My top five most amazing household items

I have no running water and barely any electricity in the construction trailer where I live half of the year. I do have a wood stove and a well. Here are my best household items for everyday use.

5. The Piggy Lid
My trailer was furnished and had a lot of household stuff inside it already when I moved in. There were three different pots and casseroles … but none of them had any lid! Luckily I had asked Ainur many years ago, when she went to Japan, to get me one of these piggy silicone cooking lids. I had no actual use for it back then, but maybe I had a premonition … Because since I moved into my trailer four years ago I use the piggy lid all the time!

4. Shared place: Wash Basin, Camp Shower, Washboard and Suction Cup
All I need to wash my laundry and myself. The basin I got off eBay for 1 €. It’s blue. Awesome. The camp shower can heat my shower water in the sun when it’s warm and sunny, and if it’s cold and cloudy I can just fill it with pre-heated water. The washboard is an amazing human invention. With it and the suction cup – for “stomping” the laundry: it presses air through the laundry and makes washing so much faster and easier – I wash and hang a normal load in less than an hour. I need to do laundry maybe once every three weeks, so it’s a perfectly acceptable work load …

3. This Candlestick
My mum won it in a skating competition as a teenager. Some years ago she washed it in the dishwashing machine, and the metal reacted in that horrible way that gives me spasms if I have to touch it. So she gave it to me. I soaked it in vinegar and it was back to its nice, smooth surface. And now it’s my main light source! Three candles is a perfect amount of light for drawing or reading after dark.
(Of course, with live candles you have to be extremely careful of the fire hazard, and watch that there’s nothing anywhere near the candles above, and that you can’t knock them over or that nothing can get knocked over onto them. Never leave live candles unattended. :< I of course have a fire alarm and a fire extinguisher.)

2. The Storm Cooker
It originally belonged to my parents, but for some reason I took it with me, or my mum gave it to me, when I moved away from home. It hadn’t been used for decades, but I sure am using it now … When it’s warm and I don’t need to heat up the wood stove, I cook with five tealights in the storm cooker (or seven for potatoes). I don’t use the actual alcohol cooker, because its flame is much too strong, and the alcohol smells disgusting and it’s a pain in the ass. I also heat washing water on the storm cooker – with the two pots on top of each other I can get 3 l of hot water. Yay!
I have a stash of tealights without aluminium cups, so I’m reusing those old aluminium cups over and over.

1. This Fucking Bucket
I got it from OBI. It’s not actually food grade but whatever. I carry all my drinking and washing water in it from the well. Without it, there would be absolutely nothing going on here. Best. Thing. Ever.

Cosmonautics Day

Plum blossoms

Yesterday, April 12th, was Cosmonautics Day (in honour of Yury Gagarin’s first manned space flight :3 ). My plum tree is in early bloom.

Springtime for my trailer and Germany

Garlic and weeds

This year’s garlic looks very happy too! The succulent-looking plants in the upper left make pretty flowers in autumn. Below them I’ve stuck some scallion stubs that are about to grow new leaves.

Cosmonautics Day selfie :3

Cosmonautics Day selfie :3

My garden in 2013

Me and my garlic (and goutweed)

Time to look back at what happened in my garden this year, the biggest successes and failures, and the new problems and innovations …

The ones who did the most awesomepants were definitely the tomatoes.

Tomatoes and strawberries getting started. :3 "No suckers get your love" ... This year I'm trying to do everything right with the tomatoes, including picking off the suckers (side shoots that grow out of their armpits). Seems to be paying off. This is a "supersucker" that I didn't notice for a while.
Cosmonaut Volkov is blushing :3 Barley with Cosmonaut Volkov, Black Cherries and pickled garlic. :3 The tomato harvest is exceeding all expectations ...

That’s because for once in my life, I started them as soon as possible, just after the last frost in early April when I moved out to my garden. Also, I made a serious effort at picking off all the “suckers” (the side shoots from their armpits), something I’d been lazy with before. And the summer had long hot and dry periods that the tomatoes liked, and I put several of them in the front part of my greenhouse, where they got maybe less headspace but definitely even more sun than at the back.

Unfortunately, the dry climate in the greenhouse that the tomatoes loved had a negative effect on many other plants …

Cucumber jungle

The cucumbers started out really nice, but then spider mites started to take over – first the beans, then the cucumbers, zucchini and groundcherries. Only after the season was over I finally figured out what the problem was and how to deal with it: create a moister climate in the greenhouse by spraying the plants with water twice a day or so. I like cucumbers more than tomatoes, after all, so if the tomatoes will be less happy it’s a small price to pay for not having spider mites wipe out most of the cucumbers.

The Habanero (in the pot front/center) is too huge to fit into any photos ... How will I transport it safely to our winter residence? Whee, two almost ripe cayenne peppers!

Something in the greenhouse that wasn’t harmed by the spider mites and also thrived in the dryer climate were the hot peppers. I have a Habanero and a Cayenne that I grew from seed two years ago. The Cayenne, for the first time, made two big, beautiful fruits early this summer. The Habanero gave up its fruits but grew huge. Maybe next year it will make fruit, too …

Beans blossoming outside :3 Beans in bloom

Outside, the runner/pole beans on the side of the trailer were happy as always.

Peas :3

I got lots of peas, until the nettles started to take over the patch and I didn’t cut them back enough.

The oregano (also 3 years old) has huge flowers this year. Lavender menace - I grew it from seed three years ago, and this year it's in bloom for the first time.

The 3 years old oregano grew huge and made lots of flowers. The lavender, also grown from seed 3 years ago, made little flowers for the first time.

Rice with yeast flakes, plum pie (made in a frying pan) with vanilla sauce, coffee on the way. Anybody who turns vegan just to lose weight is mistaken ... :3 Breakfast - epic plum kisel' and Finnish sour crackers with avocado and fake caviar. :3

The plum tree seems to have a biannual cycle going on, and every other year it makes massive amounts of fruit. This year was one of the massive fruit years, and for a week or two I ate plum kisel and plum pie every day. Mmmm … I even gave a lot of kisel away so it would get eaten before it went bad. (I made the pies in a frying pan so they looked too hideous to share with anyone and I was forced to eat them all on my own …
V`(oo)´V *sigh*)

Garlic <3 Garlic is looking good so far ... :3
Quite small garlic, but almost all of them actually survived till harvest! All of this year's garlic. The cloves are quite tiny, except the one freaky bulb that's one single clove. Last year all my garlic died in the spring, so this year has been a great success!

This was the first year when garlic has actually stayed alive all the way. Maybe because the summers before were wetter. I got several little bulbs that I tied into a horrible braid to dry. I’ve planted the biggest bulbs again for next year, since garlic apparently adapts to its environment over the years.

Feral mint Even more surprise blackberries?! This time from underneath the trailer. Some little animal must have pooped the seeds there ...?

Two nice plants that appeared seemingly out of nowhere this year were wild mint (above left) and raspberry. The ants unfortunately used the raspberries for grazing their livestock and did not practise holistic management, so they kind of ravaged them and I only got to try two or three berries.

New potato patch, reclaimed from the nettles after I concluded that I can't eat all the nettles that grew there fast enough ... Finally got a rhubarb plant. I hope it likes this spot. :3

I built a new garden bed, reclaiming it from the nettles, where I grew potatoes this year. And I finally got a rhubarb. First I put it in a too shady place where snails ate it too much, so I moved it to a sunnier spot. We’ll see how it does there …

Wtf, the slugs and snails are much more interested in nibbling the decomposing goutweed and nettle cuttings than the fresh potato plants right next to them?! This seems too good to be true ...!

Speaking of little creatures nibbling things … I made an insanely good discovery this year, namely that slugs prefer one day old goutweed cuttings to potato plants. (I wrote more about that in the special slug post.)

Up yours, Günther. My neighbour (Günther) has spent all morning pretending to do something right in his kitchen window, staring at me while I put up this bamboo screen. Better than TV I guess ... Jerusalem artichoke in the ground, aluminium sheet to stop my neighbour's poisons from contaminating my soil #upyoursgünther

Something that is a recurring issue in my garden is the gaping hole that gives my neighbours on one side full view of my garden. It got worse when a large bush collapsed in one of the storms. I put up a bamboo screen there that provides a little bit of shade, but it’s not perfect. It would be amazing if some day I could hang out in my garden and not have to see or be seen by my annoying neighbour.

Last winter was harsh and the deer ate all the green off the cypresses that I had planted there. So this winter I have cruelly covered them in plastic netting. Even so, it will be many years until the cypresses are big enough to provide a visual barrier. So my new, desperate innovation is to plant jerusalem artichoke in that area! We’ll see how it goes next year …

Cooking on tealights Maybe future mushroom colony ... though not created under the most ideal conditions: the wood was very fresh and not the best type. But we'll see ... :3

Another new innovation was to cook not on the sooty rocket stove and not on the explosive alcohol cooker, but on top of five tealights! It’s a bit slower, but simple, clean and unfussy. After a while I acquired a big stash of tealights without aluminium holders, too.
And next year I’ll find out if those logs will actually grow mushrooms.

* * *

Bonus: cute little friends

Bumblebee from the front

Little bumblebee on the chive blossom

Little bee in the cucumber flower

Little Honeybee on the cucumber blossom

Little toad :3

Little Toadie in the pond

This mosquito agrees that I should probably not do intravenous drugs.

Little mosquitie on my arm

Wasp friend

Little waspie under the bean leaf

Hornet friend (who didn't want to let go of the cardboard) :3 Little froggie (actually as big as my fist)

Little Hornetie after I took her outside, and little froggie on the edge of the patio

I would post cute sluggie photos but they already got a whole post of their own. :3

My funny and cute slug neighbours

D'awwwww ...!

“A horse was tied outside a shop in a narrow Chinese village street. Whenever anyone would try to walk by, the horse would kick him. Before long, a small crowd of villagers had gathered near the shop, arguing about how best to get past the dangerous horse. Suddenly, someone came running. “The Old Master is coming!” he shouted. “He’ll know what to do!”

The crowd watched eagerly as the Old Master came around the corner, saw the horse, turned, and walked down another street.”

(From “The Te of Piglet” by Benjamin Hoff – but disregard his epic fail rant about feminists if you read it.)

Slugs are considered a huge problem for gardeners in many areas. Spanish slugs are an invasive species that probably came to other parts of Europe together with imported vegetables. They thrive in the cooler and more humid climate here, and like to eat many of the same things as humans, and also some ornamental plants that humans like to grow. People often go to great, frustrated lengths trying to kill slugs in traps or even one by one.

My garden is in a kind of boggy area, and I have lots of slugs in my neighbourhood – the stout Spanish slugs dominate, and there are also some pretty and delicate Leopard slugs. Over the three years that I’ve had this place, I’ve figured out through trial and error what vegetables to grow so the slugs don’t eat all of my food. Sometimes they change their mind a bit, and there are lots of things I haven’t tried because I wasn’t interested in eating it, but basically this is the list:

They don’t eat:

– Peas (garden snails like the pods, though, but they aren’t such a big problem as Spanish slugs can be)
– Fava beans (but slugs may nibble the plants a bit when they are about 50 cm high)
– Nasturtium
– Chives
– Oregano
– Garlic
– Borage
– Many delicious wild plants like nettles, goutweed, wild mint, sorrel and wood sorrel

They don’t eat enough to destroy:

– Potatoes (they often eat the plants, but there are ways to distract them, and potato plants grow very quickly and can recuperate even from quite bad slug nibbling attacks if they get some respite)
– Radishes (they only nibble them a little :3 )

The things that both the slugs and I like (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, chard and pole/runner/bush beans) I grow slightly elevated in the greenhouse, and in boxes on my wall and other elevated places.

How to distract slugs:

This may not work with plants that the slugs like way too much to let themselves be distracted, but for me it works with potatoes.

One way is to feed them dry cat food every evening (also great for fertilizing the potatoes if you put it right in the potato land). I haven’t tried if they also prefer vegan cat food over potato plants. Because since I became seriously vegan I discovered that you can also distract them with goutweed cuttings!

This is an amazing thing. My garden produces plenty of goutweed cuttings – I can’t eat it fast enough, and a lot of it quickly grows too big and tough to eat. And the slugs don’t eat goutweed when it’s alive, not even when it’s small and tender, but they do eat decomposing cuttings of it.

They like them the most when the cuttings are about one day old. Garden snails also like them:

Wtf, the slugs and snails are much more interested in nibbling the decomposing goutweed and nettle cuttings than the fresh potato plants right next to them?! This seems too good to be true ...!

And that’s how I’ve become friends with the slugs.

They are really interesting and funny and cute, too, when you watch them …

I guess the worst damage from last night's storm is that the slugs are absolutely ravenous with hunger. (Heavy lightning and winds up to 90-100 km/s, even tornado warnings, though that didn't happen, luckily ...)

There was a huge storm, and the morning after the slugs were ravenous with hunger and/or disoriented, and climbed all over the place. Poor things!

Slug swimming/playing Jesus (!!?!)

For a few weeks last summer was quite hot and dry, and I discovered that the slugs were floating around on the vegetation in one of the ponds. At first I was concerned and tried to rescue them, but then I realised that they knew perfectly well what they were doing. They did it on purpose to stay cool and maybe nibble the vegetation a bit …

Slugs chilling by the poolside

Chilling by the poolside after a refreshing swim/float.

Steamy slug sex, fuzzy caterpillar passing by. The slugs have extended their sexual organs and are moving in a slow circle around each other.

Now in October it’s mating time. Here, two slugs are making babies. They’ve extended their sexual organs and are moving in a slow circle around each other. This picture is a bit crappy (its redeeming point is the fuzzy caterpillar who happened to pass by just then), but it was a beautiful moment to witness.

I’ve yet to see the spectacular mating of leopard slugs

How to make sawing wood a more appealing chore

My hands, August 10th 2013

The result of sawing down and cutting up that huge bush, and putting up a bamboo screen and making a few smaller sections of bamboo screen with my own bamboo poles to fill out some gaps.

I didn’t notice any of the injuries when they actually happened, because I have a notoriously high pain threshold, especially in my hands and arms. It was just, “oh, where’s all this blood coming from again?” One of the band aids was partly pre-emptive (tying string very tightly a few hundred times when making the screens gave me blisters, apparently, as I realised after the first two had broken and started bleeding). I have no idea how/why I got three scratches from my saw on the back of my right hand. Oh well.
Anyway, most of it has healed by now …

Up yours, Günther. My neighbour (Günther) has spent all morning pretending to do something right in his kitchen window, staring at me while I put up this bamboo screen. Better than TV I guess ...

So much nicer with the screen, even if it’s not totally opaque. Can’t wait for the vegetation to grow back a bit (next year …?). Maybe the small bush in the center, that was quite sad the first years I had this garden, but picked itself up a bit this year, will make a big comeback now that it gets more light?

My day off

Wednesdays I don’t go to my dayjob, because there are too many people in the office and no space for me. So I was looking forward to finally being able to draw comics today …

But last night there was another heavy storm over Brandenburg, and when I woke up I discovered that a large bush in my garden had collapsed.

Good morning.

Noooo …

It was kind of cozy.

It was kind of cozy. :3 So nice to have the middle part of my garden completely sheltered from my neighbours. Maybe some day it will really be like that, when/if the cypresses grow up.

To save the cypresses, I started to cut down the fallen branches …

The other half was still standing.

The other half was still standing. My neighbour came to inform me that he had arranged for a guy with a chainsaw to cut it down in the afternoon. It made sense to cut it down, of course, since that part was leaning a bit against the fence and the next storm might pull it down, and if the wind was from the wrong direction it might even damage his roof. (Nothing got damaged this time, luckily.)

I was a bit annoyed that he just “informed” me that it was going to be cut down and didn’t talk about it with me first, but oh well …

I called my mum to whine about it and she gave me some pro tips about how to handle stupid older men who think you don’t know anything … V^(oo)^;V (Be cool and serious, calmly and assertively make sure that things go as you want them to.)

In the afternoon the chainsaw guy came by. Actually there were no less than FIVE guys who just had to participate … My neighbour, a friend of my neighbour (?!), a serious guy who acted like he was in charge and got annoyed at my meddlesome neighbour, the chainsaw guy, and then a random fifth guy who didn’t really do anything (??!!).

By all means, I could have done it by myself with my little handsaw, but it would have taken a little longer. So I guess it was kind of helpful … V^(oo)^;V

So after they cut down the other half of the bush I sawed up those branches too.
The bamboo shrub next to it had collapsed, too, so I might as well harvest all the dry poles from it.

All cut up

Wood, bamboo, leaves.

That’s only half of the leaves – the first half I already put in the hedgiepiggle hideout. The hedgehogs will have an epic hideout this winter. :3

Hello, neighbour's kitchen window

Hello, neighbour’s kitchen window. :os

My neighbour wanted the front part of the bush (with the whitish leaves) to be cut down, too, but I made sure it stayed …!! V°(oo)°;V That part is no danger to anything, dammit.

… And that’s what I did on my day off from work.

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