Disability Adaptations Progress Report South 36 (Community Garden)

Labels, Labels, Labels

Just a short progress report to say I did get some plant labels and braille them. I tried them in my braille writer but they slipped around too much and kept brailling over what was already brailled. (I know you can apparently get a tape label attachment for a braille writer, but I don’t have one and don’t know whether it would work for such short “tape” anyway.) So it was the good old fashioned slate and stylus that came through. I had to push pretty hard, though.

All my attempted methods of labeling these little plastic suckers. A braille writer on the left, a crazy slate that I won in a door prize at a convention that allows you to do braille from left to right and not in reverse (but the labels were too thick for it.) and a standard slate and stylus, which requires me to emboss from right to left and in reverse.
The winning strategy, a standard slate and stylus. I don’t use a slate very often, but I am very glad I have this skill. Its the only thing that always works for stuff like this.
A couple of my peat pots labeled with braille plastic markers. These say “pepper.”

In other news, I have heard that because of all the shut downs, we still don’t have water at the community gardens. This creates a little dilemma. It still does rain a good deal right now, so I could plant things (was planning to start after our frost date in early April.) and let the rain take care of them. Or I could start everything I was going to plant there, here. But I’d have to go down there and get some soil for little starter plants, carry them back, carry them there, etc. etc. I know some people are hauling their own water, but they have cars. I can’t figure out how to haul that much water for beginning planting a mile without a car. But we will see what happens in the next couple of weeks. Maybe the water will turn on. I’ve emailed the garden manager guy just to say hi, but have not heard back.

I’m also in email communication with a permaculture design guy. We are trying to see if we can set up a remote consultation. My main goal there, besides just learning, is to get advice on the best use of the small amount of land I have.

Finally, my marigolds and wildflowers in the pot are growing. So, my first signs of success is not food, but I will take it.

This terra cotta pot has a few green sprouts coming out of it. The official start of my garden!
Disability Adaptations Food Preservation Life in General

What a Weird Day

The world has shut down and its snowing (a slight bit) in mid-March. Strange. I’ve been sick (no, I do not think I’m THAT kind of sick. I think I just have a cold with fatigue and a headache…no fever, no cough) so because many of my friends are people with suppressed immunity or other health issues and I am a person with other health issues, I have pretty much sequestered myself to home.

A conversation with my kids:

Me: I’ve never seen anything like this before (the response of the world to self-quarantine during the COVID 19 crisis.)

Aaron: Even during the Spanish Flu Pandemic?

Me: How old do you think I am????

My kids have always been homeschooled, so we already know how to schedule ourselves and be disciplined about self-learning. In some ways, things won’t be that much different. But the outside classes they have gone to have been canceled, Boys and Girls Club is closed, and my one son did choose to attend an alternative high school program this year (where they largely sort of set their own agenda) and he is now home for the next 2.5 weeks at least. For me, it means that I will have kids 24 hours a day. I usually had kids in the mornings, but in the afternoons and on Wednesdays all day except lunch time, I had no kids. It was the time when I worked on work and other things. So, for me, its 24 hour kids. But we will still continue to do school in the mornings as always, and they will have to entertain themselves in the afternoon.

I’ve had to be a little creative about getting groceries, since–ahem–all the healthy people with cars have gone out and hoarded everything in the stores and not left much for those who have more difficulty getting groceries like–ahem–the disabled, sick and financially vulnerable. But I think we will be ok. We usually shop once a week via Shipt delivery service, but drivers are hard to come by now and even then, there is not a lot at any single store you can send them to. So, I am trying to diversify my shopping. Nik walked up with the wheel cart to New Seasons (expensive, posh store) and got some things last night. We will do a Safeway delivery in a few days (more expensive, but possibly more reliable.) I am not sure what amount of groceries they will end up delivering. We also put in a Schwan’s order, but that won’t come for two weeks, and I got some non-perishable dry goods from Public Goods, which will probably be delivered in a week. We won’t starve, but damn if I didn’t use all my money doing that. It was not in the budget!! (I do Dave Ramsey $0 budget.) I’ve even got an order in for toilet paper, but it won’t come until April, so we shall improvise until then. (We have enough that we MAY squeak by before having to resort to leaves and grass!)

I’m hoping that people will calm down in a week or two about this. They are making it hard for those who struggle to get groceries in the first place, which are a lot of the same people who are the most vulnerable for getting sick, too. But all my YouTube homesteading “friends” are sitting pretty. Jessica of Roots and Refuge talked about it a bit here. It really makes a lot of sense to have a surplus of food standing by like they do. So with gardening, comes canning/preserving. And I watched Jessica’s canning videos. Canning is a bit of a challenge when you are blind because you have to be so careful to not touch the things that have been sterilized. But I had to learn adaptations for sterile procedure as a home health care worker, and I have not killed or infected anyone yet, so I do think with a few extra tools there are adaptations for this. I am just learning, and on Youtube, I can’t entirely see and understand the tools she is talking about, so I would need to go to a store and feel them and do a few practice batches to get the hang of it, but I’m sure it can be done. If you are blind and you have canned at all, let me know your hacks.

Of course, my future canning aspirations ain’t helping me now! But we will get through with a hodgepodge of delivery and hoofing it solutions, I am sure.

I was looking forward to the community garden orientation meeting, but it was canceled and now they are going to send us emails with the info. I am usually all for emails instead of meetings. Meetings can be really hard for me to communicate and get what is going on, but in this case, I was hoping to build some community. Now it is too cold again to garden for a bit, and people are isolating themselves even though we are allowed to go to the gardens, so I guess I’m on my own to build community.

I was able to get the soil in my backyard bed, then just put some cardboard on top and I got a couple of bags of mulch I will put on later as well. One issue I am having that I was unprepared for was that my orthostatic hypotension is wreaking havoc on my gardener life. This is when you have a severe drop in blood pressure when changing positions. I squat down to do garden-y things and then I about pass out when I get up. I get exhausted after about 10 minutes of this. So, I had just six bags of soil to put in the bed, and I kept having to go sit on the big boulder next to the bed to recover. So I would do a two minute thing, recover for 5, do a two minute thing, recover for 5, then be about ready to collapse after 30 minutes and have to stop.

It doesn’t surprise me that problems with my kidneys and health are turning out to be a much bigger deal for me in this project than Deafblindness. That is the way it ALWAYS is. People think deaf blindness is such a big deal, but there are always work arounds there and it doesn’t discourage me at all. Not being able to physically get things done and feeling crappy is a much bigger obstacle. So, this is why I only made 1 of the 3 raised beds, and also why .09 acres is probably plenty for me at this time. This will be slow going.

But I got this little wagon/stool/kneely pad thing which I think will help somewhat. It’s an old lady stool for sure, but I think it will help a lot.

This is a little green plastic stool with wheels. The stool part can come off and it can be sat on or turned over and kneeled on (it has a foam pad on the underside). It also can tote tools around in a little wagon so you don’t have to get up and fetch them so much.

Someone also gave me this–I don’t know what to call it–garden stencil thing. It is a 1′ square piece of plastic that has several holes in it. The holes are lined up to sow 1, 2, 4, 9, or 16 plantings per foot. it also includes this little poky thing with tactile notches on it that let you measure how deep to plant seeds, and it comes with a funnel where you can pour the seed down the funnel into the hole. I don’t think this is entirely necessary for blind people for planting (or anyone else for that matter) but it was given to me so I will give it a try and it might come in handy to help keep track of what I planted. So that was a neat thing to get.

This shows the little green plastic garden stencil with its little hole poker on the side. I think the funnel is on the underside.

I am going to plant some starter things this weekend as well. But I have been a little sick and my dirt is currently outside under a very light sprinkling of snow, so I think that may be reason to go take a nap today and try again tomorrow. It sounds like time will be on my side for the next few weeks.

Keep healthy out there and be well!

Compost and Soil Disability Adaptations

Planning and Prepping Progress with Bonus Heinous Home Depot Trip!

I have gotten a lot of little things done in preparation for starting my sorta-almost first garden. I did start a small garden a few years ago when I had people telling me that I couldn’t grow things in my backyard. I had a little 2X4′ box that I planted a few things in and had some success. I had great corn, carrots, radishes and my lettuce actually grew well but was eaten by critters. I failed with cucumbers (did not grow at all) and maybe one other thing that I don’t remember. I am sure the cucumbers were my fault. I still don’t understand how cucumbers grow.

I’m ever so slightly smarter now in terms of knowing to look at frost dates and different growth times for different types of plants. I did finish looking up and OCR-ing all the seed packet info, but then I found something a little easier. GrowVegis a web-based garden planning database that has a yearly ($29.99) subscription. I am still using the trial but so far it seems to be somewhat accessible. I give it a C+. The main part that is not accessible is the drawing tools where you actually design your garden. That uses flash and flash ain’t accessible. Supposedly, it will be updated into a non-flash version this year, but I still doubt that the design tools will be accessible. Still, even if you just plunk your plants down anywhere on the screen (basically what I did) it will organize them into a planning schedule and give you sort of a digital “Clyde’s Garden Planner” type of spreadsheet which works way better for me. It also gives lots of info on plants and even links to buy seeds from several catalogs. Because it is flash based, it doesn’t work so well on tablets and phones, so that will be nice when that changes. It does offer a “read only” version for devices.

This is a screen shot from my iPad of the read only spreadsheet of plants I downloaded info for. The read only is inaccessible (just easier to screen shot) but on the desktop, it is possible to follow this spreadsheet, or you can look up info for each individual plant which is somewhat easier in some ways.

With my husband, Nik’s, help, we also put together a corrugated metal 5×3′ raised bed. Nik and I have a long marital history of building stuff without good access to directions. Sometimes we are able to find good directions online, but mostly not. We have built bunk and loft beds, baby changing tables, play kitchens, outdoor playhouses, kitchen chairs, and all kinds of stuff with no instructions that are accessible to us.

How do we do it? We don’t jump in. We get all the parts out and stare at them for a long time. By stare, I mean we sort and feel and try pieces together and discuss what makes sense. We sort of write our own directions in our heads. We sometimes have spent more time staring at parts and prepping than it takes to put a thing together. We have made mistakes before, but we don’t tighten anything too tight until we are certain, so we just take apart and fix our mistake. I don’t think we have screwed up anything too badly (although the loft beds with dressers and desks underneath were killer, and I did those with a broken foot!!!)

So, this raised bed was pretty straight forward and was just tedious more than anything. We had to screw in 64 bolts and nuts. We did make some minor mistakes but nothing that was too time consuming to fix. I actually bought three of these, but we just did one for this year. I bought them when I thought I was not going to get a community garden plot. But then I did, and I don’t want to overwhelm myself and shoot myself in the foot.

This photo shows my corrugated metal 3×5′ bed that is in its trial space in my yard. It is close to the path that aligns my back porch.

So, this spot is a trial because I am trying to take a few days and observe how much sun it gets and whether this is the best spot. I put some cardboard down already to try to kill off the weeds. But if we move it, we will just move the cardboard.

OK, on to the soil. I certainly hope I can make enough compost for next year because buying soil was a bit of a nightmare, but it is kind of our own fault. Ok, I want to blame Nik, but I can’t totally because I did go along with it. I found reasonably priced soil at Home Depot, and they deliver, but it was going to cost $35. Which, yeah. People always say how much money we save on not having a car, but disability is expensive in many other ways, one being grocery and other delivery fees. Well, Nik insisted that we could just call an Uber and get it home for $8-9. I was wary of putting a bunch of soil bags in someone’s car, but he was like, oh, no big deal. And so I stupidly agreed to this.

So, we ordered online for pick up the next day. In this way, we did not have to ask for help to find it at the store and could have it already paid for and reduce the amount of communicating I had to do with them (always a plus for me as a hearing impaired person.) So we take the train and the bus to the Home Depot and make our way across the stupid parking lot to get our stuff at customer service.

Well, we went into the garden center and I immediately came across a terra cotta pot. I have been looking for a pot for annual flowers for the back porch and did not want plastic. I could do wood or metal or even ceramic, but they were expensive and I did not want plastic. So, I wanted simple terra cotta, and boom! there it was. I mentioned this to Nik and he was all “get it!” And I don’t want to right now because I will have to carry it and deal with 8 bags of soil and mulch and I don’t want to deal with that. Nik is all, “I will carry it!” I tried to tell him we could come back later and get it but he was all, “We found it now, we might not be able to find it later.” Fine. Another stupid thing I agreed to. Nik carries the pot.

Do you know how hard it is to walk around blind and deaf in Home Depot with your 250 pound blind husband carrying a big breakable pot? Do you know how many DOGS there are in Home Depot when you are trying to do this with a guide dog?

Nik and I kept getting separated and so I finally had him hold my  non guide dog elbow to keep us together. This meant he could not use his cane as he was holding the stupid pot in the other hand. This meant that my guide dog had to guide for the mess of us which was now like, 4 feet wide…..while other dogs constantly were coming up to her and smelling her privates. Even though she was doing really good, there isn’t much you can do when another dog has its nose under your dog’s legs except stop. These dog’s parents wanted to then discuss all things cute dog with me, which happens everywhere, but they were oblivious to my deafness, or my need to get myself, guy with pot and guide dog safely to a customer service desk without loss of life and limb. Really? It’s not even the dogs that are the problem here, its the dog parents.

I get to customer service, and I think, “I’ve made it!” Now all I have to do is get my stuff and get outside to an uber. But NO! I have to go “over there.”

Blind people are always told that they need to go “over there” but we never find “over there.” No, it doesn’t matter how vigorously you point, we still don’t know where “over there” is.

This is not a good picture, but I was trying to get a pic of my guide dog and the pot when we were dragging it all around Home Depot.

After coaching the customer service person through some better directions, we made our way down to the tool rental area. When we got there, we realized that she could have just said for us to go to the far right front of the store instead of the insane directions she gave us. Anyway, after traveling what seemed like miles through the entirety of the store, we still weren’t done. We were directed to go out a door to the outside. Then we were told several times that we needed to bring our car around to the back of the store. Ok, an uber is never going to find this. Can’t we just take our stuff on a cart to the front of the store.

No, because it is on a pallet.

A pallet? Geez. This is 8 bags that Nik and I could easily throw in someone’s trunk. But they had it stacked and tightly wrapped on a pallet that would only fit in a truck. As I tried to talk them out of the pallet (which I did not want at my house), Nik starts looking for UberXL’s for a SUV that could take this pallet.

But there are no XL’s. We have noticed that with the COVID 19 virus epidemic, Ubers have been a little harder to come by. Fair enough. But my Home Depot guy had abandoned me after telling me that no Uber is going to want to take stinky soil, Nik could not get a Uber anyway, and we are stuck with a pallet. I had had it. Let’s see if we can get this stuff delivered.

So, the guide dog that attracts all the dogs and their people, the Deafblind person, the blind person who can’t use his cane because he is carrying the stupid pot, and said stupid  pot go back to the tool counter, get directed “over there” back to the customer service desk, and make arrangements for delivery. By this time, I was about mentally fried with communicating with all of these people who don’t seem to understand or care about our predicament and so–I decide to just take an Uber home (a regular one, but still). So, now….instead of paying $35 for delivery, I have paid $35 for delivery, $9 for Uber, $2.50 for bus fare and spent 3 hours of my Sunday afternoon in a state of anxiety at Home Depot. Win!

While waiting for our Uber, I decided to just take pics of the pretty flowers.

But look! Here is that @$%$#& terra cotta pot safe at home!

The pot, sitting empty on my back porch. It looks smaller than it felt in the store!

And look! The very next day, a nice delivery driver brought the stuff, piled them in my yard (without the pallet!) and all is good and now we have dirt.

Pic shows my metal raised bed with cardboard lining the bottom and bags of soil neatly stacked on either side of it. Wasn’t that easy?

Whew! I have dirt, I am farmer! If I have to do this again, I will skip the drama and just pay for delivery, though.

I’m pretty ready to go now. I just need to wait for the last frost. I may start some seeds inside, but I don’t have too many containers for that, and I am done with Home Depot for a bit.

Disability Adaptations

The Fun of Reading Seed Packets While Blind

So, today was tedious. I want to start planning what I will be planting and gathering information, but its hard when you can’t read your seed packets, well, at least I can’t just flip them over and glance at them like youse all do!

I got seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, cuz that seems to be where all the cool kids go. I don’t know a lot about seeds or even what would be good to plant here, so I got things we might like to eat. I was hoping that the seeds had a QR code or a website that would tell me what they said on the back of the packet. ….and they kind of did and kind of didn’t. So, this is where technology comes in.

To find out what the seeds are in each packet in the first place, I used an app called Seeing AI. I hold up the packet to the iPhone camera and it scans and OCR’s the print info. This is an imperfect system but worked to get the basic info from the packet.

I am holding up a seed packet to the camera so Seeing AI can scan it.

If all goes well, it will both read the text to me, and/or put the text up on the screen, in which then I can use my braille display to read it.

This shows the iPad screen with the info that was scanned off the seed packet and my braille display next to it which is blue toothed to my iPad. OCR is not perfect, but you can get the gist of the print material.

What it took me awhile to find, however, was the good stuff. I wanted to know info like how deep to plant, how far apart, etc. Finally, I used Aira. Aira is a virtual visual interpreter service for the blind. I call, a live Aira agent answers, and I show her through my camera lens the thing I can’t see and she tells me what she sees. She told me that the info I wanted WAS on the packages, but it was sideways. Oh, OK! Since Aira costs money after 5 minutes per task, I had her read me the first one and put all my other packs in order, then I started rescanning the packs sideways with Seeing AI. And then, I came up with this:

This is a screenshot that shows how Seeing AI will scan a table. The headings are all first, then the data for each heading, so you have to match data to heading.

Because Seeing AI kind of scans weird and I don’t want to have to keep doing this every time I want to read the package, I started a word document where I was collecting the information. I did find some information on the Baker Creek website that gave growing instructions, so I cut and pasted that as well. Its a lot of work, but I can save this info forever and when I buy new seeds, I can just add to it as I go.

This shows the Word document that I have going on my computer that collects info about the seeds from my various sources and scans and websites and puts them in one place that will be way easier to access in the future.

I didn’t finish today! I got through about half. I will finish the others in the next couple of days. What would make this a lot easier is if Baker’s Creek would put in all the seed packet info into the product description on the website. Also, I’d buy the Whole Seed catalog if it came in a digital format I could read with my braille display (like ePub). (hint, hint)

My seeds laid out in the right order and direction with the help of the Aira agent. I still have a few to scan.

But this weekend, I will be putting together a raised bed for my backyard, and I am still working on sourcing potting/garden soil for it. (Its hard to carry big bags on the bus with a guide dog taking one hand, so I am looking for delivery or task rabbit options. ) So, we will be back outside, hopefully, and done with this tedium.