Saturday, May 31, 2008


This is Smokie.  This time last year she was still a pup.  Just 7 months old.  Still skinny enough to slip through the gaps in the iron fence.  She also had learned a much easier trick for escaping.  Just above her head in this picture, you can see the gate latch.  It's one of those that is a push/latch closure.  It has to be slammed to close properly.  She quickly figured out how to pull on the bottom of the gate to see if it was latched.  If not, she'd simply pull the gate and slip through as it swung open.  Last year she saw something in the pasture that she just couldn't resist.

She saw this deer.  Well, really she saw another deer---a young buck, and gave chase.  Just as she and the buck reached to upper part of the pasture, this doe jumped up out of the tall grass. If you know anything about does this time of year, it's that they will face down anything that threatens their fawns.  Evidently, she had been resting with her fawn and Smokie unwittingly ran across them.  Does have been known to kill dogs.  They were two acres away and there was nothing I could do but scream.  Smokie busted it back toward me, with this doe in hot pursuit.  Smoke zigged and zagged while I ran that way, trying to confuse the doe.  Smoke managed to find a large bush in the middle of the pasture to hide under, just as the doe was about to fill her with hoof-size holes.  I was able to get uncomfortably close to this protective mama.  She realized she was outdone and headed back to her baby.  

Did Smoke learn a valuable lesson from that encounter?  No!  She barks like a maniac when this doe comes up for the short grasses of the pasture.  Sometimes I want to let her out to remind her that the deer is bigger than her and not something to be harassed.  Smokie just wants to prove to the doe that she's the boss and that she'll take a bite of deer hiney if she gets any closer to the house.  The doe just ignores her.  She remembers last year's encounter.  Smokie does too.  She wants a rematch.

Friday, May 30, 2008


The tall one in the middle is my first born, Tom. He's reached many milestones this year. He turned 16, he got his driver's license, and today he starts his first job. He'll be sacking groceries this summer at my favorite store. He wasn't interested in flipping burgers at Sonic or selling blue jeans at the mall, so the grocery store it is.

I'm really proud of the young man he's become. Considering that all first born children are just giant experiments, it's lucky any of them turn out at all. Parents fly by the seat of their pants every minute of the day and night with that first baby. We make mistakes. Hopefully, love and nibbling on baby toes and necks makes up for some of the mistakes.

I can't believe how quickly the years have passed. In two short years, we'll be out buying him stuff to take to college! I think he'll be ready, but will I?

I have to brag on him a bit. As with all teenagers, he tries my patience. I try his as well. That said, he's an all around great guy. He's uber responsible. A friend recently asked me how he was doing on a project at school. My response was, "I didn't know he had a project." It's not that I don't care, it's just that I don't have to hold his hand with his school work. He doesn't complain, he just gets it done.
The other night, he'd dropped off his little sister at her school dance and then gone to a friend's house. At nine o'clock he called home to ask, "Did you want me to pick up Pearl from the dance, or are you going to?" He and Pearl can barely be in the same room together, but he remembered while he was out doing his own thing, that the dance ended and she'd need to get home. Whose kid does that? Mine, I guess (smile, grin, happy dance).
I was out in the yard working on getting a large area of dead grass raked up and amending the soil a couple weeks ago. Many bags of compost were being opened and spread out. Tom stepped out on the porch and asked if I needed help. I told him I was about done, but thanks. After he closed the door, the porch lights came on. It was about dark and he'd turned them on for me to finish my job.
Last night I was on the same porch cutting James' hair. Again, the porch lights came on. It was dusk. Thanks, Tom, for thinking about what would make my life a little easier. Mostly thanks, for being a great guy. I know it's hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes and think about what they might need, but you're doing a fine job.
As we say in soccer, "Well done!" I'm proud of you. I'm glad I know you and lucky you're related to me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wasted Days and Disappointment

This is sort of a dorky picture, but I'm not allowed to put all of its information online. Anyway, it represents what I did with my Memorial Day.  Lee had the day off, so did the kids.  We could have done just about anything.  We stayed home because of me.  Well, not really because of me, but sort of.

Let me preface the rest of this by saying that everyone is a volunteer, including me.  When most folks in a paying position would have encountered this situation, they'd have gotten fired up and someone might have been reprimanded or worse. I couldn't.  We are all volunteers in my little story, except the health inspector.  He probably doesn't make much anyway, but I digress.

I am the coordinator of our church's outreach to the homeless. We fix breakfast every Sunday for about 75-100 homeless men, women and children.  I did the job for several years and needed a break.  Another lovely couple took it for a couple years and found they needed help, as they both had very demanding day jobs. I'm at stay at home engineer.   I was done needing a break and said I'd do it alone. No problem.  

In any establishment that provides food in our country, someone is required by law to have a Food Managers Certificate (FMC).  It means they have gone through a lengthy class to learn how not to kill folks with E Coli, or Botulism, or Rat Poison, or Hepatitis A, or a good stout Cold.  When I took over the coordinator position in September, it would soon be time to renew our FMC. I was tied up in the whole "my mom is dying" drama and so another person in our congregation, who is a chef (I'll call him Joe), said he'd take care of it.  It wasn't due until March, so I forgot all about it. 

Starting March 1st, I began getting calls from the health department asking about the FMC status.  I began asking the Joe if he still planned on taking care of getting an FMC.  He assured me he was.  March came and went.  More phone calls from the health department, more calls to the Joe.  April--more calls on everyone's part.  Joe tells me he's set up to take the test on April 11th.  He evidently didn't.  May rolls in and Constantine (we're on a first name basis now) from the health department is getting pretty steamed.  He begins threatening me with a lawsuit and $1000!! fine.  I begin trying to contact Joe in earnest.  I don't see him at church, because he works nights.  I am left with email and the telephone, both of which are intermittently answered.   I get ahold of Joe and he tells me he's taken the test, but that the certificate (which I need the numbers off of) are at work. He'll make sure they get to church and he'll call the health department to square things with Constantine.  Not.

This past weekend, I spent the greater part of Saturday morning preparing for a showdown with the health department.  Constantine was coming for our annual inspection and by-goodness there'd better be a FMC onsite or we're toast.  I called Joe in a panic on Friday.  He said he'd have the FMC there for Saturday mornings inspection.  Constantine, after hounding me for two months didn't bother to show up at the alloted time.  I waited a half hour and left, thinking we'd gotten a reprieve. I was relieved.  What Joe had done, was taken an online course for a Food Handler's Permit on Friday!  A completely different permit altogether. We, meaning me, were toast.  Constantine showed up 10 minutes after I left.  A church member was there mowing the grass and let Constantine in.  He then called me on my cell phone and was not a happy camper. I had until the end of business on Tuesday to produce an FMC, period!  

I spent Sunday at church and then at home, stewing.  Why couldn't Joe have just been honest with me?! It would have been no big deal for him to say, "Listen, I know I said I'd do this, but I can't."  We are a very small congregation---75 on a good Sunday.  Fifteen core families.  We even refer to those folks as our 'church family'.  Joe's a great young man.  Not only did he let me down, he lied to me on several occasions.  I made it very clear, several times that bad things were going to happen to me and our outreach program if the FMC was not taken care of.  I was nice about it.  I understand he has a life too.  I offered more than once to just go ahead and take care of it myself.  He assured me he needed it for work anyway, and he'd take care of it.  

On Monday morning (Memorial Day), I researched to death, the idea of finding an online program that would match the test the city would give and one they'd accept.  I found one.  I spent four hours taking an online class and then 45 minutes taking the online test.  One hundred and fifty dollars and nearly 5 hours later, I was the holder of an online FMC.  Tuesday (by the end of business!!) would be the real question.  Will they accept it, and if they don't, then what?

Tuesday, I prepared for battle and headed to the health department.  There was no battle.  I gave the man behind the desk (not Constantine) my online certificate and $50.  I am now the holder of an official city of Austin FMC, until 2013. BooYA! Lee took me out to lunch to celebrate.  The End.

Not really though.  I need to hash this out with Joe.  I am hurt.  I am disappointed.  We are family, after all---even if it's church family.  I know young people are prone to not want to disappoint people.  I was the same way in my 20s.  Sometimes I used to think if I just ignored something, that it would go away. It never did, it would come around behind me and bite me in the backside.  Joe's about to get nibbled on.  I would never bite.  He's too good a guy.   

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's Getting Hot

Well, I was predicting a 4th of July tomato.  My plants are taking things into their own hands and now I'm thinking sometime next week.  I know ripening of tomatoes has nothing to do with heat, but it always seems like it.  Heck, you've never heard of a 'cold house' tomato have you?  Anyway, this one has my name written all over it. I'll be deciding whether this one should be eaten in its true form with just a little salt, or coupled with bacon, lettuce, mayo, and some seedy, homemade bread--toasted, please.  I may go out today and wrap it in some bird netting as we've got mockingbirds and squirrels very close by.  Nothing worse than finding big holes in your first tomato!  Well, there are worse things, like war and famine and crime and drug dealers and dog kickers and..., but you know what I mean.

Two years ago I planted some German Chamomile.  The seed packet said "can become invasive."  I planted it anyway, right next to my invasive mint---I'm a rebel that way.  Nothing happened.  Well, something happened, but you could barely call it a happening.  A couple seeds germinated, a couple wimpy plants tried their hardest and then died.  I decided it wasn't meant to be and forgot all about it.  Must be too hot?  This spring, a couple seedlings came up that I recognized and decided to leave alone.  They took off and the aroma from the flowers would stop me in my tracks.  I looovvveee good chamomile tea.  How cool that I can now make my own.  I pulled up several plants on Monday, as the heat was taking them over.  I sat for an hour on the porch and tenderly picked off the flowers.  They are now drying in my office window, awaiting a hot pot of water to show off their true purpose in life.  

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Have a Name

Remember me?  I was the dog CeeCee blogged about 10 short days ago; and what a difference 10 days can make!  I have a name now---it's Roo.  Betcha can't guess where my new family came up with that idea?  I have a collar and a tag, too.  I haven't been to the vet to make sure I don't have any more puppies yet.  My vet, Glen, says I need to gain some weight first and settle in at home.  That'll be cool. Puppies are nice and everything, but they need a lot of attention and then they take them away from me.  There are too many puppies on the planet already.  I'm ready to retire.  Come along and see my new digs.
This is my big brother, Bounce.  He's an old man, but I guess he would bounce straight up in the air as a puppy, thus the name.  He doesn't bounce so much anymore, but he welcomed me into the family with barely a sniff.  He just got his summer cut, so we're more alike than ever.  
This is one of my kitty family.  This one won't play.  Don't know what's up with that. 
This is another kitty brother.  My family teases him and accuses him of being half rabbit.  He's a tortiseshell guy with no tail.  I think the lack of a tail makes him sit like he does, but he sits just like the jackrabbits that hang out in the front yard.  I really don't care what he looks like.  He's seriously thinking about playing with me and that would be great!
This kitty reminds me of CeeCee's kitty, Lucky.  Kinda "biggish".  Ssshhh, don't tell. I think he's big enough to eat me.
This is my new toy.  Bounce can't have it.  A girl's got to draw the line somewhere.  I do get something that the other furr family doesn't get---I get to sleep with the 15 year old daughter.  Once the family discovered that I only potty outside, I got the run of the house and get to snuggle every night before sleeping.  Who would have guessed how good a home I'd end up in?  It pays to be sweet and pick the right person to bark at when you're in trouble.
Tour's over.  Let's take a walk!  

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Movie Review

We went to see "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" today.  Indy is now an old guy.  It's 1957.  Harrison Ford is 65 years old and still kickin' booty.  We've all aged 27 years since "Raiders" and I still can't crack a whip or ride a motorcycle.  Honestly, I'm not really a Harrison Ford fan, but love him as Indy.
You know what, it was darn fun movie.  Lots and lots of action, some twists and turns in characters and a pretty improbable plot.  Typical Indiana Jones stuff.  Above, you see Ford on the back of a Harley driven by Shia LaBeouf.  Lee says the motorcycle chase scene is one of the top 10 chase scenes of all time.  Marian is back from Raiders.  She's the only decent woman character in any of the Indy movies, as far as I'm concerned.

In all honesty, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.  The plot gets a little, well a lot, bizarre near the end. Not typical Indiana Jones fare, but pretty darn good.  We've all seen improbable scenes where you think "no way!".  My enormous "no way" came during a lengthy river-waterfall scene.  Indy and cast not only go over 3 ginormous waterfalls (100ft+ drops) and survive, but all in an open air jeep with no seatbelts.  Indy is still wearing his hat at the end and his flashlight and lighter still work.  In the last fall, they all fall out of the jeep, mid-air.  So, they lose one star for stretching it just a bit beyond cartoonish in that scene.  Otherwise, go see it.  Really.  Just remember that you can get up to go pee when they land in the river in a jeep.  You'll even have time to wash your hands and won't have to dry them on your pants.

P.S. There's bugs and snakes, but you knew that already.  

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hours and Hours of Fun

For Mother's Day, I asked for a Nestbox web-cam.  I wanted to spy on a bird building a nest and raising its young.  I didn't get one.  Something about a hundred feet of cord stretched across the porch and in through an open window and hooked to my computer didn't sit right with Lee.  I think it was the window having to be slightly open that finally clinched it for him.  For some reason he doesn't think that air conditioned air going out and scorpions, flies and mosquitoes coming in was worth it.  To give him credit, he did search for a wireless version.  No such thing, at least not with infrared light.  It needs the light to be able to "see" in a dark nest box.  Shoot!

If I knew how to post a link, I'd link you to Poor Richard's Almanac.  That's where my quest for a different Mother's Day present began.  Over there, "Our friend Ben", was talking about the wonderful claymation pair of Wallace and Gromit.  I responded to Ben's post by telling him of my favorite smart guy-bumbling guy duo of Jeeves and Wooster.  I first came across this duo on PBS, back before we could afford cable.  The show is set in the 1930's/40's.  Jeeves, played by Stephen Fry, is the smart guy.  Bertie Wooster is played by none other than Hugh Laurie, recently of "House" fame.  You'd never guess they were the same man!   Wooster is the the bumbling guy.  He is a trust fund baby who has nothing better to do with each day than court silly, rich women, drink far too much, hang out with other trust fund boys and get in far too much trouble.  Jeeves is sent in to keep Wooster out of trouble.  You could call him a man-servant, but in the trust fund world, he's referred to as a Valet (pronounced-VAL-LET). Jeeves is the master of getting Wooster out of the most upside down predicament and yet manages to make Bertie believe that he did most of it himself.  

The whole show just makes me smile.  Below, you see 24 hours of good, clean fun.  I guess I don't need to spy on birds that badly.  In fact, another birdie pair have yet to make a nest in the box.  No bother, I'll be sitting in front of my DVD player shaking my head at Hugh Laurie anyway.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Some Good Things

Yesterday was my father-in-law and brother-in-law's birthday. Yes, they share the same birthday. Pretty cool birthday present for my FIL I think, to have a son. Dad turned 80! It's so wonderful in many ways, but last year we thought we'd lose him to heart disease. Heart attack followed by bypass surgery, followed by more surgery and a 2 month stay in the hospital about killed him. He and my MIL decided to move down here last October to be closer to family. Two months of running back and forth to the hospital without someone to lean on about killed my MIL---well, figuratively anyway. They need to be near us and we need to have them around. My youngest, James, thinks they hung the moon. My older two do to, but are too cool to show it. It's a good thing all around.
My BIL, Dean, surprised Dad for their birthday by just showing up on their doorstep. I think they had a great visit. It's the first time Dean has seen Mom and Dad in their new house. He and his wife have a longer visit scheduled for July. Can't wait to share it with them!

This is Mama dog. I was walking my son to school and found her in a greenbelt (large, green park space behind neighborhoods) barking her head off. Turns out she was protecting a puppy. Once my friend and I were able to find something to put it in, we scooped up the puppy and used it to coax Mama into my car. They both had obvious need of veterinary care. The pup was a tiny, black, fuzzy, cutie. It seemed as though Mama had raised it on her own in the greenbelt. The pup screamed every time I touched it, but I assumed it was from fear. Unfortunately, it was from disease (distemper) or a head injury. It didn't take the vet and me very long to decide to put the poor little thing down. That left us with Mama and her possible ailments---very obvious flea infestation, possible mange, worms, hearthworms, distemper, parvo????? The list was endless. Then there was the problem of trying to give away a dog. We couldn't keep her. Who would want a scraggly little misfit like Mama?

Leave it to the glory of email address books to answer that question. I just sent out a mass email asking that if they weren't interested in this little girl, did they know someone who might be? Within 24 hours I received a message on my answering machine---"Damn you, CeeCee.....we'll take her if no one else will". I have soft hearted friends. They, also, have soft hearted friends. She has two potential homes to go to!!

Mama didn't have heartworms or mange (whew!). She is malnourished, has a severe allergy to fleas and had a fever for several days. Now she's got a clean bill of health. We're just waiting until her weight comes up before getting her spayed. She still looks bad, but that will improve with time and love. The love is going to be the easy part. I expected her to be a little biting machine---terriers often are. She'd been a stray for who knows how long; how friendly could she be? I'll tell you. She's a lovebug! She is going to make a wonderful, wonderful pet. She shakes like a leaf when she climbs up in my lap, but snuggles right in and gives kisses. The true test was when I took James in to see her. She loved him too! Not one hint of growling, lip curling, or biting. All kisses.

I'm hoping her new home situation works out. What we don't know is if she's potty trained, if she chews furniture, fights with other dogs, barks at nothing---you know, typical good dog-bad dog traits. I wish her luck. She's not quite home yet. She's on her way.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Note to Self

Be patient with compost.  Don't give in (again) to the desire to use it, just because it smells finished.  If it still has bits of orange peel and egg shell and grass from the neighbors yard, it's not ready.  If you do give in, you will be rewarded with an hour of bending and squatting and digging and pulling weeds.  You will be rewarded with a sore back, feet, legs and bottom. You will be rewarded with the fact that you only scratched the surface of the number of weeds in your beds.  Remember to take Advil before starting to pull weeds next time. Take two.

On a brighter note, remember the chickens were thrilled with the green bounty you dumped in the chicken yard.  At least someone was happy about weeds.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

For me, painted by Pearl.  It's wonderful!  

My mother died in February and I've tried all day not to think over the lists of "good and bad" in my head.  You know what, she was seldom a bad mother, just indifferent most of the time--at least with me.  I can't speak for my brother and sister.  Some weird part of me wants to be crushed that she isn't here for mother's day this year.  I know two women at church who very recently lost mothers too.  I'm pretty sure they are mourning the loss of their mothers on this day.  While today is hard for me, it is also easier in many ways.  I don't have to locate a mother's day card that is not too silly, but not too smarmy.  My mom always held me at arms length.  I believe she loved me, but didn't show it unless it was important to her at the time. What I come to most days is that she did the best she could.  It makes me feel better, anyway.  

As for me as a mother.  I'm not perfect.  I try every day to let them know that I really, really love them.  I also manage to growl at them at least once a day.  They bring out the best and worst in me, but at the end of the day I want them to know that they and their dad are the most important people in the world.  My kids (and I suspect yours, also) are the reason the saying "I love you, but I don't like you very much" was coined.  I also think they could say the very same thing about me. 

I try to remember every day that they aren't extensions of me, but their very own human being. It's okay that they don't like the same things I do.  It's okay that they disagree with me----respectfully, please.  It's okay that they are growing up--I'm fiercely proud of all three of them! I look forward to our future together and the things we'll share.  I want, at the end of my life, for them to be able to say they were glad they knew me.  I want them to be able to say, without a doubt, that I loved them madly.  I want them to remember my cooking, my silly songs, how much I loved their dad, that I tried to be fair, and that I cared what was going on in their lives--even when they didn't want to tell me. 

Thanks kids.  Being your mom is the most important thing I'll ever do.
Love, hugs and kisses,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Introducing Pico

At this point, we don't know whether he's a baby Norway rat, or a young mouse.  More Googling for me.  I was out feeding the chickens this morning and noticed him clinging to life on the Polaris hose for the pool.  He'd evidently fallen in the pool and was lucky enough to locate the only floating thing available.  Wet and cold, we brought him in and Pearl dried him with the low setting of my hairdryer.  I was sure he'd be dead within the hour because of his ordeal in the pool.  Still alive, 5 hours later.  He's eating, grooming himself and leaving tiny little presents for us, so I guess he's going to be okay.  Pearl's named him Pico.  It means "peak" (as in mountain top) in Spanish.  It doesn't really apply, but it's a cute name for a cute guy.

Lucky for him, I like rodents.  I'm sure the chickens would have made quick work of him if I'd offered him up for breakfast.    

Friday, May 9, 2008

Early Blight

Well, there it is in living color.  I was just patting myself on the back for having a successful potato crop and spots began showing up on the leaves.  I put it out of my mind as I was eating those lovely, pink potatoes drenched in butter (yes, real butter!) and sea salt.  I spent the week watching the plants and hoped it was a reaction to our well water or the liquid seaweed fertilizer I apply once a week.  Maybe it's bugs?  

I took my head out of the sand and began pouring over my gardening books and Google. Vegetable Garden Problem Solver by Rodale was my first read.  I now know this about early blight:
"Tomatoes are the crop that is hardest hit by early blight, but it can also infect potatoes, peppers, and eggplant."  Great, at least I didn't plant any eggplant!  "The fungus that causes it is Alternaria solani.  In Spring, early blight spores blow in the wind or are spread by insects or rain splashing up from the soil.  Spores enter the plants through wounds in leaves. (darn cabbage loopers!!!) The fungus produces spores in several rounds each growing season. "

Fighting the infection:  It basically says to cut off the leaves hit by the fungus.  Hand water plants, mulch heavily so the rain won't splash on the plant (doesn't rain splash off mulch too??). It also says to make sure their are no potatoes left in the soil over the winter and to rotate tomato/potato family crops every 3 years.  Geez, I just got the hang of this and now I'm supposed to wait three years to plant potatoes again?

Well, I'm going to have to keep a hawks watch on my tomatoes.  They are living a mere 6 feet from where the potatoes once were.  I pulled up the entire crop of potatoes and hope it hasn't spread to the potatoes themselves.  At least those first potatoes brought me great gustatory joy and allowed me to give my sister the proper send off for her home in Portland.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Soft Pillow

About once a week, one of my kids catches me off guard with proof that Lee and I are doing something right.  This week it was James' turn.  He brings home what's called a "Tuesday folder".  It's filled with a weeks worth of work and other things he's done in class.  This heart was in amongst the 'other things' pile.  

I am coordinator for my church's outreach to the homeless.  It's called Food for Friendship.  It is funded and staffed solely by members and friends of our little church (50 in attendance on a Sunday).  Each Sunday morning a team of amazing people drag out of bed to be at church by 7am to begin cooking breakfast.  Well, I drag out on my Sunday, maybe they don't.  I digress. The doors are opened at 8am and breakfast is served until 9.  Typically we serve well over a hundred breakfasts.  We allow seconds and thirds and fourths---however many trips it takes to fill an empty stomach.  We have four Sundays a month (except 4 months that have a 5th Sunday), a different menu each week, and a different team of volunteers.  Every Thanksgiving we have a dinner with all the fixins.  We serve over 200 with homemade food and genuine hearts. The whole congregation chips in to make it happen. The program is in it's 17 year.

Our guests are mostly men.  Not all homeless, but the breakfast is free.  They come from all walks of life, each with their own story.  Several are mentally ill.  One in particular, Michael, is clearly in need of medication.  He's also wicked smart.  We suspect he's from a wealthy family back east and probably has at least a Master's degree, if not a PhD.  When he's not ranting about homelessness, government or how we ought to expand our menu, he's handing out chocolates to his fellow travelers. His father recently passed away and left him a hefty sum of money.  We surmise he has access to the money through an executor, thus the chocolates for friends.  

Now back to James' heartfelt sentiment.  In the winter, I am especially aware on cold nights that I am blessed with a warm bed and a soft pillow.  I add it in our bedtime prayer of thankfulness and prayer concerns.  James once asked me what that part of the prayer was about.  I told him that many of the folks that come to our breakfast might be sleeping in a box on the ground.  No soft pillow to lay their head on.  He tucked that bit of prayer into his heart and when asked at school what he'd give away, he thought of his pillow.  He's aware that many of our guests are grumpy---mostly because their stomachs are empty.  In James' mind, it's because they haven't had a good nights sleep.  Either way, he gets it.  We should all get it.  

"and a little child shall lead them."~ Isaiah 11:6

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

First Snake of the Season

I knew it was inevitable.  Last year I moved 5 different rat snakes out of the nest box and onto the 366 acres we back up to.  This one hardly gave me any trouble at all.  Of course, after a three-egg lunch, one would tend to be getting around pretty slow.  I know how many eggs by how many bumps are evident.  This snake must have just swallowed the last egg because its jaw is still unhinged.  I'm constantly amazed how large an egg their tiny heads can get around.  This one's head was only about as wide as your two thumbs, side by side.

Oh well, off to find it a more appropriate home.  Snakes tend to make the hens a little weak in the knees and they quit laying for a day or two.  Silly girls, they are far too fluffy for a rat snake. ;)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hired Assassin

I spotted this hit-man at work a few days ago.  Don't ask me what kind of assassin bug it is, because with over 3000 species of them on the planet,  it's something I don't know the answer to.  I did, however, spend way too much time trying to find the answer.  Thankfully, the Sears serviceman came to fix the fridge and I had to get off the computer.

This bug is quite formidable.  It would stab me just as quickly as it stabbed the unfortunate spotted cucumber beetle in the picture. 

I don't know why they call them cucumber beetles, because I haven't found anything they won't at least nibble on.  I guess Cucumber is first in line alphabetically of things they'll eat.  They don't like Artichokes, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, or Celery.  That leaves Corn and Cucumber next in line.  They nibble on Corn, but love Cucumber.  I'm sure scientists used that very educated line of thought when naming the voracious beetle dude.

They devour the leaves of young seedlings and their larvae attack the roots.  I take great joy in squishing them, when I can catch them.  I know, I'm sick that way.  

Monday, May 5, 2008

It's What's for Dinner

First harvest of Spring.  
Technically, I harvested broccoli and brussels once before, but they were a winter crop.  
These brussels are no bigger than a man's thumbnail, but if I waited any longer they'd get bitter and full of bugs. "Not good eats" as Alton Brown would say.   The potatoes are Red Pontiacs and will boiled and then rolled in butter and dill.  The berries are wild and will be enjoyed by only Pearl, as she is the one who braved the thorns and picked them. 
I think a big crusty loaf of bread and maybe a small bit of beef on the grill will round out this going away dinner for my sister.  She's headed back to Portland.  She was here for my mom's death and is confident that her father is doing well.  It's time to head back to the west coast for her.  Via Con Dios, my dear Sister! 

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hey Y'all

"Hey Y'all " shall be known as the title of posts that are purely my opinion.  My two cents worth.  Most often I will probably be like the picture to the left---an island, alone in my opinion.  It's Rabbit Island, by the way.  Just off the north eastern coast of Oahu, Hawaii.  
The first installment:

Hey Y'all, 2 year old horses should never, never be ridden, let alone raced at top speeds in a circle. Shame on those that will try to defend it. 

Saturday, May 3, 2008


This is my first try at recipe blogging.  It's not perfect to look at, but the soup is outstanding anyway.

This recipe was introduced to me by friends from Mexico.  It's so simple and so filling.  It's also pretty good for you.

Pozole (pronounced: Po So Lay)

Garnish Ingredients:
Radishes, Iceberg Lettuce or Cabbage, Lime and Mexican Oregano
Soup Ingredients:
3 lbs. of pork or chicken
1 large yellow onion
1 head of garlic (yes, the whole thing!)
1 can of hominy
1 small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 carrots
6+ cups of chicken broth
canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Trim fat from pork and cut into bite size pieces.  Salt and pepper liberally.

Put 2 Tablespoons of canola oil into a frying pan and let heat up before adding meat.  Cook only in small batches and resist the urge to stir the meat.  Let it brown on one side and then turn (just once!).  Set aside. 


While meat is browning, cut the onion.  The easiest way to get uniform pieces is to cut the onion from stem to root end.

Add onions to pan used for browning the pork.  Cook on low until they are glossy and brown.  Be sure to stir occasionally while they're browning so you can get all the good bits of meat that might be stuck to the pan.  

Cut the top off the entire bulb of garlic cloves.  Separate them, and dice well.  The quickest way to rid your hands of that lovely garlic smell is to wash them with dish liquid and then thump them on your stainless steel sink.  If you have a porcelain sink, sorry. You're stuck being stinky.

Combine pork, onions and garlic in large soup pot.

Stir in chicken stock and set over medium heat.

This is probably the most important bit of information in the entire recipe.  So important that I'm going to change to red lettering---There are 5 or 6 chipotle peppers in one small can.  Use ONLY ONE Pepper ! Maybe only a HALF OF ONE pepper if you're from up North.  I'm serious.  Really.  While wonderful and smoky, these puppies will put hair on your chest.  Add to soup pot.

Drain and rinse hominy.  It will cause the soup to be too salty if you don't. Add to soup.

Lastly, add your two carrots. Turn soup down to low, cover, and leave alone for at least 2 hours.  Add water if the broth level shrinks by much.

Time to head for the compost pile and then clean up the kitchen.

Right before serving, it's time to get the garnishes ready.  

Bring the garnishes to the table.  Assure your guests that "Yes, we will be putting radishes and lettuce in our soup." A pinch of oregano and a squeeze of lime will put the final touch on this wonderful soup.  

The great thing about this soup is that you can make it your own---leave out the peppers, use cabbage instead of lettuce (traditional recipe), add different veggies, the sky's the limit.  My kids think a Mexican soup is the perfect excuse for adding tortilla chips.

If you have any questions, please let me know.  I'm notorious for leaving out the most basic information in recipes.  That's why I don't try recipe contests---all the ingredients and directions have to be right.  Go figure?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Birth Day

Monarchs are one of my favorite butterflies.  I think it's because it's so easy to capture their life cycle on camera.
The one phase I can't quite master with my little Canon Powershot is the egg stage.  It takes great macro shots, but not quite that macro.  The tiny egg will hatch four days after it's laid and then it's off to the races for the tiny caterpillar. It's first meal is it's own egg shell.

This little girl spent the last two weeks eating milkweed.  Specifically, Mexican Milkweed. They also like Antelope Horn Milkweed, but most of ours got mown down in the pasture (boo hoo!!)
They wander quite far before finding the perfect spot to begin metamorphosis.  This one was nearly 50 feet from her milkweed home and up several feet on a stone pillar.  
I always thought Monarchs somehow spun their beautiful green chrysalis, but wondered how it was possible.  I later found that the green thing you see is actually the caterpillar itself.  They shed their skin one last time, and the lime green jewel is what is left behind.  I still wonder what body part makes up the golden dots along the top.
She stays in the chrysalis for 10-14 days.  In our part of Texas, I've found 10 days to be the magic number.
"Birthday".  This morning I managed to time my camera wandering perfectly with her hatching.  Here she's trying to figure out what to do with those long legs and beautiful wings.  She has to hang upside down for about an hour for her wings to dry properly.  
Here I've moved her back to her Mexican Milkweed for her first drink.  
Just today, I learned how to tell male from female.  If it were male, there would be a large black smudge on each wing of the black veins closest to the body.  This is female.  Ha, learn something new every day. :)