July Garden Update

The midwest is still going through something of a drought, and while the weather has certainly improved since having 10 consecutive days over 100 F, we still haven’t gotten much rain.

That said, the garden and chickens have mostly survived.  With regards to the garden, the peas stopped producing about a month ago.  I think we ended up with more peas than we got in Iowa last year, but not by too much.  We’ve been getting green beans for the past few weeks as well, likely getting somewhere between 10 and 12 pints-worth (Brooke has canned 8 pints thus far).  There are still more coming on, but we can already tell we won’t get anywhere near the (proportional) amount we got last year in Iowa.  Same goes for the tomatoes.  You can see in the picture above that the plants on the left are considerably smaller than those on the right.  The right-hand ones seem to be a “cherry tomato” variety, as they’re pretty small, but still taste pretty decent.  The ones on the left are the romas, the variety Brooke prefers using for canning.  Sadly, while we’ve got some on there, it sure doesn’t seem like we’ll get all that many.

Aside from beans and tomatoes, we’ve still got a good number of green peppers coming on, as well as some squash and cucumbers.  Brooke’s having to water the garden somewhat often just to keep things alive, and we’ve got a good deal of weeding to take care of sometime.  I guess, considering the weather this summer, we’re pleased with the amount of stuff we’ve gotten, but it’s still a difficult shift from last year’s bounty.

The chickens aren’t laying eggs yet, which is quite disappointing, though not terribly surprising.  Last year, the surviving chicken didn’t start laying eggs until right around now, but it’s also worth noting that chickens generally don’t like laying eggs in crazy hot weather.  I’m checking every morning to see if they’ve started laying, as the weather has cooled a little bit, but no dice yet.  Believe you me, I’m ready for some fresh eggs!

They’re nice and fat now, though, and they enjoy running around our yard.  We probably still need to clip their wings again, but aside from one (brief) escape attempt from the large, white chicken, they’ve been pretty content to stay in our yard.  The extreme heat has kept them in shady spots, though, so they tend to stay put.

Regardless, it’s a far cry from last year’s haul, but we’re making do!

Upcoming Movies

The last two years have yielded something of a famine with regards to summer movies I’m excited to see.  To be fair, the last two years have also encompassed this little thing called “fatherhood,” so I haven’t exactly had the time or money to go see as many movies as I used to.  That, and living in Iowa away from my usual movie buddy made it difficult to get to see the flicks I wanted to check out.

To be fair, last year especially didn’t really have much I was excited to see.  Within the realm of comic book features, movies like Thor, Captain America and Green Lantern didn’t really entice me to find someone to go to the theater with.  I caught most of these movies, and others, through Netflix rentals in the Fall and Spring and I don’t really think I missed all that much.

That said, now that we’ve made our triumphant return to St. Louis, I thought it best to outline the movies I’m excited to go see this Summer, provided The Wife (…and Josh’s wife…) will allow such things…  🙂

  • The Avengers (May 4, 2012) – This one is gonna rake in tons of cash, if only for the slate of actors they’ve got lined up.  Just about everyone is in this movie and it promises to blow up everything in sight.  Definitely a great way to kick off the summer blockbuster season.
  • Men In Black III (May 25, 2012) – To be honest, I don’t like the idea of effectively replacing Tommy Lee Jones with Josh Brolin. Then again, if you wanted a young looking Tommy Lee Jones, you could do worse than Josh Brolin.  I loved the first movie, but didn’t particularly care for the second one.  We’ll see how this one turns out, I guess, but I’ll probably end up seeing it.
  • Prometheus (June 1, 2012) – Billed as a loose prequel to the Alien franchise, Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi horror after a long absence.  This one probably won’t bring in the bucks as the others on this list, but I expect it’ll still be pretty awesome.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012) – I like me some Spider-man, and this re-boot takes the story back to the beginning with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy.  When I heard those two names announced, I was a bit apprehensive, but Stone’s good in just about anything she’s in and Garfield was good in The Social Network, so I’ll cut him some slack.  That, and at least in the clips I’ve seen, he seems to pull off the “wit” of the character a bit more convincingly than Tobey Maguire did.  Call me “optimistic” on this one.
  • The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012) – Uh.  I don’t need to write anything here really.  While Batman Begins was a great movie, The Dark Knight practically redefined what a “comic book movie” could be.  I will be shocked if this movie is anything less than stellar.
  • Total Recall (August 3, 2012) – To be honest, I haven’t seen the Schwarzenegger version in quite awhile, but the trailer for this one, this time with Colin Farrell, could be good.  The effects look pretty sweet and it’s got a good slate of actors.  My only concern is that Len Wiseman is directing it, mostly known for the Underworld franchise, so while I’m hopeful this movie turns out to be good, I won’t be too surprised if it’s “middling,” at best.
  • The Bourne Legacy (August 3, 2012) – So, as I was compiling this list, I saw this movie coming up.  I’d heard they were continuing the franchise without Matt Damon, but didn’t realize it was coming up already.  Jeremy Renner will be carrying on as a new character, though some old favorites from the previous movies will show up, too (Renner is also in The Avengers, earlier in the summer, so he’s packing quite a payday this year).  It’s a strong series of movies, so as long as they stick with the fiction, it’ll probably be alright.  There’s a bit of concern, though, as Paul Greengrass isn’t directing these (he did the previous three), but it is being directed by the guy that was involved with writing the earlier movies, so at least there’s some pedigree there.  Again, I’m hopeful for this one.


“I love it when a plan comes together.”

Back on June 24th, I was informed that money was getting tight and that I should start looking for other opportunities elsewhere.  Obviously, this news wasn’t exactly welcome, as the timing of it effectively prevented me from being able to jump directly into a teaching position somewhere (as those positions are almost all filled by the end of June).  As I’ve posted before on the blog, we made the decision that Brooke would go back to work in St. Louis in mid-July to help ensure that we would have health insurance in case I had to leave my position in Iowa before I found something down in St. Louis.

Long story short, there weren’t many options.  I may write at greater length about this in the future, but basically, most industry positions want people less qualified than I am.  As in, folks with bachelor’s degrees.  I applied to practically every industrial company in St. Louis that did pharmaceutical work, including some generic chemical companies, but in the majority of cases, I never heard anything back.  I did have a strong option with Monsanto (that I will definitely write more about later), but that fell through after the third interview.

Thankfully, I came upon another option at Washington University, so last week, I accepted a position as a postdoc in a lab in their Department of Psychiatry.  I’ll be doing work that is radically different from what I’ve done in the past, so there’s going to be a steep learning curve, even moreso than the one I had here at Iowa.  Still, I will continue to work with catecholamines, so at least some of the work will be familiar to me.  I’ll write more about this once I’m down there.

This post is mostly with regards to the timeline.  My position will start November 1, so the current plan is that we’ll be moving down to St. Louis on October 22 to a house off of Kingshighway in south St. Louis City.  The house is a shade smaller than we have now, but it has a two-car garage, a fenced in yard for Edie, and has enough bedrooms that we can surely find room for everyone, as well as have guests over from time to time.  And the pantry is huge.  And it’ll have a dishwasher and a garbage disposal (which we’ve lived without since living in Iowa).  Brooke will work that following week while Meg and I get our bearings and take a little time off.  Meg will start at her new daycare on October 31.

I guess we’ll have to send her in a costume on her first day?

So the plan is set in motion.  We’ve got a few weeks to finalize everything, and my Dad and Brooke’s Mom were very helpful in boxing lots of stuff up this past weekend, so I think we’re on pretty solid footing for jumping state lines again.

Almost 4 months after getting the news, and after 3 months of living most of the week apart, we will be back together in St. Louis again.

As Hannibal Smith is so fond of saying: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Who’da thought?

As Brooke is out of town most of the week, I’m generally left to my own devices, yet I still have to tend the garden.  My Mom frequently reminds me that she finds this baffling and amusing, as I’m probably the last person she ever thought she’d see gardening.

Especially green beans.

I’m somewhat notorious for my dislike of green beans.  To be fair, I have found them progressively more acceptable in my old age, but they are still the last vegetable I could ever want to see on my plate.  That said, getting them fresh from the garden, and somewhat “crispy,” is probably the best way to have them.

Mom picked some beans last week, amassing not quite an ice cream bucket full of them.  While she was picking, she pointed out which ones were probably good enough and which ones should stay on for another day or two before picking.  Using her imparted wisdom, I picked green beans for the first time ever, so far as I know.  We had some beans last year, but if I recall, Brooke picked them every time.  As you can see above, I ended up with almost two buckets full this time, and we’ve got quite a few more ready to pick in another few days, depending on how much sun they get (it rained some last night and is supposed to again over the next few days).

Being the wonderful husband I am, I even cut them and bagged them.  Now, this is definitely the first time I ever did this part of the job.  Brooke usually processes and cans the beans, but that’s right about where I draw the line.  I’ll stem them, since I can watch TV while I do it.  I won’t be canning them, though, so these will remain in the refrigerator until someone comes up here to eat them.

Brooke will return on Thursday night, so I’ll probably go out again and try to pick some more that night and leave them for her to process on Friday.  Considering how many beans were still on the plants, I think she’ll have more than enough to make it worth canning.

As a brief aside, the tomatoes are looking pretty awesome, with a few large ones turning a darker green color.  I imagine we’ll have a pretty huge crop of them in the next few weeks!

Our New Reality

As some of you may have heard by now, my position at the University of Iowa is, unfortunately, coming to an end sooner than planned.  I had hoped it would last into 2012, but alas, funding shortages are moving the schedule up to the point where I can probably only stay here into October (though no specific date has been set).  While this, obviously, isn’t the greatest of news, I’m trying to take it in stride and view it as an opportunity to move on to bigger and better things.

Sadly, there isn’t much up in our area for my education and training level, so far as teaching or industry prospects go.  Therefore, we’ll be making the move back to St. Louis.  Luckily, Brooke was able to secure a position at her old job, Bridges Community Support Services, practically the same day I told her the news.  They are more than happy to get her back, as they’re going through the Survey process again like they do every few years (effectively, it’s a State audit of their services and records).  She has frequently commented about how she missed working there, so she’s excited to get back to work with those individuals!

As a part of this situation, we made the decision for Brooke to go ahead and start at Bridges as soon as she could.  Therefore, she started on July 18th.  Basically, this means that we’ll be living apart for the near future.  She’ll still return to Iowa on Thursdays, or we’ll meet up in Hannibal occasionally for the weekend, as that’s the half-way point.  Brooke will be staying with her sister, who also works in the area.  Meg will be staying with me here in Iowa, as daycare is substantially cheaper here than it is in St. Louis.  My Mom was kind enough to come visit for this week to help transition me into “semi-single parent” mode, and Meg will stay with Brooke’s parents for a few days next week before starting at daycare again.

Me staying up here a bit longer will also ensure we actually get something out of that garden we’ve worked so hard on!

Hopefully this transition won’t take too long.  Believe me, this strategy isn’t the ideal way to carry this out, but we’re going to make the best of it.  Again, this wasn’t exactly “The Plan,” but we’re looking at it as an opportunity to return to the friends we made over the 5 years we lived there, and to be closer to family that want to see their granddaughter/niece more often!  I’ve applied to various positions in the St. Louis area and have some contacts across the city that are keeping their eyes and ears open for me.  I should start hearing back on the first crop of applications in the next week or so, I hope.  Certainly, all your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

Thus, we’ll probably post some updates here over the coming weeks (hopefully not months…).  We see this as “fate,” of sorts, as many of our close friends are moving back to the St. Louis area and things are aligning relatively well for our return…with the notable exception of me having a job, of course.

So, this is our “New Reality” for the time being.  Certainly not a perfect situation, but one we know we have support in dealing with.

What point could there be troubling?
Head down wondering what will become of me?
Why concern we cannot see
But no reason to abandon it
The time is short but that’s all right
Maybe I’ll go in the middle of the night
Take your hands from your eyes, my love
All good things must come to an end some time
But don’t burn the day away
Don’t burn the day away.

— “Pig;”  Dave Matthews Band

Garden Update

We put in a decent amount of time in the garden last week, though Brooke’s been out there most days this week weeding. Needless to say, with a garden this size, it’s almost a full time job if you really want to keep all weeds out of it. For the most part, we’ve just kept weeds out of the western portion of the garden and are letting the corn go, as it’s getting big enough that we can barely get between the rows anymore.

Here’s the second half of the pea crop. Last year, the peas did absolutely nothing, so getting just about two buckets like this is an improvement. Took us longer than expected to shell all of this while watching “Modern Family” last night!

In the future, we’ll probably have to plant peas even sooner. These went in the ground in early May, but it probably needs to go in even sooner, even with the risk of an Iowa frost. Hopefully Meg still loves peas next summer!

The tomatoes are starting to come on, with small little green ones like this on practically every plant (pictured in the top image…we’ve got something like 16 of them, in various varieties). Nothing edible yet, but we’ll have plenty soon enough!

The beans (green ones to the right, soup beans to the left) are doing alright. The plants aren’t all that large yet, but we’ve got buds on the green beans, so they’ll start producing relatively soon. Brooke spaced these rows apart pretty well, so it’s somewhat easy to get in there with a hoe and take care of weeds. And believe you me, we see plenty of weeds between those rows…

The corn got its “tassels” this week, but still isn’t as tall as Brooke’s parents’ corn down in Hannibal. This is our first year trying to grow corn, so anything we get will be a “bonus,” so far as I’m concerned. We’ve got 4 rows that we planted earlier than the two on the right (tassel-less), so hopefully that spreads out the corn harvest a tad bit. We’re starting to see a corn stand or two as you drive around the area, so it appears that other people’s garden crop aren’t too far behind.

This is a “Meg,” growing beneath the broccoli. While Meg is developing pretty well, the broccoli isn’t doing as well as I’d like. We have a row of plants this big, but we only have one plant that we’ve found so far that has any actual broccoli on it. Brooke’s parents had some fresh broccoli off their plants over the July 4th holiday that was wonderful, but ours doesn’t appear to be doing that well.

Regardless, the garden is doing alright. As per last year, the tomatoes will probably do the best out of everything, but we’re starting to see some results from the crop as a whole!

A Good Weekend

Jason and Stu at Jones Park

Stu has been meaning to come up and visit since we moved up here over a year ago, so now that he’s shifting jobs and moving in the next few weeks, he was able to get some extra time for the 4.5 hour trip from Columbia to Swisher.  We time this such that Meg was in Hannibal for last week with her grandparents, then Brooke went down Friday night to get her.  Needless to say, Stu and I got into only a little bit of trouble…

Mostly, the weekend was taken up by games, BBQ and frolfing.  Lots of frolfing.  I haven’t played this much in years.

Jason joined us for Saturday’s romp around Cedar Rapids.  We hit up Jones Park first, followed by Shaver Park.  Both were 18-hole courses, where the first (picture above) had a good number of open spaces, while Shaver Park was almost entirely in thick forest.  Thankfully, we played Shaver second, as it was getting rather sunny and hot out.  On Sunday afternoon, when it was infinitely more hot and humid out, we “only” played another 18-hole course, Legion Park.  I guess you could say that Legion offered the most variety of the three courses we played this weekend, but it was so disorganized that it was probably the worst experience we had the whole time.  The signs were few and far between and the holes didn’t seem to be organized in any logical order (i.e. we played through hole 6, couldn’t find hole 7, found hole 10 after doing holes 11-14, and play hole 17 and 18 before finding 15 and 16…ug…).

Regardless, my legs are pretty tired after all that.  Good times, though.

"What's for dinner?"

The weather held together pretty well the whole weekend.  We BBQed Friday night while the ladies were out of town, then again on Saturday night after they returned from Hannibal.  Brooke’s thus far unnamed chicken even came over to visit while we were sitting by the grill.  This is the first weekend we’d seen the chicken venture that far from the coop, but it was nice to see her out and about.

Margaret Jean Linsenbardt, circa 1932

Meg was mostly in good spirits, but she needed to “reset” her sleeping clock after a week with grandma.  She slept until around 6:15 am on Sunday morning, but made it until around 7:30 Monday morning, so it didn’t take too long to get her back on our usual schedule.  Now that she’s “toddling” much more effectively, she’s also getting in to things we don’t really want her to.  Case in point, she has discovered Brooke’s pots of dirt, and loves tossing them in the air and on herself.  I grabbed this picture above and Stu suggested a “sepia hue” to pull out the dust bowl aesthetic.  I think it worked pretty well.

Not sure how this makes her parents look, though…

There's a game controller beneath that tail...

Otherwise, much console gaming was had.  We really weren’t up all that late playing, which is probably just a testament to the fact we’re getting older…or the copious amounts of beer we were having…  We played through almost all of Killzone 3 in the co-op campaign, only to have the save file get corrupted at the second-to-last chapter of the game.  Grrrrr…  Otherwise, we played quite a bit of Mortal Kombat and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, so I think we did a good job scratching the “heavy game session” itch.

In all, a pretty spectacular weekend.  Thanks for visiting, buddy.

Good Day for Baseball

We have been meaning to get to a baseball game in Cedar Rapids for awhile now.  Never quite made it last summer, but then again, we had a 6 mo old, so it wasn’t exactly the ideal place to be going on a hot, summer day.  However, with Meg staying with her Grandparents in Missouri this week, we took the opportunity on Memorial Day to take in a ball game at Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor league team (a Los Angeles Angels farm team).

Firstly, let me start by saying that tickets are cheap for these games.  They range from $7 to $10, depending on if you want lawn, bleacher or standard seating.  We opted for bleacher seats ($8 each), though in retrospect, the extra $1 would have been worth it (more on that shortly).  The food/beer prices were also pretty good.  $3 for peanuts, $3.50 for nachos, $4 for a 16 oz beer and $7 for a 32 oz beer.  With regards to beer, while they had your standard A-B, Miller and Coors fare, they also had a selection of other varieties, from Fat Tire to Blue Moon to Leinenkugel’s.  Enough to suit just about any taste.

As you can see above, the stadium itself is relatively small.  Again, we were in the bleacher seats when I took that picture, but you can tell that we were practically sitting on home base.  Unfortunately, however, the bleachers have absolutely no shade whatsoever.  And when it’s 87 F and sunny, that can get tiresome.  It would have been worth the extra $1 to move to actual seats, with the promise of some shade.  We did have our 30 SPF sunscreen on, though, and for the most part, we got out of it unscathed.

The other downside that I certainly didn’t anticipate was the length of the game.  Granted, I tend to expect spending maybe 3 hours at a baseball game, though games are shorter or longer than that, too.  We were sitting there for 2 hours and we had made it through the 4th inning (we got there a bit early…but still…).  The problem, of course, was that the teams weren’t hitting anything – they would go through all counts, strikes and balls, and get bases loaded without bringing any of the runners home.  At the time, the Kernels weren’t doing all that well, and we were sun baked, so we decided to leave.

Of course, as can be expected, the Kernels ended up winning.  The Peoria Chiefs (a Chicago Cubs farm team) were up 0-3 when we left, and by the end of the game, the Kernels won 7-5.  I guess they just needed a few warm up innings?

All in all, we had a good time.  The prices were good, the stadium was easily accessible, and the atmosphere was pretty good.  I’d like to go back, but I’d either a). pick a night game, or b). spend a few bucks extra for some shade.  I can’t fault the team for those particular blunders on my part, though.

A good way to spend Memorial Day, though.  Sun, beer and baseball.  Can’t go wrong.

Two Hours Well Spent

As I’m sure Mom would tell you, I was never really eager to mow the lawn back in high school.  I would certainly do it, and do a reasonable job at it, but I was never asking Dad, “hey, can I mow the lawn for you?”  In the past year, however, I’ve found that I kinda missed it.  Back in Kirksville or St. Louis, I never had the opportunity or the need to mow any lawns.  For all intents and purposes, I hadn’t actually mowed a lawn in about 10 years before moving to Iowa.  A lot changes in a decade, and apparently, over that decade, I learned to enjoy mowing.

We have a pretty large yard up here in Iowa, and only a self-propelled push mower to do it with (plus an electric trimmer).  It takes me almost 2 hours to mow the whole thing, usually.  Thankfully, the yard is pretty flat, except for a plethora of molehills.  When I tell people up here that I do this lawn with a push mower, they get wide-eyed, probably chuckling in their heads with disbelief.  Somehow, I don’t really see it the same way.

Mowing the lawn has become an excuse to go outside for me and get disconnected.  No need for my headphones, no need for my TV, no need for my computer.  I can’t really use those things while I’m mowing (I probably could use headphones, but I’d have to turn them up loud enough that I’d hasten my need for hearing aides, so I’m avoiding them in this case).  It’s one of the few times that I force myself to go without any form of technology, let alone one of the few times I ever get any exercise.

I will probably change my tune by August, but right now, there’s nothing like sitting down with a beer while surveying a freshly trimmed yard after 2 hours of work.

Oh, and here’s a random picture of Brooke and Meg. 🙂