Monday, March 31, 2008

Tomatoes in the Cold Frame

And here's the picture I took yesterday of the tomato seedlings. There are 22 of them, all heirloom varieties. Four are for friends; the rest I'll have to find space for in my garden! They're currently in 3" pots - click on the picture to get a better view. The blue objects on the right are two of the eleven 5-gallon water bottles which act as a thermal reservoir to keep the cold frame above freezing on our frosty nights.


Writing again...

A little update on the "progress" box on the sidebar. I got about half a chapter done this last weekend between gardening, puttering with books (yes, still adding stuff to LibraryThing), and breaking up cat fights. The fights were not between my two, but a case of them defending our yard from intruders.

Then there was the great mouse expulsion... but more of that later.


Monday, March 24, 2008


No writing this past weekend. Saturday's weather was too good - dry, sunny and breezy - so I spent the afternoon tilling part of the garden and preparing the long bed where I'm going to grow fava beans this year. It's been a tomato bed for the last two or three years and tomato diseases and pests were accumulating, so it was time for crop rotation. I didn't grow fava beans last year due to tomato-mania, but found a couple of new recipes I want to try more often. And the plants are reliable, hardy, and pleasant to look at. Favas are a form of the European broad bean which would have been grown in Britain in Gwernin's time (most of our current bean varieties are New World imports), and it's interesting that the Welsh word for "beans" is ffa.

I actually got the beans planted Easter Sunday, after the small amount of snow we had Saturday night had melted off. With another run of warm sunny weather expected this week, I should be seeing the first plants in 10-12 days. I was glad to get them planted this early - some years we still have snow cover/frozen ground at this point, but it's been a relatively warm spring. Fava beans don't mind a little frost, so the earlier they're planted the better.

In the cold-frame the tomato seedlings are still doing well - second true leaves on some the earliest ones now, and all remaining short and stocky due to the natural light and cool nights, a nice change from the spindly ones I've gotten in previous years when I grew them indoors under lights. I meant to take a picture yesterday while they were in the sun, but forgot - maybe next weekend.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


A little snow here yesterday, but not the 5-10 inches they had predicted, just a little welcome moisture. Can't say I mind. The first signs of spring are appearing at last - a few crocus here and there. Why are the yellow ones usually the first to bloom, and the first to disappear? Spring in my cold frame is farther along - the azalea is blooming enthusiastically, and also the flower spikes are filling out on grape hyacinth bulbs that overwintered there. Hopefully the tomato seedlings survived last night's cold snap after two days of cloudy weather - I'll see tonight.

The Ash Spear is coming along, if slowly - I got another chapter written this past weekend. Wet or snowy weather helps - I'm not tempted to be out in the garden as I was the weekend before. I've update the progress indicator on the sidebar as usual. Target size for this book is 300 pages, about like Flight of the Hawk. I can't make them much longer if I'm to sell them for a half-way reasonable price on Amazon.

I'm continuing to catalogue my books - Library Thing is addictive! I have over 100 items in Welsh alone, many of which aren't in anyone else's catalogue. On that subject, by the way, I'm going to be actually teaching my Welsh class the next three weeks while our instructor goes to Wales to get married. I've been busy preparing some reading material, as well as grammar handouts on points where I think we need a review. It should be fun!


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Celtic languages

A few links for the linguistically inclined, from "The Exvulsion of the Blatant Beast". First, a couple of fascinating posts from a while back on the evolution of the Celtic languages: here and here (I would have linked to these sooner, but the background color on the site has been ... strange ... lately, and I couldn't stand to look at it long enough to find the links again).

Then, for the really ambitious (also courtesy of "Beast"): Early Indo-European Online. No Old Welsh, unfortunately... but then modern Welsh is keeping me busy enough at the moment.

More on that later, though.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

New Feature

I tried LibraryThing a couple of years ago, found it clunky to use, and left it. Recently, though, I've been noticing people using it on their blogs to show random books from their libraries, which seemed interesting. So I went back, found it much improved, and have been busy cataloging my books this last week. I'm nowhere near through, but I've found (as one does) lots of interesting things lurking in bookshelf corners which I'd lost, or even forgot I had. This makes the exercise worthwhile in itself! Also I'm surprised to find just how many Welsh language books I own - a lot of them I bought when I was at the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol in 2000. Time I got to reading some of them...

Anyway, the random selections gadget is partway down the right sidebar - it also seems to have a link to the rest of my catalog on LibraryThing. Try it out and let me know if it works.


Monday, March 3, 2008

About that trip to Arizona...

Here's a bilingual piece about my trip to Arizona last month.

Rhyfeloedd y Seren yn yr Anialwch – yn y LLaid!

Roedd 6500 ohonon ni fan hyn, a roedd hi’n bwrw glaw.

Roedden ni wedi dod sawl cannoed neu filoedd o fillteroedd, o undeg naw o teyrnasoedd, o bob cornel y Byd Gwybyddus. Roedd gynnon ni amryw miloedd o babell, pebyll fawr a phebyll fach, pebyll gwynion a duon, cochion a gleision, a nawr pebyll gwlybion. Yn hapus, roedd y rhan fwyaf ohohyn nhw yn sych tu mewn eto – gweddol sych, o leiaf.

Doedden ni ddim yng Nghumru, doedden ni ddim hyd yn oed yn Glastonbury. Roedden ni yn yr anialwch Arizona, rhwng Phoenix a Tucson, ym fis Chwefror, a roedd hi’r digwyddiad ail-fwyaf y SCA – Estella War, neu “Rhyfel Seren” yng Nghymraeg. Cafodd y digwyddiad ei henw yn wreithiol gan gael ei ddal ym Mharc Mynydd Estrella, ond mae o wedi tyfu yn rhy fawr am y Parc, ac mae’n gael ei ddal heddiw ar ferm alffalffa organaidd yn yr anialwch. Mae’n ddim yn rhyfel yn union, yn wir – mae “rhyfel” yn enw SCA am digwyddiad fawr gan frwydrau rhwng bobl o ddau neu mwy teyrnasoedd. Ond mae fwy na ymladd wrth ryfel SCA – mae popeth sy’n gallu gael ei weld mewn eisteddfod, a llawer mwy hefyd. Dw i’n mynd i weld hen cyfeillion, i ganu fy ngherddau a thraethu fy chwedlau, ac i siopa. Ambell waith i werthu llyfrau eto!

Dechreuoedd y wythnos yn dda, gan tywyll braf – dyddiau cynnes a nosau oer. Ond am Nos Iau dechreuoedd hi bwrw glaw. Roedd hi’n parhau trwy y nos, ac yn ysbeidiol trwy Ddyn Gwener. Wedyn, Nos Gwener, ailddechreuoedd hi yn ddifri. Roedd y ffyrdd i gyd wedi troi i laid – llaid brown, trwchus, gludiog, a dwfn. Roedd ceir yn gael ei lynu ynddo fo, a roedd pobl yn ei wisgo hyd eu penllinau. Roedd Nos Gwener yn hir, yn wlyb, ac yn oer.

Ond Dydd Sadwrn aeth y cymylau’n araf – yn araf iawn - i ffordd. Roedd Nos Sadwrn yn glir ac yn oer, gan lleuad amgrom – nos ardderchog i ganu dan y sêr. A roedd Dydd Sul yn ddydd dda, yn heulog ond dim yn boeth, diwedd da i wythnos dim yn drwg – oherwydd mae llaid dim yn laid, wedi’r cyfan, ac all gael ei olchi o bobl a phebyll, ond bydd cofion da’n parhau.

Byddwn ni’n mynd yn ôl blwydden nesaf.


Star Wars in the Desert – in the Mud!

6500 of us were there, and it was raining.

We had come some hundreds or thousands of miles, from nineteen kingdoms, from every corner of the Known World. We had several thousand tents, big tents and little tents, white tents and black ones, red ones and blue ones, and now muddy wet tents. Fortunately, the larger part of them them were still dry inside – fairly dry, at least.

We weren’t in Wales, we weren’t even in Glastonbury. We were in the Arizona desert, between Phoenix and Tucson, in February, and it was the second-largest event of the SCA – Estrella War, or “Star War” in Welsh. The event got its name originally from being held in Estrella Mountain Park, but it has grown too big for the Park, and today is held on an organic alfalfa farm in the desert. It’s not a war exactly, in truth – “war” is a SCA name for a large event with battles between people from two or more kingdoms. But there is more than fighting at an SCA war – there is everything that can be seen in an eisteddfod, and much more as well. I go to see old friends, to sing my songs and tell my stories, and to shop. Sometimes to sell books as well!

The week began well, with fine weather – warm dayes and cold nights. But on Thursday night it started to rain. It continued through the night, and intermittently through Friday. Then, Friday night, it began again seriously. All the roads had turned to mud – brown, thick, sticky and deep mud. Cars were getting stuck in it, and people were wearing it to their knees. Friday night was long, wet, and cold.

But Saturday the clouds went slowly – very slowly – away. Saturday night was clear and cold, with a gibbous moon – an excellent night to sing under the stars. And Sunday was a good day, sunny but not hot, a good end to a not bad week – because mud is only mud, after all, and can be washed from people and tents, but good memories last.

We’ll go back next year.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

More on learning Welsh

I'll be posting another bilingual piece soon. Currently I'm working hard on my Welsh, looking forward to Cymdeithas Madog's course this summer. Also I'm trying to get back in the flow of writing after the disruption of Estrella War.

Why work on improving my Welsh in order to attend a Welsh language course? It does sound kind of counter-intuitive, doesn't it? Well, for two reasons. First, I'm the kind of person who doesn't start the term paper until the due date heaves into view over the calendar horizon. So having a fixed date to aim for - "I want to improve this, this, and this by such-and-such a date" - helps motivate me. Secondly, this will be my eighth trip to Cwrs Cymraeg, and in four of my previous Cyrsiau I've been in the top level (originally level six, now level seven). I love the challenge of that level, but I know to fully benefit from it my spoken Welsh needs to be as good as I can get it. So I rejoined the local Colorado Welsh Society class here in Denver last fall, and I've been working weekly - if not daily - on my Welsh. Sometimes it feels like patching a leaky boat - as soon as I fix one problem, I become aware of two more. But that's life - and language learning.

More later - back to work.