Fiction Friday

As a part of my push to start blogging again, and to motivate myself to write more, I’ll be starting a regular weekly feature here: Fiction Friday. This will be a serialization of a piece of long fiction that I’m working on, one chapter a week.

I’m going to try to stay a couple of chapters ahead, but I’ll be posting this more or less as I write it, meaning that it’ll definitely be a rough draft. Once it’s complete, I’ll work on editing it, and then publish the final version as an ebook. I may or may not take these posts down once the final version is for sale; I haven’t decided yet.

If you’d like to support my writing before then, contributions to the Queer Homesteading GoFundMe are definitely appreciated! Anyone who contributes more than the final cost of the ebook (probably about $5) before its publication will receive a free copy.

With that out of the way, here’s the prologue to my queer vampire novel-in-progress, tentatively titled Mish and the Vampire. I’m aiming for a queer, intersectional deconstruction of the vampire romance genre, so I hope you won’t be scared off if it reads a little too Twilight in the beginning.

Continue reading “Fiction Friday”

State of the Union, State of the Vigs

I haven’t posted since July. I’d been hoping to get more work done in the garden before I posted again, but that hasn’t happened. I didn’t plan to post about the election, but now I feel like I have to.

The AP just called it; the next president of the United States will be Donald Trump.

I was in college when Obama was first elected. So many of us were ecstatic, running around campus in the middle of the night yelling and chanting and celebrating. It felt like being part of history, part of a change for the better. I was eighteen and I’d voted for the first time and it was way too cold to be outside without a jacket, but I was too full of victory to care.

I feel like I’m part of history again now. Am I always going to remember watching old Batman cartoons to try to distract myself from the results coming in, and the shock and horror I felt at the final result?

I hope so, and I’m writing in down here in case I forget. I need to remember watching everyone I care about sinking into despair. People are doing their best to fight through it and help one another, sharing links to suicide hotlines and making plans to stay insured or to take advantage of it while they can, sharing affection and compassion and terror through hugs and through facebook posts.

When I last posted, I was close to the bottom of a slow downward spiral of depression that ended in hospitalization. I’m out of it now, but for a while, I was rigorously practicing despair. Every day was a study in hopelessness. That’s not how I feel now.

I need to keep my family safe. I need to make my country better. The starting gun just went off for a marathon we were all hoping we wouldn’t need to run. The next four years will be a slog.

But I’m going to cross that finish line, and I’m going to bring everyone I can across it with me.

I’m going to cry, and then I’m going to sleep, and then I’m going to wake up and start running.

 

Sustainability

Single-family homes (meaning freestanding homes, not apartments or townhouses) are just about the least efficient way to store humans. Climate-control is much more difficult for multiple freestanding units than for one apartment building or row of townhouses; utilities and waste have farther to travel; and all that intervening lawn and roadway is basically a waste.

This is unfortunate, because single-family homes are also, to my tastes at least, the most comfortable way to live. I don’t want to hear my neighbors, or to worry about them hearing me. I don’t want to have to go through a landlord (or a condo-owner’s association or whatever) to make changes to my own home. And I definitely want space where I can garden.

So I’m doing my best to mitigate the inefficiency of my lifestyle. Replacing lawn with food crops is definitely one way to do that, but since I won’t be converting the entire 0.6 acres we’re on any time soon, there are other things I can do.

First, I’d like to make use of an area that’s hardly being used at all: our roof. Our house is ranch-style, so we have a huge roof area. Without spending too much money, I should be able to make use of both the rain and the sun that hit our roof, instead of letting the sunlight go to waste and the rainwater contribute to runoff and erosion.

We should be able to get Solar City to install solar panels on our roof without any upfront charge, and then pay for it over time with the money that would have gone to our electricity bill. In the long run, this should save us money, but even in the short-term, reducing our reliance on the energy grid will help offset the fact that there are four of us (with a bunch of electronics) in this big ol’ house, and we like to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

I’m also trying to get rain barrels through Blue Barrel Systems, although they don’t seem to have a supplier in my area. They do have a form you can use to contact them with requests, though, so hopefully they’ll be able to find something. Rain barrels aren’t free up-front, but the county I live in will reimburse residents who install any of a variety of rain catchment systems. (I’m really glad I started looking into county programs. Free mulch, free compost bins, reimbursements for some projects; it’s been a gold mine.)

Rainwater that’s run across your roof and through your gutters isn’t fit to drink, but I’ll be able to use it to water my plants, moisten my compost, and even wash our cars. So that’s another way we’ll be less of a burden on public utilities (and save money, too).

I thought about trying to build the garden fence out of reclaimed or recycled materials, but it looks like doing that would be a TON more work without actually saving that much money, so unfortunately, that’s out. The options seem to be either paying for fancy-schmancy “antique” wood that people want for the look of it, or buying wood that will take a ton of work to get into the shape I want and to make weather-safe. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a more accessible way to do eco-friendly fencing, but I can see how that wouldn’t be a particularly high priority.

There will probably be more sustainability projects in the future. I like the idea of putting a decorative “rain garden” in the front yard, to take some more of that runoff, but that’s a lot of work and up-front expense. I’m sure there are other projects I haven’t thought of yet, too. Let me know in the comments if you know of a good way to make a house more sustainable!

If you enjoy this blog and want to help support Queer Homesteading, consider donating to my GoFundMe.

The Weeding Begins

Weeding is hard. I’ve gardened before, I knew weeding was hard. But I’ve never gone up against something like this before. I swear the vineyard has its own ecosystem. There are birds, bugs, and fungi as well as the overgrowth from the grape vines and the weeds, weeds, WEEDS.

The birds and the bugs weren’t particularly considerate about posing for a picture, but I did get the mushrooms.

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It was hard to know how to even begin to attack that mass of growth, but since I don’t yet have clippers (or shears, or a chainsaw…) I decided to start out low to the ground, with the stuff I could pull out by hand. I pulled a good bit all the way around the perimeter, but mostly I focused on what I think must be a gap between two trellises in the middle.

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I really love the way that looks. It’s like a path to some magical place, the road less traveled by. The other side is equally intriguing. (Obviously they only lead somewhere magical if you walk the path instead of going around. Don’t you read?)

 

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Getting down on the ground, pulling up some extremely mature weeds helped me get to know what to expect going forward, in the vineyard and in our eventual garden; which kinds snap off at the root (presumably plotting to come back), which kinds have prickles, which kinds weave themselves in with everything else, which ones have surprisingly pretty flowers.

 

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One particular weed, which has been identified by my wise friend Apothecary as mile-a-minute, was particularly prickly. Some of my ex-boyfriends could rival it for clinginess, but I don’t think any of them would win.

 

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Once I’d started clearing some out, I started to be able to sort out the pattern. I think one of the reasons the grapes haven’t been entirely overwhelmed is the presence of what appears to be some kind of weed-blocking cloth. Obviously it’s not 100%, but I have to imagine it helped.

 

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I also realized that there’s a whole space that doesn’t get the kind of sunlight that plants need. It’s weirdly barren down there, with just the stems of plants that have their leaves much higher up. I suspect it may also be where some of the rabbits we’ve been seeing around are living, although I’m no bunnyologist. (Obviously).

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In the end, I managed to produce a big enough pile of weeds that it felt worthy to show off on my blog. So thank you, people who are reading this, for giving me that source of motivation. Even the viewer with the Chinese IP address who is probably a bot. I appreciate all of you, and you helped me do this.

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I also cleared out enough of that “path” down the middle to be able to get in there and take a picture looking outside. I thought that would probably be the coolest, most rewarding part of the day’s work. And it was pretty cool!

 

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But it wasn’t the coolest thing. In fact, the coolest thing wasn’t anything that I did; it was all the plants. Those grape vines, despite being in a constant fight for their lives against plants, insects, animals, and fungi, despite having been neglected for who knows how long, have managed to make some fruit!

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Sure, they’re tiny little baby grapes, and these were the only ones I saw. But that still seems like a reason to celebrate, to me. And it’s renewed my determination to keep these vines, despite the huge amount of labor that’ll require. Those grape vines haven’t given up, so I’m not going to give up on them.

I’m gonna eat the heck out of those grapes.
If you enjoy this blog and want to help support Queer Homesteading, consider donating to my GoFundMe.

The Vineyard

So this is the vineyard.

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There’s some kind of grapevine in there. Maybe Concord, maybe muscadine…we don’t really know. There’s also a lot of bindweed, some mile-a-minute, something spiny, and a bunch of Japanese beetles. Somewhere under all of that there must be a trellis, because grapevines just don’t grow to be six feet tall on their own.

It might be easier to just cut everything out and start again. Pick my own species of grape, or some other climbing plant, to put in once the trellis is bare. But even though it will be more work, I like the idea of taking something overgrown and making it fruitful again. It’s great to watch something grow from a seed to a mature plant, yes, but I’m already planning to do plenty of that. I don’t often get a chance to cut back a mess like this into something useful.

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I sort of admire that grapevine. It must have been untended for years, and it’s fighting for its life against all kinds of weeds, but it’s still hanging on. It’d be a shame after all that to just cut it all down.

Maybe I’m being silly and impractical. Maybe I’ll regret it when I’m hot and sweaty and have thorns in my hands and beetles in my hair and I’m still less than halfway through. But I want to see what’s left when the weeds and the overgrowth are cut away.
I’m not averse to burning bridges, to cutting ties and moving on. But I want to save that grapevine.

Queering the Fourth

(For anyone who isn’t aware of what “queering” means in this sort of context: “queering the narrative” or “queering the discourse” means shifting the focus from the cishet white perspective that is generally taken as the default, finding ways to challenge the norm and bring other voices and perspectives into the center.)

The Fourth of July can feel alienating to me, and to a lot of people like me. Many of the people who are the most vocal about their declarations of patriotism are the same people who would like to keep us from having rights and push us back in the closet. “My country, right or wrong” is a scary sentiment to hear when your country doesn’t recognize your identity (M or F only), won’t let you marry someone you love (same-sex marriage is in, but polyamorous marriage is still out), and in some cases won’t even let you use the bathroom. Although most of my loved ones aren’t directly in danger from the racialized violence of the prison-industrial complex, we are very aware of its existence. And our justice system’s “boys will be boys”/ “she was asking for it” attitude towards gendered violence is always hanging over us.

One of our neighbors has had red, white, and blue bunting out on their porch for at least a month. It’s sad that my immediate thought when I saw such an energetic display of love for my own country was “I wonder if that person hates me.” It’s even sadder that that’s not an unreasonable concern to have.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t love our country. We just love it differently. It’s not “My country, right or wrong”; it’s “I will make my country better.”

And I think the best way to observe Independence Day in that spirit isn’t with fireworks or with cookouts, but with a resolution. At the beginning of a new year, we generally resolve to improve ourselves; at the beginning of a new year for our country, I am going to resolve to take concrete steps to improve it, and I invite anyone who wishes to do the same to share their resolutions in the comments.

Happy Birthday, America. This coming year, I resolve to:

  • Vote against Donald Trump
  • Join a volunteer organization, to help improve my community
  • Take care of myself and my loved ones, because we’re part of America too
  • Work to care for the piece of America I live on in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner
  • Challenge hatred and bigotry wherever I see it

Happy Independence Day. Let’s work towards an America that we can be completely proud of.
Featured image courtesy of The Amazon Iowan. If you enjoy this blog and want to help support Queer Homesteading, consider donating to my GoFundMe.

The Plan

I promise, I’m not just going in blind and asking for money. I’ve got plans. Possibly over-ambitious plans, but hopefully they’re step-by-step enough to be manageable.

The first thing I want to do is start composting. Easy enough; the county I live in gives out free compost bins. All I need to buy for that is gloves and a pitchfork. (Or at least, all the pictures I see of people turning compost have them using a pitchfork, and I’m certainly not going to try to find a less cool implement to use.)

Next up: laying the foundation for a vegetable garden. As I mentioned in my first post, most of our yard is a wasteland of sod. At the advice of my homesteading mentor, the Apothecary, I’m going to lay down a lasagna bed over the sod, alternating layers of different types of compost, covering the whole thing with mulch, and leaving it like that until next spring, while I take care of all the other things that need doing.

(I really like this idea, largely because some of the layers in the bed are going to be all those cardboard boxes we used to move. It feels way better than just tossing them, even if it is into the recycling bin.)

Since I don’t have mulch, enough compost, or the correct tools on hand, the lasagna bed is probably going to cost a couple hundred dollars to set up, but when I uncover it in the spring, it’ll be plenty of nice, rich soil, all ready to be planted.

To discourage wildlife and small children from interfering with my gardening, I’m going to build a fence around the garden. (Not the whole yard, that’s way too much fence!)  That will cost $600 or more. I’m planning on a nice picket fence, painted pride-rainbow colors, with anti-rabbit netting around the bottom. Our yard should look nice and queer when that’s done, which is obviously very important.

I thought about trying to cut costs on the fencing by using repurposed pallets or something, but the more I read about them, the more I realized that was just out of my abilities. I can’t recognize termite damage or chemical residue. I don’t want to put wood I don’t trust right next to where I’m growing our food!

Getting the berry bushes, fruit trees, and vines that are all overgrown will also be a big project. That one should be pretty much free, just extremely labor-intensive. I’m pretty excited for it, honestly. I was really into The Secret Garden for a while as a kid. It’s a pretty messed-up book in a lot of ways now that I look back on it, but the idea of taking a space that’s been abandoned and making it grow again really appeals to me.

Next post will be some pictures of what I’m working with, in terms of existing growth and space. In the meantime, consider donating to my GoFundMe. You like my blog, I like money, everybody wins.