Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Of aphid wars, mutant lettuce and balcony potatoes

It’s been a bit of an odd week around here. I’ve been trying to figure out a schedule for posting on the mighty Bitter Grounds… and like a noob, I spent so much time deciding on a schedule, I didn’t get around to publishing anything. Okay not one of my more stellar weeks. I’m doomed to remain mildly disorganised.

…. and ….. they’re back … aphids. ****ing aphids. They’ve taken up residence in one of the peppers. The others have remained untouched. I think they set up a fun fair on the leaves, complete with little Ferris wheels and bumper cars. They seem impervious to everything I’ve tried so I found a lady bug to put on the pepper, thinking I was tempting it with an aphid buffet. The ungrateful little sod wandered around the plant a few minutes and then buggered off. Guess my aphids weren’t good enough for him … her ..?? how do you sex a lady bug? I’ll have to plan my next moves carefully. I suspect the aphids have hazmat suits. That’s the only explanation for their stubborn resistance.

However, my other peppers are beginning to actually look like peppers:

Photo of pepper plants growing on my balcony

A wind storm blew off some of the markers so I haven’t a clue which pepper is which. It’ll be an adventure in the kitchen.

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Read more: Of aphid wars, mutant lettuce and balcony potatoes

Do it yourself smart phone kits - an idea ahead of it's time. #humour

I was thinking about some of the cockeyed ideas I had yesterday while I was basting on the subway and revisited the stickers for "do it yourself smartphone kits". I made a mock ad for them:

Image for a mockup ad for do it yourself smart phone kits

I just might get these made up as vinyl stickers and sell them. Would be great stocking stuffers. What do you think?  Instant smart phone service... just add imagination and a good set of lungs.



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A brainstorming session that went off the rails yesterday

I unexpectedly rec’d my first donation Wednesday evening. When the donation came in, I did a little happy dance, which, if captured on video, would be very embarrassing. Yup, I look like Snoopy doing his supper time dance. Yesterday I began to think of different ways to thank future donors and patrons (if nothing, I’m an incorrigible optimist). While trapped on the subway yesterday morning, in yet another mysterious holding pattern, my mind wandered over a number of possible options. It must have been a bit hotter than I realised. I’ve been looking over my ideas and ... seriously … Toronto you need to improve the air-conditioning on the TTC, we could have cooked rotisserie chickens down there. If my scribbles and weirdness are an indication, I must have been suffering from a bit of heat stroke.

The exercise started off innocently enough – a small thank you sent to people who subscribe or donate, hopefully something that can be nipped along via email. At one point the heat must have overwhelmed my brain cells and popped a few synapses. Here were some of my more coherent ideas:

A scribbled picture of me smiling. Yes, I drew a stick person complete with the words “O_o snicker”. I actually apologise for that one… profusely.

Certificates to give friends with built in snarky comments. This one actually has merit. I could design an entire series of Snark-o-grams that can be printed at any time.

Spray off – a spritzer bottle with “anti politician” spray in it. No idea … just … no idea whatsoever what this means.

Another scribbled drawing, this time of a coffee cup and a stick cat. Once again “I’m sorry”.

A scribbled drawing of a mobile phone captioned “This smart phone never crashes. Just tape it to a tin can, use string to connect to similar can and bingo – free phones”. No ... no… oh so no, no.

A t-shirt :“Proud patron of Bitter Grounds Magazine

                                … and no I’m not the publishers mother” That one still gives me the giggles. I must have seen it somewhere, because it rings a bell.

Buttons with the cat stamp logo I use. That one isn’t actually nutty. But that was pretty early in the brain stem meltdown. I looked at this idea last night and think it might be a keeper. 

You know, it might be fun doing a few give aways in the future as well. I thought about it earlier, but put it on the back burner while I worked on developing the content categories and developed a readership. It might be time to investigate this seriously with readership slowly climbing each week. But in the meantime, I’ll simply say “Thank you to all of my readers” and “Thank you to George for the generous donation”. Both mean a great deal and gives me the encouragement to keep writing and publishing.

Don't forget to wander by my new Facebook page and hit that like button. 

… but no scribbled pictures of stick women & cats .. sometimes you just have to draw the line somewhere.


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Was going to show you the roses on my balcony ... but how about a potato instead

It was a jaw droppingly bad week, and I struggled to write anything. The only upside to the week was watching our modest little balcony garden grow.   Good news on the aphid front - I haven't seen one in almost a week.  They little invaders seemed to enjoy the soap bath, but they didn't survive the water spritz. I put some tomato leaves in a water spritzer and sprayed the peppers and morning glories. What do you know, it worked! Not a sign of an aphid.

I'm sure if any of my neigbours are on their balconies at night, when I'm doing my perimetre check for bugs, they must think I'm a mad woman. I mutter to the plants non stop. I'm embarassed to say, I even took a photo out to one of my under-performing pepper plants to show it what it's supposed to look like. Didn't help.

The little rose bush we planted is doing surprisingly well. I wasn't sure it would. I bought it at the tail end of winter to cheer up the apartment and didn't think it would do much. It's tripled in size and beautiful, perfect little roses are now appearing. I tried to get a photo of the first rose, but I couldn't get a decent shot, no matter what I tried. The colour balance was way off and the wind is a bit much today so nothing was in focus. I'll try tomorrow.

So how about a potato instead?
 Photo of potato plant growing on my balcony

We planted a potato in the late spring, more as a joke than anything. Didn't expect it to grow and ... well ... there it is. Growing rapidly. If we get potatoes out of it, I think I might pass out from surprise. After no activity for a month, it's grown over an inch in less than a week. And yes, those are weeds. Hard to fathom, but we get quite a few weeds up here on the 20th floor. 

Quite happy, roses, potatos (ok, potato plant, no potatoes), tomatoes are starting to bud, one pepper plant is covered in itty bitty peppers, nasturiums in overdrive, cucumbers starting to show, herbs herbs herbs ... not to bad.

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The Aphid Wars: The Battle of Chili Pepper Pass has begun

Aphids to right of me,
Aphids to left of me,
Aphids in front of me
(with apologies to all Tennyson fans)

The little beggars have breached my defenses again. On routine patrol, checking the Morning Glory carefully and was lulled into a false victory. Only a few of the enemy aphids were hanging around, sluggish and easy to pick off. I flung their carcasses over the ramparts (balcony to civilians) and did my victory dance. I turned my attention to other potential weak spots in my defenses and felt satisfied all was good

But … then I spotted them  …

… aphids. APHIDS! On. My. Peppers.

The sneaky bastards skipped past the rose bush, and landed on the pepper plant with the chives moat. They must have tunneled underground, coming up under the chives. Tell-tale signs of their encroachment alerted me to the first wave’s advance. Sure enough, skulking under new leaves and on the budding peppers, they’d already laid in their defenses. Dozens of them were swarming for a full attack.

No time for a battle plan … I plunged headlong into the fight with my water bottle and blew them off. Each leaf was inspected carefully until the all clear was sounded. Tonight, when the sun goes down, I’ll return with a soap bath to get the rest.

The Battle of Chili Pepper Pass has begun.

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"Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life."

- Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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