Garden Life in General

Expectations: Both Lost and Found

This is a very basic drawing of my lot I found in some house files. My backyard is a bit of a trapezoid with one curved corner cut out of it like a bite out of a rectangular-ish cookie.

I have had a different attitude about trying, now my 4th or 5th time, to garden and become more sustainable. This time, its just “do it, mistakes will happen, learn from them and go on.” Before, I have asked a lot of people for help, and gotten not so great results as far as people thinking I couldn’t take on whatever it was I had in mind to do, and discouraging me from trying. Now, I am just like, I am going to try and take it as far as I can.

But I still know that I need help and advice. And that is why I hired a consultant to help plan a backyard garden for me that would do the following:

  1. Grow as much food as possible on my small lot
  2. Do it in the most environmentally sustainable way
  3. While taking into consideration my HOA constraints
  4. And accommodating my disabilities
  5. And fit into a reasonable budget, or that I could phase in over time

I live on a small lot, I have a nutty HOA, I have some disability needs, and I have limits on how much I can implement. It would not be an easy job, I get that. So, I don’t know. I probably did not vet enough the person I hired, but he seemed willing and I thought that was enough.

I had to “fire” him recently. And it has been a weird, confusing, keep-me-up-at-night experience.

Although I did not set out with the idea of hiring a person with disabilities for this, we often try to employ disabled people when we can. It became clear to me early on (although I can’t be 100% sure) that this guy had some type of disability. So, I was determined to do everything I could to be accommodating.

That probably turned what could have been a wasted hour and $0, into wasted weeks and months and several hundred dollars.

Sometimes, one can be too accommodating in an effort to be inclusive and promote disabled people’s employment. In the end, the  goods have to be there, the product made, the service provided.

In the initial hour I met with him in a free consultation on zoom, I noticed all kinds of red flags. He seemed lost or kind of stoned. He thought I lived on an acre instead of a tenth of an acre (after me telling him and showing pictures of my yard), he got my name wrong, he got guinea pigs mixed up with guinea hens multiple times, he seemed awkward and confused. But he did seem to know permaculture and seemed to be excited about it.

I am not one who is big on etiquette. I don’t get hung up on eye contact or firm handshakes or the proper Emily Post way to do things. I try to give people breaks when they misspeak or forget small details. I also thought I saw the possibility of neurodivergence or at the very least, a guy who gets along better with goats than people. Ok, fine. As long as he can deliver the goods, I don’t care.

But more red flags kept showing up. He didn’t seem to have a method for me to pay him. I asked about a credit card system or wiring him money via PayPal or Apple Pay. He gave me a PayPal account, but when I tried to pay him, his account didn’t exist. He finally gave me an address to send a check to, but to this day has not cashed my check. When asking him direct questions about things, he is evasive with answers. I started trying to ask just more yes/no questions. And asked about preferred ways to communicate. He always came back with generalities that everything is fine.

But then I started just getting kind of a creep vibe from him. Not like I was in any kind of danger or anything, but just that something more than not being a people person or maybe having some spectrum-y quirks that was kind of off. Now, as a blind person who has been judged in the past because my blindness makes other people uncomfortable, a thing that is more about them than me, I am sensitive to this enough to reflect on my uncomfortable-ness. Is this more about me than him? But I have a billion disabled and autistic and non-people person friends who I feel fine around and value. I don’t feel like I have any serious issues with people who don’t communicate traditionally. But still, this process was getting weird and totally not fun. But I had paid the money, and it was still like, weird or whatever, if he can delivery the goods, I’m fine.

He did not explain his process or the steps of working on the project. He came for an hour and walked around my house a bit, took some pictures, and then was like, “I’ll see you with a plan in about 4-6 weeks.”

Huh? Don’t we have to measure? Don’t we have to maybe talk over specifics? So, I thought I would be proactive and gave him a list of specifics and a crude but possibly helpful “floorpan” of my backyard. He thanked me and said he usually just had a survey he had people fill out, but did not give me a link to the survey. Later, suddenly another guy is coming to take measurements. Great, but hmmm? I feel like I was beating him to the punch of how to do this job or…something??? It was really confusing.

He often would “thank me for my vulnerability” when I had just outlined or reiterated what my priorities were. This seemed like some level of the professional version of pick-up artist creepster level negging to me. Telling you I need tactile borders around spaces to plant things is not a vulnerability, its just what I want. I felt like I was constantly bringing up my disabilities, which I never saw as the hugest deal of this project, but it just felt like we weren’t understanding each other.

I could go on with a bunch of other little things that by themselves were not a big deal, but collectively were getting harder and harder to take. But I was still mostly about, if he delivers the goods, its fine. I can deal with some level of social uncomfortableness.

I was actually pretty excited to see his plans for my backyard. I was hoping his plan would be what I needed to figure out what I could grow, where I needed to put different plants to grow best, what kind of unique things could be done to maximize space, etc. This was a time to make changes as well, but I expected that to be more about tweaking at this point. I had been waiting and waiting for this for months to make a bunch of decisions for the fall and winter.

But when he came to show us his work, I was a little flabbergasted. He had done this elaborate plan on my front and side yards that was completely unrealistic, while pretty much ignoring my backyard. I had told him that the front and side yards were HOA controlled, and I could only do small, stealth things there. I could perhaps change a bush from a decorative one to a berry producing one. I could maybe plant some dwarf trees or bushes on the side yard. But the backyard could be whatever I wanted it to be. He had hardscape sidewalks that were unrealistic to the space and the grade of my terraced front yard. He had it packed with plantings. If it would have worked, it would have been very beautiful, but it would have costed thousands upon thousands of dollars I don’t have and would not have been approved by the HOA because it would look so different from the rest of the neighborhood. We talked extensively about this issue. I even showed him some other yards and the small changes they were able to make. But even when I would ask him about items in his rendering, like what is this square or what is that, he couldn’t always tell me. Once he crossed a rectangle out as if it were a mistake. A few minutes later, he told me it was rain catchment. I asked him what other rectangles or items were and he could not tell me. When we got to the backyard, he had done a few things, but left a lot of open space. He didn’t include the One tree I asked specifically to keep. One of the things I don’t like about my yard now is the open space is just dusty and grows weeds. I asked him his plan for that and he didn’t seem to understand my question. And then he said it could be covered in clover. Clover is fine, but I was thinking, I waiting weeks and paid you $$ so you could tell me to put clover in my yard? I had already googled that.

My husband Nik was at this meeting, and had met the consultant for the first time. I know that with my partial vision, it is hard to know what I can see. But Nik is obviously totally blind, and there was no effort to include him in the presentation. I know it is something people have to get used to, and so I was trying to model how to do that by describing what I was seeing, which was tough because I was struggling a bit to see, too. But he did not pick up on this or try to verbally describe anything. So I know Nik was often lost. I felt bad because he gave up an afternoon to do this with me. At one point, still thinking that something was done to the back yard, he asked about how many raised beds could fit back there. The consultant started furiously drawing random squares everywhere. No scale, no intention. Then counted them and said 25. These 25 beds would have been like 1-2sqft. It was just awful.

So, he didn’t bring the goods. When he left, Nik was like, “I know I haven’t been a part of this process up to now, but what the hell was that? Was that what you expected?” No, no it wasn’t. But I should have known before this that it wasn’t going to go well.

Still, I took a few days to think about what to do. I took some wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep to think about this as well. I so wanted this to go well, but 1) hardly anything we talked about was in the plan. He called it a brainstorming session. Wasn’t brainstorming what we had been doing 2 months ago? What? and 2) He made me feel really stupid and uncomfortable in every interaction. I did not want to feel this way anymore.

I have always admitted that I am a newbie at this. I have no doubt that this guy knows more than I do about soil and permaculture and compost and all of that. But I began to realize that this just wasn’t about a guy who is neurodiverse or who is not a people person. This is a guy who is arrogant, disorganized, passive aggressive, and doesn’t listen. One can be both disabled and a jerk. Despite his soft-spoken hippie ways, he was just a little TOO into his permaculture supremacy to really work well with a neophyte like me. I am not perfect, but I am trying to learn and do the right thing. There are people who have helped me for the general joy of helping someone to share in what they love, not lord their superiority over me. So, I was done.

But I suppose I have to watch this next time. In the disabled community, we try to support each other and not talk badly about someone. There are blind people I am not particularly fond of that if they are getting screwed, I am there for them. And if someone started speaking negatively about them, I would defend them. We watch out for each other (to an obvious extent. I am not defending blind murderers or rapists or anything like that, of course.) But we try to stick up for each other and be supportive.

But in this case, I think I took it too far when…if I would have read him as non disabled, I would have been finished with him after the first consult. This is a guy who did not have his shit together as far as being a business person, and a guy who has a level of arrogance that is quite uncomfortable to deal with. And he is probably disabled. In our work, we talk constantly about having high expectations for people. And I failed to do that in this case. We all spend a lifetime trying to examine our own prejudices, and I am still working on it obviously.

Still, I can’t get myself to write a non-anonymous bad review. I feel like he has gotten enough problems. And I guess I still have a hard time putting down a disabled person. If someone came to me and asked for a point blank reference about him, though, I will refer them to this post. I have to re-examine the limits to my loyalty.

So, that was a bit of a downer. But I am actually getting excited about taking over the planning of the garden myself. I know I am apt to make some mistakes, but I have already made a bunch of mistakes already and have learned so much from them. I have asked so many people to help me by leading me down the correct path in this over the years, when no one can figure out what I can do or can’t do and they have often made their own judgements about this. It is time I just learn by doing it myself. I can still ask for help for parts of it, but I have to be the one who leads and decides and fails and succeeds.

Gardening is a lot of information, but it isn’t rocket science. I can have high expectations for myself as well. Onward!

Life in General Progress Report South 36 (Community Garden)

I Grow Food!

When I was pregnant, I walked around announcing: “I grow humans!”  Now, I can affirm that “I grow food,” which is not quite on the same level, but still rather amazing. Whether you want to attribute reproduction (human or plant varieties) to the miracles of intelligent design or evolution…its pretty wild to experience it.

Lots has happened since I last posted. (Its been a minute, hasn’t it?) Nothing majorly impressive as far as output, but just in my own learning curve. And I still have far to go in acquiring these most basic of skills that really everyone should know at least a bit about. It’s distressing how much basic skills we let go by the wayside and just trust a huge industrial complex to take care of our basic needs.

I put way too many wild flower seeds in the magic flower pot. But I kind of like it out of control like this. That’s what wild flowers are supposed to do, right?

I have joined Melissa Norris’s Pioneering Today Academy and am working my way through her different classes. She is ultra organized and very helpful. But sometimes I think I still learn more from Jess at Roots and Refuge, who is not so organized or purposeful, but if you can wade through her stuff, she explains the exact things I was wondering about really well. So, between the two of them and some others, I feel like I am very slowly but surely gaining a LOT of new knowledge.

I also hired [name redacted] to help me out. I will have to ask him if he wants me to link to him or put his whole name here. But for now, we will stick with first names. He is a local permaculture guy who is helping me see what I can get out of my small plot of land and where things should go and that sort of thing. I am discovering that Julian is probably a little what I tend to think its neurodiverse, which makes me have to keep pretty organized and push out info to him in a way that makes sense. I can work with neurodiverse people just fine, as I often enjoy their way of looking at things differently and can be super creative. But I think we miss each other at times, as I am not fluent in the language of permaculture and gardening yet, so it is hard to be really concrete about what I want when I don’t know what it is or the terminology. But I am trying to be more clear while still giving him the freedom to do his thing.

The backyard raised bed has remained unchanged for weeks. Nothing has died, but nothing grows past its seedling stage. There are lettuces, spinach, radish, carrots and onions planted here. All shade tolerant plants, but still not enough sun. The onions were planted as sets, but the others were planted as seeds. Nothing has grown or died.

One reason I need his help is that my garden box in my backyard has failed. I suspected it might due to the lack of light coming in through the shade of the giant plum tree that owns my backyard. The decision becomes whether to take it down, if vigilant pruning will help. or what else can be done. Julian told me that landscapers install and prune things in such a way to make you have to keep calling them back for more business. He said my plum tree has not been pruned the right way and that is one of the reasons it grows prolifically and uncontrollably. If it had been pruned from the bottom up, it would have been a lot less of a Goliath that it is now. This does not surprise me.

My herb garden pots are doing ok. Because we had so much rain, they have grown slower than normal, but they have grown a lot since the rain stopped, so I think they will be ok.
A close up of a pot of sweet basil.

It is probably good that I am not going to get a huge harvest this year. I am a little overwhelmed by the prospects of all the different ways to can and preserve the food. I am moving a bit at both ends. My garden is really at this point an experimental sampling. Whereas on the other end I am learning about preserving and preparing whole foods and trying to eat better. For a while, (probably always, actually) I am going to have to supplement with farmers markets and that type of thing. Nik has been getting a few things at farmers markets. And so we are getting better at doing that. One advantage of the quarantine has been that farmer’s markets have gone digital and want you to pre-order off an app. This is a huge help when you are blind and can’t just walk around and see what there is to buy. So, now we can buy online and then we just have to find the place for pick up when we get there. Much easier and more accessible.

These walla walla onion sets were purchased at the farmers market the same time as the ones in the backyard. The ones at the community garden have grown significantly.

I do notice a huge difference when I eat better sourced whole food and less processed food in my health. I have joined a Chronic Kidney Disease online support group, and am learning a lot about kidney diets that improve health that I was never told by a renal dietitian. Sure, there is limiting your protein and phosphates, but when you can eliminate much of the toxins found in processed foods, your kidneys have that much less to deal with. Kidney disease makes you feel sick because your body is carrying around such a toxic load all the time. (And often due to anemia, which is because kidneys also regulate red blood cell creation. ) There is not a simple solution to anemia, but it just makes sense that the less toxins you put in your body, the less your kidneys have to deal with and that hang around in your body.

Squash is doing very nicely. I am not a big squash eater, but I will have to find some ways to incorporate these into our diet. There are three plants with multiple squash that are doing quite well.

An aside, also learned that regularly sweating (yes, sweating, sorry) helps eliminate toxins from your body, and especially helps with the skin itch that is so common with kidney patients. I don’t really regularly sweat all that much, but I can if I really exercise hard. So, I am trying to start doing more hard cardio so I can sweat some crap away.

A grassy decorative plant and my metal water jug. Having plants to take care of gets me out more and walking quite often in the quarantine. Maybe a bit of summer sweat as well.

I am not anywhere near perfect about not eating processed foods, but I do notice a definite improvement when I cut way down. Its the difference between facing a day in pain and fatigue so bad you are struggling to stay awake and get through the day to feeling pretty damned functional. Its huge, and it takes work, but is not that hard to do.

Green beans are happening on this bush bean plant. I’m not sure there will be enough to do anything with, but the experience of figuring out how they grow is important, too.
Pea plants are crazy! I had no idea! But again, they are growing and I am learning about what they look and feel like, how big they get, how to trellis them, etc.

Nik’s and my garden goal this year as far as actual food is to make and can some pico de gallo. No, it isn’t the most important food in the world, but its a place to start. We have tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro doing pretty well. If I get the hang of canning (I don’t have a pressure cooker at this time, so its just water bath canning for me at this point) I may also can some bulk buys from the farmer’s market as well.

Nik is very excited about these jalapeño peppers. He wants them to go red so they are plenty hot.

I am 50 today. (WUT???) So sometimes it is hard to feel like it is too late to make changes or improve things or have enough energy to grow food, etc. I was a bit depressed by my lackluster backyard raised bed. But I suppose you just have to work with what you have and who you are and where you are and most especially keep going. So many disabled people are shut out of ways to take control of their own health and gardening and other outdoor pursuits. So I know it will take time to figure out everything, but it is worth trying. I also like that gardening is one of those things where it connects you with others in a way where it circumvents disability, (like figure skating has done for me in the past) because people are so enthusiastic about it that they just want to share it with you and they don’t much care who or where you are, as long as you’re there for it. Its an interesting community.

I was having trouble taking pictures of the tomatoes, but there are some little green tomatoes in there somewhere.
Garden Life in General

Disabled Gardening in the Time of Corona

My goodness, this past week has been difficult and confusing in my professional life. I made some mistakes, others made some mistakes, and things just did not work out in a satisfying way for me. Its no great harm done, but I found myself a bit anxiety-ridden, depressed and stressed out. Its probably time to take a social media/general media break.

I, like many people, have some stresses and challenges with the quarantine. I am a high risk person. I have extended family members who are even more at risk than me. I have had difficulties with grocery and supplies as a nondriver. But I am also very fortunate. We DO have enough supplies. People HAVE offered help. We ARE still working and earning money. This time has not been all that particularly hard for us. We are privileged.

But I think I got a little just a little burnt out of the disabled community this past week.I’m probably not being 100% fair here and this is more about me being in a grouchy mood more than anything. Its not that many of their complaints aren’t perfectly legit and they do need a voice. I have some of the same gripes. But JUST SO MUCH COMPLAINING about themselves. Just so much me, me, me and my problems and no perspective on other people’s or how we might work together to solve problems. No, it isn’t all disabled people, I just had an earful this week and it just drove me over the edge. And then I had media requests that is a whole ‘nother complicated component to that about what is a sad, sob story problem inherent to the poor Deafblindness and what is a systemic societal problem that really could mitigate a lot of those sob stories. But people want a human face with a pitiful problem. And not solutions. But I am digressing, like, a lot…

I am slightly envious of all the people who can just get in their cars and go off and hike somewhere pretty. My only refuge has been gardening lately. It is such a funny time to have started this project. I started it because I am interested in learning what a sustainable world looks like. I also get here that there are systemic issues around unsustainability that are largely (beyond voting and advocating) beyond my control. But what IS in my control. What can the average person do to be sustainable? And I found through a lot of research what it may possibly look like. It looks like growing and sourcing food locally and sustainably. It looks like lowering your carbon footprint by decreasing energy consumption and using alternative energy. I am just a neophyte at this, so I am still processing what it may look like for the average person and what the responsibilities are. I also learned that to do any of this, I needed a whole set of skills I don’t have and many, many others also don’t have.

This is not my first try at gardening. But this is my first try doing it alone, without direct help (although I am getting lots of help through books and articles and resources such as those.) Before, I think I fell into a common disability trap. I felt like I was so incapable that I needed someone else to supervise me and show me the way and preapprove everything I did. But I struggled to find willing help.

I once asked to sort of apprentice any gardener at a church community garden. I just wanted to be their slave and I would do whatever they said in their garden and I would ask questions and learn as I went. I lived close to the church, within walking distance, so I thought I might help by being available to water and check on things. But I got radio silence. I had been attending this church for years, volunteering, attending, participating as well as I could. And although no one was overtly mean to me, I was not included. I went there for ten years and with a few notable exceptions, no one said more than “hi” to me. They did not allow me to become a member (by just passively not following through with steps on multiple occasions till I gave up.) They got incredibly defensive when I asked for basic accommodations (i.e. the sermon emailed to me beforehand so I could follow along.) It wasn’t that they were any different than any other church in regards to people with disabilities. Churches are not covered by the ADA and most churches do not do a lot to provide accommodations to the disabled. They were just REALLY, REALLY defensive when I tried to build awareness and plan for more inclusiveness. I worked on a national project to make the churches of this denomination more inclusive, and I saw the same reaction everywhere. This church completely ruined me for thinking that education is what people need. I had thought, “they just don’t know better and if we can just kindly educate them, they will come around.” I started to see that education does help with some people, but for the majority, education and awareness campaigns aren’t enough. They need to be pushed and have actual consequences to coerce them to be inclusive. Otherwise, they just will not care enough to do it themselves, and will become resentful when asked.

So, asking to be a garden slave became just another one of those things. I thought I could be useful. I felt more like a pariah. After some gentle nudging on my part, I was finally offered “a row.” They gave me my own row. To do what with, I had no idea. It was maybe 4 feet long and stuck on the end of another person’s plot. It was impossible for me to really figure out where mine started and hers started. And since it was made so clear to me that I wasn’t to touch anyone else’s plot, thus I muck it up, I became very self conscious to do anything with it. I had wanted someone to explain to me, by me feeling the leaves and them instructing me, what was a weed, and what was a thing I just planted. How far apart to plant, what to plant when. I  got told to stay in my row and just stick some seeds in and see what happened. I felt like I was 5 years old and not ready to learn real gardening with the grownups. I even got told I could only plant flowers.

I shouldn’t have let that get to me. But I did. I think I visited the garden once or twice, then abandon “the row.” Which, I am sure, earned me a bunch of “I told you she couldn’t garden” from the church garden nazis. It was not the best way to handle it. But I was so exhausted with the whole church thing, I didn’t care anymore and just let it make me feel crappy. I was so glad that the city community garden plot application process was just about completely anonymous. They did not have to know I was disabled, just that I lived in the district. I only told them after they already offered me a plot. They did not have a chance to tell me I couldn’t do it. I should have started with the community plot and skipped the church one. Even though I was waitlisted for a couple of years, this was worth it.

Sometimes the internet is the great equalizer. Jess and Miah from Roots and Refuge tell me almost weekly on their vlog to just plant things. Just start. You will screw up. It’s ok. Just try different things. I get to see Ben and Meg from the Hollar Homestead put the insulation in their fixer upper wrong and come back and just fix it with only slight embarrassment and repercussions. They experiment and then they try again. No one is calling the authorities on them and telling them they can’t do it. No one at Lowes is saying they can’t buy stuff for their garden without a non disabled to help them. I forget how easy it is for ablebodied people to just try things without anyone’s (major) judgement and criticism. They encourage me to try things, too. They don’t know they are talking to a Deafblind gardening dummy who flunked church plot gardening slavery. They are talking to everyone. But, sometimes, disabled people just need to block out all that noise and think of themselves like they count as everyone, too. I deserve to try and fail just as much as anyone else. I deserve multiple tries. I deserve to look like an idiot and do it all wrong until I figure out how to do it right.

A lot of times, I see this thing that happens with disabled people. If we get a shot at all to learn something new, we get ousted at the first mistake when everyone else gets a learning curve. For example, one thing I see over and over is mom’s of blind teenage girls who won’t let them shave, wear make-up or do their hair when all the other girls are. Shaving and hair is entirely tactile and can easily be done by a blind person. Make up can, too, but it is more visual and takes a little more work and practice. Parents forget that blind people don’t start at the same place necessarily as sighted children. Sighted kids have probably seen their mom working a curling iron for years. Unless intentionally shown, blind people may have not. So, they aren’t going to start in the same place, but they can end up in the same place if given just a chance. They may start by not even knowing where to hold the curling iron or where the hot parts are. Or how to move it through their hair. But with 1-2 extra lessons, they can catch up. But I see moms who have a bad first experience with their child and a curling iron and say they will never do it again. So then you have a bunch of blind adults with “blind hair” (a short, plain haircut.) All teenage girls screw up their makeup. Blind kids will need more practice and time to get it right. But they aren’t given the opportunity to fail, so they never get the opportunity to succeed.

I know I am digressing a lot here.

So, how this relates to gardening is that we are often not given the same opportunities as others to try things. And it is sad in this time because getting groceries when you can’t drive is tough when all of our usual methods are being taken by sighted drivers who have never gotten delivery before. And although I cannot in the least claim success at gardening yet, I am seeing how useful of a skill this could be for many disabled people who are not being given these opportunities. Or maybe like I used to be, think that it is just not something disabled people can do at all. But I think lots of people could. And then instead of relying on people to get groceries or getting food boxes, we could contribute our own food and even share with others. I know that some people’s disabilities make the physical aspects of gardening difficult. But I have also seen many wheelchair gardeners and certainly deaf and blind gardeners and gardeners with developmental disabilities and many others. It may not totally replace needed food, but it could certainly add to the stores.

I also realize that this can’t necessarily help things like, NOW. But we need to not only take care of immediate needs, but look at long-term solutions. I am not a fan of what I have been experiencing the last several weeks, which is constantly trying to keep the stream of food running through my house without a car and without grocery clerk help and without many options. I have kind of an MO for just checking out and doing shit myself when it isn’t working out. That has both good and bad points, I am sure. I got sick of the problems with public schools so I started homeschooling. We got sick of employment discrimination so we started our own business. I guess now I am getting sick of my version of food insecurity so I am going to figure out how to take care of at least some of it myself. I know this isn’t everyone method of handling things, and I get that. But it is mine and what makes me feel better. And a lot of times has worked out quite well for me.


A radish start, finding its way through the bark mulch.


Of course, I will not check out of the food system this year or probably never,  so I have been learning new strategies for getting food as well. I feel like I have been learning every day how to handle the lack of delivery options and I keep adapting and keep adapting. By the end of this, I will have so many new methods of getting supplies. Plus, I feel like I will have learned a lot about gardening and will be set to produce even more food next year.

There is now stuff planted in the community plot. I am more confident that it will peek through the leafy mulch I used down there. I don’t feel ready for a larger ground plot this year, but maybe in the future?

I have already failed in gardening. But then I just start over. My tomatoes and peppers went nowhere, even when I had them in the house. I am learning about the special warm climate and humidity needs of these plants. I will try again. And maybe fail again. I replanted the lettuce because nothing happened there and Nik (who had sowed the seeds) informed me that he really could not feel if the seed went in the hole or not because they were so small and sticky. So when we replanted, we did use the planting square and the spoon and funnel. We’ll see if those take. If they don’t, well, I might resort to just throwing the whole envelop around in the dirt. And I am very, very confused about mulch. It will get sorted out. But I have little baby onions starting. And radishes. And I have planted down in the community garden, now. I am ridiculously happy about this.

Spinach leaves peeping through.

This post has many meanders because I have been in a bad, sad, confused mood. But my point is, I guess, if there is one….that we as disabled people need to try more things for ourselves and find more solutions for ourselves. Even if we fail several times. It doesn’t mean that we can’t still advocate for the systemic barriers in our way. I am not discounting these very real challenges. But also, I’m trying to focus on what I can do and learn and take care of myself. I am feeling sucked dry by all the complaining of how things are so awful for us and am trying to replenish with what I know is good and capably in our hands.


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!