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Friday, July 13, 2018

Laila In Action

I am an excessively proud cat owner, and I think my cat is too cute for words.  However, she is notoriously difficult to photograph; not too surprisingly, she doesn't understand the concept of staying still.  I was lucky enough to get a few decent pictures of her recently, though:

Laila brutalizing her new toy mouse.

In the process of stealing Scott's water.

The look of a cat who has gotten away with something.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

This Year's Balcony Garden

It's that time of the year again when I get to blog about my balcony garden!  I'm a real amateur gardener, but I do enjoy taking care of plants, and I'm thrilled when food results from my efforts.

This year, I started with yellow cherry tomatoes, green zebra striped tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, and the feisty free mint plant.  Things are going a little differently from last year, and I'm not always sure why:

1.  Unlike last year, the tomato plants this year are thriving.  We're already getting plenty of ripe yellow cherry tomatoes.  The green zebra tomato plant is producing less fruit (and we haven't gotten any ripe tomatoes from it yet), but at least the plant looks healthy.

2.  On the flip side, our cucumber plant was sort of a bust.  It succumbed to the aptly named powdery mildew, and we only got a few small cucumbers from the plant before that happened.  So unfortunately, we were unable to recreate last summer's bumper crop.

3.  Unlike last year, I'm not seeing as many bees on our balcony, and pollination has been a problem, particularly for our zucchini plant.  The zucchini plant appears healthy, and has both male and female blossoms, but the tiny zucchinis at the base of the female blossoms are just withering up and dying.

4.  Among fellow gardeners, that might raise the interesting question of why we have so many tomatoes.  The answer--which I learned years ago after having a healthy tomato plant that yielded exactly zero tomatoes--is that tomatoes are easy for gardeners to pollinate in the absence of bees because don't have separate male and female blossoms.  This means that pollen doesn't have to be carried from one blossom to another--agitation is sufficient.  I forget where I read this tip, but you can agitate the blossoms with an electric toothbrush (bonus points for using a cheap crummy one that you don't use to brush your teeth, of course).  I have been advised that using an electric toothbrush on my tomato plant makes me appear...eccentric, but I don't care because I'm getting a lot of yummy tomatoes.

5.  The basil is doing well (such a wonderful hardy plant!), and of course I'm delighted with my free mint plant.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day Wish

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
-Emma Lazarus

This portion of "The New Colossus,"by Emma Lazarus, is rightly famous, and often quoted.  I realize that the use of this quote may seem cliche at this point, but I really do find the words beautiful and inspiring.  To be a citizen of a country that may serve as a refuge to others is an amazing privilege and responsibility.

Like most Americans, I am descended from immigrants.  My family came from various parts of Europe.  The last of the immigrants in my family left the Netherlands in 1912.  My great grandfather was among them, along with his parents and siblings.  My great grandfather died before I was born, but I did meet his two sisters, who lived into their nineties.  I sometimes wonder if contact (however brief) with older relatives who spoke heavily accented English helped cement in my mind the concept of the US being a nation of immigrants.

I know very few details about my family's immigration story.  However, to the best of my knowledge, none of my family's immigrants were wealthy, and none of them had attained a high level of formal education.  Yet, I am the daughter of a professor and an attorney.  I myself have one master's degree, and am on the verge of starting another.  I have held several professional jobs.  I also have the privilege of living in an area with a large number of recent immigrants and seeing how they contribute to our society.

My wish for this Independence Day is for the US to live up to Emma Lazarus' beautiful poem.  Whether the people in question are central Americans fleeing gang violence, Syrians fleeing a long and brutal civil war, Yemenis fleeing a war that the US government supports (!), or anyone else who needs refuge, I hope we can open our hearts and minds to them and allow them to enrich our great country.