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Seedlings in my indoor growing area
My first batch of pepper seedlings and oregano potted up.

Starting Your Garden: Keep Yourself Occupied

Every time I open my phone, there’s another confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) case, or sadly, a death in the Seattle region I call home. Our governor’s declared a state of emergency, and our shops are selling out of face masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, bottled water, and milk. People are asking themselves what they can do.

Besides, wash your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Might I suggest starting a garden? Even starting a small garden in your windowsill.

This garden won’t be a substitute for stocking your pantry — do that and go for the calories — but a garden is good for your mental and physical health. The first burst of a fresh vegetable or herb can lift your mood and the taste of your food. Imagine cutting off fresh cilantro that’s growing in your kitchen and putting it directly on your tacos. (Brag, that’s what I did at lunch.) If we do get put into a quarantine situation, gardening will keep you sane in more ways than one.

Occupy your time and mind.

A quarantine may last for around 90 days. That’s you and your loved ones cooped up together, or you on your own. I couldn’t wait for my partner to go back to work — I work from home — after our two weeks together during the last holiday season.

Gardening takes up time and mental space. It can be as time committed or as strenuous as you make it. But if nothing else, wouldn’t it be better to figure out the germination of a seed instead of the incubation of a virus? Maybe that’s just me.

If you’ve never gardened, or if you’ve been at it a while, there’s always something to learn. Plants are fascinating. You can go down specific rabbit holes, say if you fall in love with herbs, or want to wander around measuring photosynthetically active radiation, or try new skills and new plants.

It relaxes you.

Science says even looking at a picture of a plant will boost your mood. Where’s the nearest plant to you?

Humans used to live in nature, and now many of us live in cities, or places covered in people-created objects. We read studies on our smartphones about increases in loneliness or isolation, and being quarantined isn’t going to make that any better.

Plants may not be a human connection, but they enhance our lives. They create a sense of community and shared spaces. There are even programs combining therapy and gardening or nature walks to treat PTSD. Many people cite tending to gardens or houseplants as instrumental in lifting depression or dealing with the impacts of disability. Even if you can only have one spider plant on your windowsill.

Nurturing someone else.

I’m the first to admit, I’m not a nurturing person. But I love growing and caring for my plants. Including some incredibly frustrating times attacking mealybugs with cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol.

Plants have a path of their own. My hoya pubicalyx loves to climb. I’ve hacked through 12-foot tall sunflowers in October, and I’ve killed an orchid so fast I didn’t get to enjoy the deep purple flowers. You get to know each plant and its quirks.

You cannot control the plant any more than you can control other people. But if you swear at the plant and dump it into the compost, that’s okay. And if you grow so much lettuce you are begging friends to take it, that’s amazing.

Feel goodiness aside, what’s my practicals on starting my garden?

Get the gardening tips and what plants to start with on my blog.

Bookworm corner 📚

Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau 5/5 stars
Baking and queer romance? Yes, please. Everyone should definitely read this.

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Comic Book by Leighton Gray, Vernon Shaw, Wendy Xu, Lee C.A., C. Spike Trotman, Josh Trujillo, Ryan Maniulit, Jack Gross, Jarrett Williams, Drew Green, D.J. Kirkland, Matt Herms, Reed Black, Jeremy Lawson, and Kris Anka 3/5 stars
There wasn't enough kissing. Is that a spoiler? Cute backstories for the daddies and overall enjoyable stories. No, I have not played the game.

Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels #4) by Ilona Andrews 4/5 stars
** spoiler alert ** I really liked the villain and stakes around the villain. Even if I thought she was a bit bigger of a villain than the other books. The battles were interesting. However, I did not like the "misunderstanding" that kicks off the book between Kate and Curran. Also, I was sure it would tie back to the main plot but didn't.

Magic Slays (Kate Daniels #5) by Ilona Andrews 3/5 stars
I continue to very much like this world, but not down with the ridiculous jealousy stuff. I'd like to see more of Kate with the witches and have her relationship with Curran mature (and I don't mean marriage and babies).

Supergirl Vol. 2: Sins of the Circle by Marc Andreyko, Eduardo Pansica, and Kevin Maguire 2/5 stars
Kryptonian nonsense. A patchwork of bad tropes stapled together — an evil stepmother trope with Unpleasant Parent Reveal, Bad Adoptive Parent, and Saint Bio Mother — instead of a real story. Plus, romantic jealousy ridiculousness. Maguire's art was pretty good.

Things I wrote recently

Reviews on my comics blog:

Green thumb update

My seedlings have survived. So this is a good thing. I did do a second planting for those that didn't come up, and I put together another 68 seedlings for the future garden.

It's slightly warm enough to put seeds outside. However, there's been a cold snap this week, so we'll see. But I have some peas in the ground. Our mason bees are still in the fridge as it needs to be in the 50s (daily high) before we put them out.

Today, I'll be planting my blueberries, raspberry, and strawberries. Jacob and I are going to try to drag out at least one tree stump. Wish us luck.

Houseplants are doing better, and we probably got too many new friends at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival. We have two plants still suffering from spider mites, and Zeta, the cat, got a couple bites into a few.

Red Tiger Abutilon Plant (Flowering Maple)
Tillandsia stricta soft grey with a flower
New additions from the NWFGS!
Left:
Red Tiger Abutilon Plant (Flowering Maple) is so fun!
Right: Tillandsia stricta has a beautiful pink flower.

Seattle survival

Jacob's been working from home, and we're not going out unless we have to. Which, for us, means we've made a few trips to the grocery and gardening stores. We've gone on walks in our neighborhood, but all our planned group events were canceled. The cats love it.

I'm worried about other areas of the country not taking COVID-19 seriously, except to hoard certain items. No doubt, it's spread to many places and wider than we realize. It doesn't help that my most vulnerable family members live in other states.

I've been listening to the back podcast catalog of the Bechdel Cast to focus on something not terrifying and building financial model spreadsheets. 🤓

Recipe: Dimer Jhol (Bengali Egg Curry)

Dimer Jhol (Bengali Egg Curry)

This recipe is from Blogexplore, and I recommend being somewhat generous with the salt.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 eggs / anda
  • 2 potatoes medium-sized
  • 1 onion medium-sized
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tomato large
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 bay leaf / tej patta
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon / dalchini
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder / jeera powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • Cilantro leaves for garnishing
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used peanut, mustard oil was recommended)
  • Salt to taste
  • Black mustard seeds*

Prep

1. Hard boil the eggs, peel, and slit the sides lightly when done. You still want the whole egg.

2. Peel and chop potatoes (bite-sized pieces) and boil in salted water until soft, approximately 15 minutes.

3. Mince the onions and ginger.

4. Cut up tomato and blend into a paste. I didn't do the blending process, and it didn't ruin the recipe, but the curry was less smooth.

Cook

1. Coat eggs with a little turmeric and salt. Heat oil* and then add the eggs. Lightly brown the eggs, and then remove them from the pan and set aside.

2. In the same pan, add the potatoes with a little turmeric. Fry until the potatoes turn golden brown, remove, and set aside. They can go in the same dish as the eggs.

3. Again in the same pan, add bay leaf and cinnamon. You can add more oil if needed. Fry for a couple of seconds, then add onions and ginger. Saute until onions are lightly browned.

4. Add the tomato and fry for 2 minutes.

5. Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, and cumin powder along with salt and cook for a minute. Don't get too precious about spice measurements.

6. Read the fried potato cubes and mix well. Begin adding the water. You want it to cover the mix, but not drown it. Bring to a boil on high heat.

7. Then reduce the heat, add the fried eggs, and let the gravy simmer for 5 minutes or when it reaches desired consistency.

8. Finally, add the garam masala powder. Stir well and remove from heat.

9. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve hot with rice.

*Because I did not have mustard oil, I put approximately 1 tsp of black mustard seeds in the oil and lightly browned them before starting the rest of the dish.

Other things

Hermione, the cat, is almost completely healed from her surgery. She was diagnosed with a rare intestinal cancer that surgery to remove tumors is the only "cure." There's really no way to tell if the cancer has really spread, and we won't be getting her more surgeries when new tumors develop. Hermione's doing well now. Cats with this live anywhere from three months to five years post-surgery.

[LIFE] Mourning at the Magic Kingdom by Nicole Chung — When my grandpa died, I did this with Disneyland. Julia has a video of me hugging Olaf. I identified highly with this.

[ANIMALS] 'Cat Tracker' study reveals the secret wanderings of 900 house cats — What do those house cats do when they're let outside?

[BUSINESS] Millennial Women Made LuLaRoe Billions. Then They Paid The Price. by Stephanie McNeal — MLMs should be illegal. This is just wild.

Practice social distancing and stay healthy, friends,

🐝🌱🌈⭐️

Erica McGillivray

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Copyright © 2020 Erica McGillivray, All rights reserved.


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