous (first) post, I had neither milk nor eggs, and it was just too freaking cold to go to the store, so I substituted what I had on hand on this day after returning from vacation: pumpkin spice soy milk and egg beaters.  The result: delicious babka that actually had no hints of pumpkin to it, or spice other than the designated cinnamon.  Click the shots below of the beginning and the finished product to see the full photo set.

Take Me to the River

I had a blog for several years, while I was in law school and after graduation.  I talked about life as a project manager by day/law student by night, about tv shows, movies, the world, etc.  But after a while I lost focus on it and drifted away.  It became a place where I would periodically link to flickr photo albums and occasionally tell an amusing story.

So I looked for something new.  I then decided to try a one year "try new stuff" project, where every day for a year I would have to try at least one new thing - a new food, a new activity, a new destination, etc.  It was fun for a bit, and I now am more likely to try out new things on a day to day basis (I can be a real creature of habit sometimes), but the blog itself was too limiting, and I stopped after 35 posts.

But I miss blogging.  What's a geek to do?  What she does best: ramble on about whatever happens to be on her mind at that moment.  It could be the planning for next year's garden, the latest episode of a show on SyFy, a tale from the road on a business trip or vacation, or the details on whatever fabulous thing is in progress in the kitchen.

Current items possibly coming soon:

  • Friday's episode of Dollhouse.  Saunders!  Bennett!  Boyd????  Eeek! 
  • The Vibram FiveFinger shoes that arrived this week.  Very cool
  • The get together later today with friends from... um... yeah - 30 or so years in the past.
  • The babka experiment.  
Let's just get started with the babka experiment now.  Jules and I just got back from vacation, so of course we have neither milk nor eggs.  I want to make a cinnamon babka, but the current temperature is -1 F outside (-18 C), so the thought of venturing out really isn't appealing to me at this particular moment. What I do have in the fridge are Egg Beaters and Pumpkin Spice soy milk.  A match made in heaven or a small slice of hell?  I'll let you know.