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Showing posts with the label habitat

Pocket of Joy: Sweet Corn

It's almost sweet corn season in Michigan, and my shaggy little baby cornfield is all ears! View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jeannie Miernik (@msamiernika) I've planted corn in the back yard before and once, to be funny, in the flower bed along the front porch. This year, I got serious about replacing my suburban lawn and took a big chonk out of the front yard to plant locally developed corn and its "sister" crops sunflowers, beans, and (by surprise volunteer via compost) squash. My cornfield has some bald spots where I didn't plant deep enough and birds ate the seeds, but the stalks that grew are producing many fattening-up ears of corn! I am very excited to get out the huge pot I bought at Habitat ReStore while shopping for my kitchen renovation and put water on to boil while we pick and shuck the corn (now that's fresh) like I used to do with my grandparents when I was a kid. My family and I have always loved sweet corn s

We're Cooking Again!

Oh, wishes for real dishes to wash and lovin' on my oven! Our DIY kitchen renovation is not nearly finished, but we have finally installed flooring and hooked up our appliances--except the vent hood, which has not been delivered yet. Ooh, steamy! We can cook our own food! We can wash our own real dishes! I have never been this excited about chores. It's a chaotic mess in here without our upper shelving or real countertops, but we have lighting, plumbing, a dishwasher, an oven and range, and a pantry that is in the kitchen instead of the living room!  And I can already start to imagine my rustic cherry shelves festooned with ghost pumpkins . There are more than a half dozen of them growing on the vine that is joyfully overtaking my front yard cornfield, and I'm hoping that no little jerk of a jackalope or chupacalabaza or rude bunny, squirrel, or deer will come along and decide to take one bite of each. I haven't had the best of luck with that. The local fauna often tak

Pocket of Joy: Surprise Ghost Pumpkin

Boo!  It turns out that the volunteer squash vine in my garden this year is not producing gooseneck gourds, as I suspected. It's a ghost pumpkin! Now I remember tossing one of those in the compost after last Halloween.  There are also deer tracks in the garden, which I did not fence this time, but this spooky little bubble of joy is growing right in the center of the thick, spiny foliage, so I hope it will be left to hang in there until my daughter can carve it up this Halloween.  Happy Hot Gourd Summer!

Check Out My...

Pantry! We slapped in some fun and easy, removable wallpaper and dug around in the garage until we found this functional beauty, a commercial-grade speed rack abandoned by a former roommate long ago.  The wallpaper is also pretty old, leftover from a project in my parents' former house. Weirdly, I just saw it featured in a bookcase in an episode of Love It or List It . As seen on TV! While we renovate, we've been going through lots of old stuff in the garage, attic, and shed to donate, throw away, or, occasionally, use in the new kitchen. I've unearthed some VERY interesting and exciting treasures from deep inside the garden shed, which I hope to show off soon.  Things are getting very bog witchy around here indeed! 

Pocket of Joy: Hot Gourd Summer

The corn has grown past "knee high by the Fourth of July," and so have the sunflowers. The delicious bean plants keep trying to climb up their tall sisters' stalks, though the cute, fuzzy creatures of the neighborhood keep trimming them down. And in one very green corner of the garden, the zombie trash gourds have returned! Last year, they volunteered to take over my compost and apple wood stick piles, and this year, they popped out of the front yard garden (after I spread compost there) to say: it's time for another hot gourd summer! The Fourth of July fireworks are all used up and done; it is now legal to look forward to Halloween. Pumpkin spice girls and bog witches, rejoice with me! And pray to every curly shoot and warty bump that by the time these decorative gooseneck gourds ripen, my witchy kitchen will be finished and ready to display them on rustic cherry open shelves against shady green walls. Until then, it's a joy to let the gourd plants' broad gre

A Lightbulb Moment

All the lights are on! This weekend, my dad finished installing our kitchen cabinets as well as three pendant lights that hang above them. Hallelujah, let there be light! Now we can finally see what we're doing, giving us a boost of productivity by providing both visual access and a more pleasant work environment--which will soon become a warm, welcoming place to cook and eat and converse! This bright, warm light is a great metaphor for something else I've realized over the course my month-long home renovation staycation--which, though hard and busy, has been a clean break from my nonprofit work, my novel-writing creative work, and most of my social life too. I had an "aha" moment about illuminating the kitchen that my family has designed and built ourselves with a set of clear, warm lights that my husband and I chose together, as well as the fact that we are no longer living in other people's stuff. We're approaching 40 now, and we've finally been able t

No Cook Summer Snacks

We've been living without a kitchen for over a month now while we renovate, and while I miss baking and cooking, it's also a little bit nice to not have to cook. My family doesn't have a daily takeout budget (or else we'd be paying someone else to renovate our kitchen, obviously), so we've relied on my parents to share their kitchen and home-cooked meals with us in addition to setting up a makeshift pantry in our living room filled with foods that don't need to be cooked. During a hot summer, even when we have a fully functioning kitchen, it's nice to have some things on hand that don't need to be cooked with a stove or oven--or even a grill outside on scorching days. Whether or not you have a lovely kitchen that works, anyone can stay a little cooler and enjoy a little more time to relax this summer by stocking up on no-cook snacks such as... in-season fruits and veggies that can be enjoyed raw hummus, salsa, liquid nacho cheese (no judgment), or any ot

Pocket of Joy: Renovating to Love, Not to List

My mom and I have watched Love It or List It for years, and it's no surprise to us that most families choose to stay in their own, customized home rather than move into a new, blank box. The qualities that make a house a home are not the same qualities that make a marketable real estate property. Houses sell better when they are whitewashed into sterile, blank boxes where a new homeowner can come in and add their own personalized color and texture. If you're rich like the people on LIOLI , you can custom build a personalized home from scratch or personalize a market-fresh house in a short time, but even so, it's easier to stay in an already-customized house than to start over.  For regular people who aren't rich, turning a house into a home takes even more creativity, hard work, and time. But working class people certainly can create beloved homes. I've seen dream homes created from the tiniest of tiny houses in the humblest of neighborhoods, in trailer parks, in a

My Kitchen Is a Cleaner, Empty Box

This won't come as any surprise to anyone who's done it, but wow does everything about a home renovation take longer than expected! Over the past week, we figured some things out, added tasks to our must-do list, filled holes and gaps, did several rounds of mudding and sanding, shopped and scrounged for supplies many times, made quick substitutions when the things we wanted to buy were out of stock indefinitely, and washed the ceiling, walls, and floor several times.  This weekend, Michigan apparently entered its new climate-change-era monsoon season, jacking up the humidity to 85+ throughout the day and night along with swamp-butt hot temperatures--a set of conditions not amenable to painting or allowing paint to dry properly. My husband spent a large portion of yesterday constructing, from scratch, a wooden frame to hold one of our window air conditioners in a kitchen window, to cool and air condition the room maybe enough that we can start priming today. There will be no ven

My Kitchen Is a Dirty, Empty Box

My kitchen is demolished! Goodbye, soffits! Goodbye, can lights that never worked and dead outlets and bad fire-hazard electrical circuits! Goodbye, busted hinges and wonky drawers and peeling laminate cabinets! Goodbye, moldy plywood and crumbling tile countertops! Goodbye, load of rubble I drove to the dump in my rusty old pickup truck! Goodbye, goofy tile backsplash and chunks of various glues! This week, we'll say goodbye to corroded pipes and have some new plumbing stubbed in before we install new cabinetry. Soon, we'll get to start adding new stuff to this empty box! Tomorrow, I'll get a quick YouTube education in how to plaster a ceiling. I have never done a demolition or construction project before, so this is all stressful and scary, yet exciting. It's nicely metaphorical to gut and re-imagine a living space as the whole human world feels its way out of the worst (we hope) of a historic pandemic and thinks carefully about rebuilding differently than how things

Pocket of Joy: Michigan Seasons

Michigan's four seasons can be dramatic, especially as climate change progresses, but I've learned that I just can't quit them. Their rhythm is embedded in my soul. Without them, I feel adrift.   When I was young, I had that itch of wanderlust that comes naturally to young people everywhere. Although Michigan boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth, I needed to see what else was out there. I longed to sample the nuances of other cultures, other kinds of lives, other fields of human experience. After I traveled and spent weeks or months at a time in faraway places, I realized that getting far, far away for long, long spans of time and coming home again was the only way I could fully appreciate the place where my roots had formed.   My husband and I agreed: It was ourselves that needed to expand and grow and change in order to put down deep roots in the first place we had ever learned to take for granted. We married young for our generation, at 23 and 24, and al

Smashing the Ticky-Tacky

The demolition has begun! After more than a decade of living with an outdated and dysfunctional kitchen, we are slapping the tackiness out of this place and creating our own functional, beautiful, and family-and-friends-friendly space. My husband and I are thrifty, practical people--and because of that, we put off updates to our home until we got through the messy, silly, frantically busy, and expensive years of early parenthood and entertaining groups of rowdy children. But now our daughter is graduating from elementary school, my parents are newly retired and eager to help, and pandemic legislation put our student loans on hold, so IT IS TIME!  Until a couple of weeks ago, our late kitchen featured: a partially broken, scuffed-up, shabby, and weirdly tiny sink; a rusty, falling-apart vent hood; a poorly installed, ugly tile backsplash; broken cabinets with peeling doors; three lights and several outlets that don't work, due to horrifyingly wrong electrical wiring; countertops mad

How to Make a Grill Out of a Log

Over the past few years, our local power company has had to cut down several trees on or near our property that someone in the past had, according to an inexplicable mid-Michigan tradition, planted in a row directly beneath a power line, resulting in a very slow-motion disaster. By the time the power company finally cut down the trees, some of them had already died, and some had been severely damaged in the past couple of ice storms. We were grateful to see them taken down at no personal expense to us, and we were also glad to have the firewood left on our property because we have both an indoor wood stove and a backyard fire pit. But it turned out to be a lot, and the utility workers left the tree trunks in hearty slices about the size of end tables, which have proved laborious for us to split, especially as a couple of the larger trees were tough old elms. Happily, we have found a couple of uses for them that don't require us to wrestle with their knotty old fibers: outdoor end t

Pocket of Joy: Close Grandparents

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to settle close to my parents before having a child. I even convinced my parents to move right into my neighborhood after they retired, a ten-minute walk from my backyard, and everyone in my family has benefited from the arrangement . Grandparents and grandchildren are great for each other's physical, mental, and emotional health. And the support grandparents can provide in helping to care for and raise a child benefits the child's parents. Over the past year, I think we all realized just how important it is for parents to have reliable and safe childcare, and unfortunately our nation has some work to do to provide for the needs of working class families. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to help us care for our children are blessed indeed. Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren create well-being and resilience in every generation of the family. It is wonderful to have

Endo Belly Dance

Later this summer, I have an ultrasound scheduled to begin the process of maybe, finally, diagnosing the endometriosis that I believe I have.  End of summer edit: Diagnosis achieved! It's not endometriosis, it's ovarian cysts and internal vascular damage caused by a history of untreated, rupturing cysts combined with severe dysmenorrhea caused by an excess of oxytocin, which also caused me to produce milk like a prizewinning dairy cow and to experience other side benefits that you can probably guess, which helps make up for the lifelong menstrual disorder and extra painful labor. I have begun taking a low daily dose of progestin, which is already helping without causing noticeable side effects. There are many reproductive and menstrual disorders that can cause similar symptoms, many of which can be diagnosed with a minimally invasive ultrasound and treated in ways that can transform your health and quality of life. Get it done if you need it. You're worth it! Sometimes I fe

How Diverse Friendships Elevate Our Family Dinners

And not just because we learn new recipes. Our friendly relations with immigrants and second-generation Americans from all over the world, from casual encounters to long friendships, have benefited each member of my family and our shared dinners together by nourishing us with knowledge, inspiration, cultured openness, and fresh ideas about food, health, cooking, responsibility, gratitude, respect and appreciation for differences, the variety of sensory pleasures available to the human heart and palate, and the sacredness of shared mealtimes. It is tragic to me that so many Americans--white and white-passing and others too--fear racial diversity due to misleading stereotypes and the brutal trauma of institutionalized racism in our nation.  And maybe, for some, due to some throwback tribalism inherited from way-back, animalistic ancestors who really didn't know how to cook and ate a lot more dirt, sand, and parasite-infested raw meat than what is imagined by fans of 21st century &quo