Writing & Gardening. It must be summer.

It’s that weeding time of year again. Questions about homemade remedies have come up on several of my social media outlets and in comments on my posts. Sounds like blog fodder to me. So.

Here’s my experience–with the caveat that this is not intended as The One True Way advice, just what’s worked for me. There are plenty of blogs that analyze organic/home herbicides in detail. (Spoiler alert: most gardening blogs point out that homemade remedies are NOT as effective as glyphosate or horticultural herbicides. Which is nothing but the truth.)

I use them anyway. My yard is small (roughly 50×100 ft) and I don’t like t use persistent chemicals where I can avoid them because (1) I often change my mind about what I want to plant where, and (2) I forget what I’ve sprayed.

For a mostly-effective easy *temporary* herbicide, I use straight vinegar + a tiny squeeze of dish soap to help the acid penetrate waxy leaf surfaces. No measuring, no cooking, just pour, shake & go. Last year I invested in a commercial product I call “vinegar on steroids” It is even more effective but it is mega-expensive & I wear my glasses + protective clothes (aka old jeans & shoes)  when I spray it because it is *very* acidic.

Pouring boiling water over plants is another simple quick kill. I see it recommended especially for patios and walkways.  I also see a lot of recipes with salt added. Here’s the thing: salt adds nothing to the effectiveness in small quantities, and in larger ones it’s a VERY bad idea on soil, concrete or brick. NaCl builds up to toxic levels shockingly fast, and unlike vinegar, it persists. High risk of permanent damage.  Victorious armies did not salt the earth of their enemies as a favor.

Also, long-term, bricks & concrete don’t appreciate the temperature stress of being boiled. ALSO-also, you have to carry around boiling water. I’m as likely to boil myself as anything else. Noooooo, thanks.

So I spray between my patio bricks with vinegar instead. It does bleach unsealed brick. I have old bricks. I do not care.

Want to be a home recipe multi-tasker? Adding 1-2 c. epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to each gallon of vinegar makes the spray a mild fertilizer, and 1/4 c soap (which is a LOT) makes the spray lethal to any soft insects in the area too.

I do recommend whatever you spray, invest in a cheap 1 or 2 gal sprayer and use it for nothing but Killer Chemicals.

DISCLAIMERS: None of these will kill deep-rooted or established runner-rooted weeds with only one application. Not even the commercial acids are as effective as glyphosate etc. The sunnier the day and the warmer it is, however, the more effective the spray.

Have a look at the results.

And that’s that.  😀

Come to Pittsburgh, it’ll Be FUN!

TL;DR summary: I’m going to Pittsburgh this week! Lots of amazing authors will be in Pittsburgh! You can meet them for free & get autographs!

Why Pittsburgh? So glad you asked. It’s the Nebula Awards Conference Weekend, a traveling event held annually by The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (aka SFWA)

There will be loads of professional development panels for authors and the big Nebula Awards Ceremony, but the reason I’m sharing  is that the event also has a super cool tradition called the Mass Autographing.

Open to the public. Here be all the official bits: https://nebulas.sfwa.org/autographing-event-sunday-may-20/

Basically if you’re within a distance of Pittsburgh where you can be at the Pittsburgh City Cetner Marriott Sunday May 20, 1-3, and you’re interested in excellent science fiction & fantasy books, you really should come to this event!

You can meet loads of authors–Nebula Award nominated, and Nebula Award WINNING authors–they’ll be there, and they’ll all have books available for purchase too.

Also there will be me. With my books. Not nominated books, and I’m not a SFWA member (not yet! SOMEDAY!) but I will be at the conference absorbing knowledge and maybe helping out if I can.

And so I will also have my excellent books for sale at the event Book Depot. In case anyone wants them.

What about next year? Will I go to the SFWA conference then? Maybe.  Depends on where it’s held, and even more it depends on whether I make enough sales to become a member. I’m not sure how long I can justify attending when I’m still not making enough sales to qualify as a member. Maybe forever? Maybe not. I get more self-conscious and nervous about it every year.

But that’s next year, and I’m not sure what next year will bring.  For sure it will be an adventure.

This year? PITTSBURGH, HERE I COME!

The Latest Doings & Goings-on

Reading:

Court of___________ series. Sarah J Maas. Three books & a novella with more on the way. I gobbled them all up like potato chips and have moved on to the author’s other series, the name of which I have misplaced.  Good, solid European/Celtic-based fantasy but with some quirks that may or may not rub a reader wrong.  (1) There’s a definite romance feel to the relationship developments and the physical descriptions, and although the books are published by YA Bloomsbury, um…there are full-on sex scenes too. Which I like but was not expecting. (2) The characters refer to people as males and females…that one starts to grate after a while. I know, the rationale is that there are Fae and fairies and arguments are made about man/woman only applying to humans, but…I respectfully disagree and dislike the reductiveness of it nonetheless. (3) There’s a subtext of “marriage & family is everything,” with romantic love complications being the only driving motivation for nearly every character’s development.

Me, I didn’t mind them, and the books are wildly popular, but…still. These are things I notice.

Viewing:

Avengers: Infinity War. (Sorta spoilers?) I enjoyed it right up to the end, which wasn’t an end OR a cliffhanger and has left me with…mixed feelings.  It’s worse than if I’d gotten to the last page of The Two Towers and was told I couldn’t read Return Of the King for a year, because reading even the most visual of books is not as visceral and immediate as viewing a movie. The choice of a total downer endpoint (and the painfully problematic nature of some choices leading to that point) pulled me out of the story, and that was disappointing. I wanted to be excited about anticipating the next part. Now I’m merely hoping it isn’t a huge letdown. Oh, well.

Winchester. A delicious old-fashioned haunted house story, complete with a cast of flawed protagonists, loads of  mysterious supporting characters, family failures and secrets, and tons of jump scares. The historical elements—including the magnificent sets & costumes—made for wonderful atmospherics. It’s beautifully produced, crisply modern, and yet it sets a retro 70’s horror movie ambiance in the best way.

Baking:

I have discovered that if I add an extra 1/2 c of greek yogurt and extra sugar to my cherry drop scone recipe, they taste a lot like cherry cheesecake. Next experiment: sub in some almond flour to see how it affects the texture.

And I’ve perfected the recipe I call “why buy teeny boxes of Boursin when I have goat cheese and yogurt plus herbs & spices from my kitchen & garden?”  It’s delicious on lots of things, and so easy I can make it in a bowl with a fork. Yum.

Yarding:

Spring has finally sprung. We’re still at half the average growing degree days for this point in the year, but with the summery days, we’re catching up fast.  I got the shrubs in need of shaping cut back just in time, before they leafed out practically overnight. And since Spouseman has enough energy back to join in the yard fun & games again this year (YAY!) the bindweed & dandelions in the beds are getting properly annihilated.

Most of the things I planted last year came back. I’ve added a few new perennials and moved around some that have been propagating.  On the annuals side, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are in, serendipity seeds have been scattered. Still to come: basil, more rosemary & lavender plants for pots and beds (maybe I can keep the pots alive this year…) and some geraniums for color.

And I need to buy more dirt. (Just writing those words makes me giggle—buy dirt?!—but it’s true. I harvest enough from the beds each year that I need to replace biomass. Because SCIENCE!)

And since you’ve made it this far, Writing:

My last post had the mopey details. The happy big thing is, I have met some fantastic folk at a sorta-local reading series. Gumbo Fiction Salon happens on second Thursdays at the Galway Arms in Chicago. There are a couple of featured readers every month and open mic. Genre-friendly to the max, but not restricted to science-fiction/fantasy, or even to prose. Supportive, audience of other writers 7 writing adjacent folk.  Good food, good company, good times. What’s not to love?

It’s only sorta-local because I’m near Chicago, not in Chicago. Near-ish. Like, it takes an hour to get there.) ANYway. It’s well worth the public transit adventure.

I’ll be there again tonight, reading from Rough Passages if I get a mic slot. I’ll definitely be reading in July, I’m a featured reader that month.