Monday, June 30, 2008

The Weirdest Thing Happened

I was in my house and looked out over the pool.  It looked like the water was dancing.  My pool deck was getting wet in large circles, like bubbles had popped. There was a loud drumming noise on my roof.  I went outside to investigate the strange noises and sights and was immediately hit with the distinct scent of old pennies and dirt.  You know how the sense of smell holds the strongest memories, well the smell of pennies brought back the memory of things being wet from a strange liquid that falls from the sky.  What's it called again?  Wait, it's right on the tip of my tongue......rain!  
Glorious rain!  We got measurable rain!! According to our handy, dandy AcuRite rain gauge, we got a 1/2 inch.  It's very scientific, as you can tell, but not too hard to decipher.  I swear, the birds and plants seem to be doing their own version of the Happy Dance this morning.  Loud songs from the birds and an upright, greener stance in the plants.  
The last measurable rain we got was April 26th!  Two months of trying to keep my garden alive with smelly old, mineral filled well water.  Thank goodness for well water, but my plants don't like it much.  I was whining about the state of my garden to a Master Gardener a while ago.  I was wondering why my gardens seem to suffer despite all my efforts with the garden hose and sprinkler system.  He simply said, "It isn't rain.  Rain is rain, period.  It's a different thing all together than any water you add from the garden hose."  I guess he's right.  Imagine that, a Master Gardener knowing more about gardening than me. :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Don't You Hate It When...

...somebody takes a picture of you at a picnic while you're eating?  Of course, your mouth is hanging open.  

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cliche' Friday

"Be careful what you wish for."  Do you remember a few posts ago when I said my "Certified GE repaiman" Jake, was coming out today to finally fix my dryer?  Do you remember when I said that I actually liked hanging clothes on the line, and that I would sort of miss it?"  Well, Jake came today--WITH THE WRONG PART!  He knew we had a gas dryer, but what he failed to see was that we have a propane gas dryer.  Gas is gas, right?  Not.  
Soooo, he's coming back next Friday.  Wait!!! Friday's a holiday.  He'll either be back on Thursday or the following Monday.  He'll call us.
The silver lining (another cliche')---it's not February, raining and cold.  I understand it's hard to dry clothes on the line in those conditions.

"Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."  Sometimes you have to.  In this case, I had to pull up the flowers in order to get at the weeds.  In my earlier post, I told the story of the hot and dry conditions we're under.  That hasn't changed in the last 8 hours.  I spent 3 hours this morning, 'throwing out the baby'.  I'm very close to putting down black plastic and just killing all the seeds that are in the bed--good and bad ones.  The dirt is lifeless. Literally.  In all my digging and pushing dirt around, I didn't come across one earthworm or grub worm.  I need to add about 270 cubic feet of weed free compost (30 ft x 3 ft. x 3 inches).  Maybe I'll just grow rocks.

Another 98 Degree Day

I feel bad for all those suffering from the devastation of floods in the Midwest. I wish we could have several inches of their rain, but instead we seem to be suffering from the opposite problem--drought and extreme heat.  Since mid-May we have had no measurable rain and average highs in the upper 90's. 
That whole word, "Average" befuddles me.  I know what the definition of average is, but it makes no sense when it comes to weather.  Who decided what the average is?  Last summer we had below 'average' temps and above 'average' rainfall.  It seems to me, that if the temperatures and rainfall levels fluctuate so widely every year, that the average would change too.  No matter really.  I think it just gives the weather folks something to do.  How much fun can it be to, day after day, report "Highs in the upper 90's, Lows in the upper 70's.  Not a drop of rain in sight."

Our local wildlife is suffering from the lack of water; doing things they wouldn't normally do.   Below are two creatures that do not live in water, but hang out in wet places.  We found both in our swimming pool and were able to save them before they succumbed to chlorine poisoning or just plain drowning.  Neither one would be able to get out without our assistance.  Our "cement pond" doesn't have a gentle slope to climb out on.
Common Tree frog.  He's a new one.  I've never seen one before.  
Our ginormous friend, Mr. Toad.  That is my hand that you see him in (just for size comparison).  He is one of the reasons I don't put down bug killer in my beds.  Such a handsome man needs something to eat!  He had been trying to get out of the pool for some time, his poor little front toes looked awful. :(
A tiny shot of a very large flower bed that is going to be dug up today.  The bed is actually an annual flower bed, but I never have to replant it because it reseeds itself.  This year the lack of rain has caused it to do very poorly.  My adding water to it only seems to help the weeds and gives only temporary relief to the flowers.  

This is a shot of a very strange flower.  Last year a couple of my Zinnas came up and never put on petals---just the center part you see here in pink and yellow.  I was so intrigued by them that I gathered seeds to see if they'd reproduce in a similar manner this year---they did.  Can anyone tell me if there's such a thing as a Zinna with no petals? It doesn't seem to mind the lack of rain like its sisters that have petals.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Lee!

Happy Birthday my love!  We've been together for 22 of your birthdays and I cherish every one.  

Thank you, Mom and Dad C. for raising such a great man to share my life with, and raise great kids with. Thank you brothers,  J. and D., for teaching him mischief, silliness, and hanging in there when you were typical big brothers to him. 

Happy Birthday from the one who is outgrowing both of us, Happy Birthday from the one who knows you hung the moon, and Happy Birthday from the littlest one who still finds you to be one of his favorite toys on earth.
Love from the one whose breath you can still take away,

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Garden Notes

I spent some time in the relative coolness of the morning, checking out how my gardens are taking the extreme heat we've been having.  I think "not well" would be my take on things. Everything looks stressed, but most of it is hanging in there. 
Don't forget to click on the pictures that you'd like to see better.
I think the mystery of 'what kind of volunteer winter squash is this?'  is solved.  It's beginning to look very much like a butternut squash, despite it's green coloring. This plant is working very hard to stay alive.  I think the two squash you see will be all I get.  Oh well, that's two more than I planned for and I love butternut squash.
Another volunteer.  A sweet potato under my tomatoes.  It's the plant directly in front of the the blue pot.  You also see plenty of volunteer weeds. :) 
Pomegranate triplets.  Normally, the tree would have expelled two of them.  They are far from ripe, so anything could happen.  The poor little tree is loaded with fruit.  A bounty for us, a burden for the tree.
Morning Glories in all their glory.  

More volunteers.  
The purple flower is a Violet Ruellia.  If you ever have the chance to plant this---don't.  I didn't plant it, it is native.  It is also extremely invasive and very, very deep rooted.  It cannot be pulled up, even in very wet soil.  It has a cool way of spreading though---the seed pods explode when hit by water droplets.  It took me the longest time to figure out what 'that noise' was once when I was working in the veggie garden.  I kept hearing what sounded like electrical popping and wondered if the sprinkler system in the other bed was having a problem.  I got nearer and was hit with ruellia seeds.  I've decided since they have flowers, that they can stay.  
My poor husband puts up with this practice quite often.  The tall plant next to the ruellia is also a native volunteer.  It's called Snow on the Mountain.  In about a month, the tips of each branch will be covered in large clusters of white flowers that smell heavenly.  Lee says, "Just because it flowers, doesn't mean it should stay."  These volunteers were lucky enough to set up camp in my flower bed.  If they manage to start growing in the lawn, then all bets are off and Lee is free to do as he pleases.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Have a Secret

When you get to the bottom, you'll see a picture of socks drying and not some lovely thing growing on my garden fence.  

My dryer is still broken. Surprise!  I was slated last Friday for a repair call from a "Certified GE repairman".  I like to say that because it makes them sound so much more capable of fixing things.  My time window was from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Guess what time he showed up.  It was officially 4:46 p.m.  Good thing I hung around all day or I would have missed him! 

Jake (we're buds now) turned the dryer on.  He turned it off.  He moved it around. He laid on the floor and listened when it was on.  He pulled it away from the wall and messed with the propane off/on do-hicky.  He asked me a question I'd already answered when I made the appointment ("So, what happens when you turn the dryer on?"). He wandered out to his truck.  He wandered back in and pronounced my dryer "broken". You think?  It has a broken gas valve widget, he doesn't have it on the truck, he has to order it, it will take a week and he can come back out this Friday (from 8-5) and fix it.  Surprise!  It will cost $385 for parts and labor.  The $79 fee for just pulling up to the house will be included in the $385.  Thanks.  

Arrrggghhh! Lee and Thomas were coming home the next day with a weeks worth of camp clothes.  If I ever needed a washer AND dryer, it was now.  My wonderful mother-in-law, Alice, offered the use of her dryer.  So did my neighbor.  I turned them both down.  I have a secret.  A secret that will make my mother turn over in her grave. I like drying clothes on the line. Sshhh, don't tell anyone.  My broken dryer has single-handedly thrown me back 40+ years in time.  It has been so wicked hot and dry here that the clothes dry in half the time it takes the dryer. It forces me to take care of things as they come off the line instead of just tossing them in a basket for folding when I feel like it (which is never!).  It provides me with quiet time. Unlike Tom Sawyer, I can't convince my kids that it looks like fun. That's okay, though.  It's an acquired skill and takes a bit of getting used to.

Will I go back to using my dryer when Jake comes out this Friday.  Probably.  Will I feel a bit guilty for using the propane and electricity to do it? Yes.  Will I quit folding socks again? Yes.  Will I consider leaving one of the more hidden lines up and using it when I can? Yes. Right at this minute, I'm feeling very much like I can continue doing this as long as the weather holds.  According to the weather guessers, our high pressure ridge is stuck tight.  In other words, hot and dry are here for quite a while. 

PS..Jake says to "Always, always, always, always buy the extended warranty. As many years as you can get. Appliances aren't built to live much longer than a year or two. Also, buy in the middle-of-the-road price range.  Too many bells and whistles means there's more to break down.  Never buy an appliance the the first year it's available.  They don't even bother working the kinks out ahead of time anymore.  They wait for us to do it for them."

The Good, The Bad, ...

...well, I couldn't find "The Ugly".  I guess I could have posted pics of the weeds that are taking over my garden, but didn't want to.  That would mean that I acknowledge their presence and have to do something about it.  Since I'm trying very, very hard not to use chemicals to kill the weeds, aka RoundUp, that means I'd have to pull them all by hand.  Right now, because of the heat, I prefer to be like a crazy cat lady who says she rescuing cats, has 102 in her apartment, and really just needs to get her head out of the sand about the whole issue.  If you ignore weeds, they aren't really out of hand.  Right?

All that said, here are my representations of the Good and the Bad.  Below is a new snake in my garden.  I had to scour my reptile and amphibian book to find him. He's a Patch Nosed Snake. He is named that for the scale that covers the end of his head. He wasn't too keen on my taking his picture.  Poor thing, I kept going one way or another to flush him out from underneath my pyracantha bush.  I would never have seen him at all, but the chickens gave him away.  They were all standing with their heads cocked looking at something in the yard.  Tuesday was making his "come look, come look" noise, and so I did as I was told.  The hens were sizing up the snake to decide if he was too big to fight over and eat.  Which, by the way, is hilarious to behold, unless you're the snake.  They decided he wasn't going to be a snack and I ran to get my camera.  

This is just a plain old grasshopper.  A grasshopper on steroids! He's at least 3 inches long, and can of course, fly.  Once an insect reaches that proportion, Pearl considers them pet quality.  The race was on to see which one of us could get to him first---Pearl with her net or me with my scissors.  Yes, I cut them in half--that way two chickens can have a snack instead of just one. We both lost.  He managed to get away to eat my plants another day.  

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Faith in Humanity, Restored

I chose a bright, cheery morning glory to be my picture today.  My title is a bit silly, but after my week of griping about how others act as though they are the only person on the planet, I thought Sunday was a good day to discuss faith restored. :)

The incident just made me smile.  I was at my small town Super S picking up some additional groceries for the homecoming of my hubby and son from church camp. The prices at the Super S (only grocery store in town) certainly offset the savings in gas it took to get there.  Eleven miles to the big city grocery, five miles to the Super S--probably the same in gas vs. grocery prices.  I digress, but what else is new.  It was the small town part of this story that I wanted to highlight. 

After getting my groceries, I was headed out to my car.  I encountered what we all encounter-----someone was driving through the parking lot and I needed to cross, so did a couple with two young children.  In the big city, the car driving in the parking lot would assume the right- of- way because they're talking on the phone and eating a cheeseburger from the McD's in the parking lot.  Pressing on the brake to let me by would be too nice, and darn it, they're in a hurry.  In my small town parking lot, the person stopped to let the young couple cross.  When I could see that he was looking at me, I waved him on by.  I could wait.  He'd let folks across already.  He waved me across too!  The person was a mere boy, maybe 20 at most. Aren't all young people in a hurry?  I was when I was his age.  That one small act of putting me first, a complete stranger, was wonderful.  It was a tiny gesture, nothing really, but it lightened my heart so.  

Lee came back from our church's Sr. High camp and couldn't rave enough about what fine kids he encountered.  They weren't all "church kids" from nuclear familes.  Some came from very sad circumstances and still managed to prove that the young people of today are worthy of our faith in them.  I wish I'd been there.  

And so, another week dawns and I have been renewed by the fact that not all people think they are "the only person on earth".  Thanks to the boy in the beat up old pickup for letting me cross.  You'll never know how happy you made me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Homemade Rolling Composter

I have tried a large plastic bin that you can buy from Home Big Box.  The sides were a bit too tall for me to properly turn the contents.  That led to me not turning, which in turn, led to me not having compost.  When we moved onto our acreage, I tried just having a freestyle compost pile.  It was just ringed with local rocks and I could turn it to my heart's desire.  That plan failed because of animals--domestic and wild.  Deer and chickens were the main predators of my lovely compost materials. Any time I put kitchen scraps in the pile, they were quickly eaten.  The chickens also tended to eat many of the 'good bugs' that they unearthed. 
A neighbor showed me her method and it works like a charm.  It solved my problem and made one thing simpler!  Behold, the trash can recycling bin.  You can make one for yourself in about a half hour. 

Don't forget that you can click on the pictures to see them better.

Items you'll need: Large, plastic trash can and lid.  Two bungee cords. An electric drill with a drill bit of your liking.  Mine was about 1/3 inch.
Drill holes the entire length of the can, all the way around.  
Drill 2 slightly larger holes on opposite sides of where the handles are.  I just wiggled the drill around a little to make the holes larger.  These holes will be where the bungee cords attach.  Be sure to drill them on the seam--the plastic is stronger there.
Don't forget to put holes in the bottom.  You want it to drain and you want the buggies to be able to get in and set up housekeeping.
Holes in the top, too.  Here's a good picture of how the bungee cords are attached.  

Now you're done.  Just add the normal stuff, give it a drink and start rolling.  That's what's extra cool about this composter---no more turning with a pitchfork!  The bungee cords hold the lid on tight so I can just tip it over and start rolling.  I can even tip it end over end; which I recommend.

Friday, June 20, 2008

For a Big Smile

Aacckk! I just realized you can't see the final cell in this comic, it's what makes it funny.  Grandpa is telling his grandson, Nelson--"Don't listen to her.  If you stop believing in the Toilet Paper Fairy, she stops coming."  
Pickles Cartoon for 06/14/2008
This comic strip by Brian Crane makes me laugh almost every day.  It's funny because it's real.  Goodness knows how many times I've said, "Lee, come see this, isn't this just like your folks (or mine)?"  
I think I'm going to frame this particular strip and the one previous to it regarding the ever important notion of replacing the darn TP roll when it's out.  The previous one discussed how leaving one square does not count as actual TP---it does not let the person who left it, out of changing the roll. The rule is, if you can't blow your nose on it, you can't use it for anything else either.
While we're on the subject of Toilet Paper---it rolls over from the top.  I, for one, do not need to be hunting around for the stray edge of the TP in the middle of the night if it rolls over from the back.  Rolling over from the back is only for households with children under the age of 5 or households with puppies--or both.  It keeps bored children from sitting on the potty and unrolling an entire roll while they finish up.   If a puppy finds a roll that rolls over from the top, it's your own fault when he comes running into the living room with the end of  a brand new roll in tow.  Your new neighbor or boss is likely going to be there to witness this act. They'll laugh, but they'll be thinking "they just don't have a lick of sense about which way the TP should roll."  

To recap:
Pickles comic strip makes my heart sing.
There is no such thing as a TP fairy.
One square of TP does not count as "there is too some paper left".
It rolls over from the top unless you have small children or puppies.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hey Y'all

The Golden Rule

Hey Y'all is my bit of fussing that goes on from time to time.  The last time I posted in this title was on May 4th.  It was after Eight Belles had to be put down at the Kentucky Derby.  

This post is likely to be a bit longer, because it's a hundred degrees outside.  We are in our 26th consecutive day of 95-100+*.  To summarize---I'm cranky! I'm usually a pretty patient person when it comes to strangers being rude.  I try really hard to believe that most folks are behaving in the way that they are because something significant is going on in their lives.  I've been known to give them stories to make myself feel better.

"That person pulled out in front of me because they are in a hurry to get to the hospital because their wife is having baby."
"Those ladies are blocking the grocery aisle talking because one of their kids got arrested last night."
"That person is driving 5 miles below the speed limit in the left hand lane because they are afraid someone is going to pull out in front of them, and that's how they got in an accident once before."
"That person is in the 10-items-or-less line with a full basket of groceries because they didn't see the sign."

Those aren't working for me right now.  Like I said, it's hot and I'm cranky about it. I really, really, really want to believe that folks want to live by the Golden Rule---Do Unto Other's As You Would Have Then Do Unto You. In other words, treat folks like you want to be treated.  I'm coming to believe that many, many people believe they are the only person on the planet that matters. 
And so, my Hey Y'all for today is as follows:

Please be aware of others on this planet.  Realize that being rude, just for the sake of you, will probably cause you more unhappiness than the momentary smile you might get from controlling me and everyone else around you.  You see, all the things I mentioned above (and hundreds more examples just like them) are about control.  Goodness knows, if you have so little control over your life that you feel a need to control mine, maybe you need a bumper sticker that says so.  That way I won't have to make up a story to let you off the hook.  I can just know you are a stinker and get as far away from you as possible.  I'm running out of stories.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Blogging Space

It looks as though many of the blogs I look at are showing off their blogging spaces. Over at Laughing Orca Ranch, I'm wondering if a little cleaning didn't go on before the photo shoot. :)  Just kidding.  

The space you'll see was originally designed to be my office.  As with most families with children, what's mine is theirs.  We all have trouble with putting things back where we got them.  All five of us.  That's a lot of clutter.  I think after I had James, I just gave up.  Now that it's summer, I've doubly given up.  Any time I tidy up the clutter, a child or husband or even me, comes in and undoes the cleanup.  

The rest of my house resembles what you see in my office.  It caused me today, to tell my MIL that I'd rather she, my FIL and Lee's cousin (visiting for the first time), not drop in for a "see the house" visit.  I could rush around like a maniac and tidy up, vacuum, dust, and clean the guest bathroom, but I just said 'no' instead.  Maybe it wouldn't matter to our cousin, but it would to me.  I just can't keep up with keeping it tidied up.  Any suggestions?  I tried, but it was little too military for me (read: clean the whole house, every day).  

Does anyone else clean their house from top to bottom when they are going out of town?  I have two theories about that.  1. I will have so much laundry to come home with, that having a clean house makes it a little less painful.  Who wants to work their backside off after a lovely vacation.  2. If I were to die by getting gored by a wild buffalo, I would be mortified if someone had to come into my house after my death and find it a disaster area.  "Goodness, she was such an awful housekeeper!" 

You know what, this disaster is where we live.  We are evidently okay with it or it would change.  It's too bad that I'm not okay with sharing my disaster with strangers or cousins, aunts and uncles I've only met once or twice.  It makes me look bad either way.  

To my left.  Most art work is done by my kids.  The dryer operation manual is the first place I went after my dryer died.  Not much help, except to give me the phone number to call to have my 2 year old dryer fixed.  
To my center is more 'stuff'.  The picture in the window is of my niece---her graduation picture from nursing school.  She's amazing.  The tiny boots with the tag still on---a baby gift I forgot to give.  All the books are related to chickens and wildlife.  The dust--from God and the surrounding area.

More dust, more artwork and dirty windows.  They face south.  In the summer, it's useless to clean them because dirt blows on them, then it sprinkles.  A lovely patina of 'stuff' gets baked on.  Out the window you can see the chicken yard.  They are so close so I can keep an eye on them and listen for attacks from predators if we ever have any.

I have a lot of chicken related stuff in my office.  That's because I try to keep my chicken decor relegated to my space.  Oh, the space my kids share with me.  You think I'd have learned by now.  A girl can wish for her own space, can't she?

I Spy...

...with my little eye, something tiny and brown and covered in white spots.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Three Guesses

1. I've visited a little side street in New Orleans, and of course, being Monday, it's laundry day.  Red beans and Rice are inside cooking right now. 

2. I've visited a ranch where they free-range their laundry.  It's much more humane than tumbling the poor things around in a dryer.  The socks get separated and there is much mooing, or braying, or mewing, or whatever sound socks make when they are apart.  

3. I've visited La-La land where there is much discussion with a broken appliance regarding it's ability to dry clothing.  Particularly clothing that a certain son needed to pack for camp at 11:50 pm, Saturday night.  In La-La land, I have more discussions with said appliance on Sunday.  I keep giving it another chance to be the fine, upstanding 2 year old that it should be.  It keeps sticking its tongue out at me, like all 2 year olds do!  It tells me to get out the close-pins and season them in the sunshine, so I can make cute little reindeer replicas at Christmas.

Have you guessed yet? 

I'm all for going green, just not unexpectedly!  It's amazing that I even had any close pins.  I couldn't figure out why there weren't a hundred in the bag like it said on the outside. I could have used the missing ones, but they are painted brown, have googly eyes on them, have brown pipe cleaners glued on, and tiny red fuzzy things glued on for noses.  Have any idea what I made?

When I discovered, very late on Saturday night that the dryer wasn't working, I did what any other good mother would do---I told Thomas he'd have to pick out some different clothes to take to camp.  Luckily, he could tell that my need for sleep was greater than his need to take a certain shirt to camp.  Never get between a mom and her pillow!  Thanks, Thomas, for not fussing!!

Sunday dawned and I took another look.  I thought maybe it had miraculously cured itself during the night.  Taken a Tums or something?  Not!  I can hear when the gas lights up, but it won't stay on.  It burns for a moment and then shuts off---over and over.  My dryer is one of those new front loading ones.  It has a "dry" sensor.  You can dry your clothes to damp, slightly dry, dryer than that, dry, and down right crispy.  I'm guessing that the sensor is on vacation in Alaska, tired of the heat.

Here it is Monday night and I haven't done anything more than horrify myself online reading about appliance nightmares.  Originally, I was looking for a "Certified GE Repairman".  I got sticker shock at their "just to come out and look" price and started net-surfing.  I opened something called  Scary, scary stuff!  Folks write in with their complaints about appliances.  I called Lee at camp and told him I was headed out to get a washboard, some line and some clothes pins, 'cuz we aren't going to buy one more new appliance, ever, ever again!  

Our 'top of the line' kitchen appliances (Kenmore Elite) have been nothing but trouble.  Don't buy them!  We thought we'd done the right research when buying new washer and dryer units.  We went with GE.  Lotta good it did us.  Obviously, this has turned into a rant.  I am channeling my dead parents when I say, "Why can't they make things to last like they used to?"  But really, why?!  

I'm gonna stop.  I'm tired and sweaty from hanging socks and towels and t-shirts out for all my neighbors to see.  Luckily I have some nice pool chairs to lay our dainties on.  I want the neighbors to still invite us to their 4th of July party.  I'm not sure that seeing my underwear is the way to ensure that invite.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

As usual, you'll need to click on this picture to see it better.  It's one of the few photos I have of my children's father and my husband, Lee.  He's not camera shy, he's just always the one behind the camera.  

I took this shot of him on Thanksgiving weekend.  It was our first vacation without children in five years.  We were lucky enough to spend it on the island of Oahu and see my niece, LeAnn, get married.  I was so thankful she didn't live somewhere like Wisconsin or Montana or Minnesota.  I understand those states are cold in November.

He's not here to celebrate Father's Day today. We had to do it yesterday afternoon because he's the business manager of our church's Sr. High camp this week.  Staff members had to arrive a day early for meetings.  My oldest, Thomas, left this morning and they'll be gone all week.  For gifts, he got a bunch of goodies (dark chocolate, apple butter, peach syrup, and Swedish Fish candy) and a pair of mismatched shoes---arrrggghh!  Some cold-hearted soul switched one shoe. They left the shoe with the tag saying 'size 10' attached, and switched out it's twin with a size 11.  Somebody owes me some gas money! :) 

Lee is a wonderful father.  He listens to the kids, hangs out with them, calls them every night when he's out of town, helps them with their homework, includes them in learning situations (like changing oil or brake pads), drives hundreds of miles for soccer, takes Pearl on dates, gets tough when he needs to, and sticks to his guns when it's hard.  

Being a good parent is such an enormous task, especially now that two of our three kids are teens.  There is a fine line between wanting to be their friend and have them like you; and wanting to do what you know is right and risk them shutting you out.  It is a million times easier to say 'yes' and have a peaceful house, than it is to say 'no' and have a grouchy, sullen teen hurling hateful looks and unsaid thoughts at you. For me personally, it's painful.  Since the moment that first cry escapes a baby's lips, it is our job to make them content and happy.  As they grow, we have to say 'no' to their happiness more often.  I'm sure my teens feel as though we say 'no' all the time.  I remember getting to the point of feeling like "Why bother asking?" with my parents.  That's when, as a parent, you've failed.  That's another fine line.  Lee and I don't want the kids to get to that point.  So far, our strategy is to know where we stand on certain issues before they occur.  We pick our battles ahead of time.  Like with most plans, stuff pops up to throw us off course.  Lee's cool head is the one that prevails.  I usually become an emotional whirling dervish and only cause more angst.  

I hope one day, the kids will realize that Lee stands his ground because he loves them.  He wants them to make good decisions, wants to teach them things about being better people and realizes he's not always going to be popular because of it. I'm sure when he's separated from them emotionally, that it's painful for him to.

Thanks honey, for wanting to be a part of their lives.  For caring enough to be with them. For asking questions when it would be easier not to.  For loving them enough to be unpopular.  It's hard being a great dad, but someone's got to do it.  I think you'll be glad you did.  

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Beautiful Pests, Part II

Please remember to click on the picture above, so you can see these pests up close and personal.  They are beautiful.  They also make me glad that deer don't eat at the rate they do, or we'd all be living in a desert.  Behold the Manduca quinquemaculata, aka Tomato Hornworm. I'm not really snooty enough to know the latin name of the little monsters, it's just that Google and I are BFF. :)  My kids taught me that BFF means, "Best Friends Forever".  I'm hoping that it doesn't mean Big Fussy Fathead or something.  Somebody tell me if it does.  I digress--as usual.

These are the the larval stage of another beautiful creature that is not a pest, but impossible to photograph. I've tried in vain many, many times!  Below is a picture from the wonderful world of Google.  It is a beautiful moth that belongs to a group of moths that are often mistaken for a Hummingbird---they are rather large, have 4 wings that blend together to look like two large ones and hover like hummingbirds. Betcha can't figure out what it's called the Five-Spotted Hawk Moth?
>Five-Spotted Hawk Moth - Manduca quinquemaculata

If you are a gardener you might not really care what they turn into.  These little creatures can defoliate a tomato plant overnight.  They are in the larval stage from 28-36 days.  That's a lot of days to be munching away on my two little tomato plants.  They are also amazing at camouflage.  I never see them until half a branch is gone or until I see their frass (fancy word for caterpillar poo---too many biology classes).  I will pick them off the branches; certain I have them all, only to discover the next morning that another branch is missing half it's leaves.  The very first time I saw a full grown caterpillar of this sort, I couldn't believe it.  I was sure my garden had been exposed to radiation or something from outer space.  They can get to be 5 inches long and as big around as your thumb.  In other words, ginormous!

They only have one natural enemy at this stage, the Brachonid Wasp.  A tiny little winged wonder, that will lay her eggs under the skin of the caterpillar.  At this point, things turn quickly to the stuff of horror movies.  After the eggs hatch, the little wasp grubs feast on live caterpillar, break back through the skin and weave themselves little white cocoons you see on this caterpillar. At that point, the caterpillar isn't feeling well.  It will not turn into a Five-Spotted Hawk moth. It gets to go straight to caterpillar heaven where it becomes a moth anyway.  It just eats God's tomatoes and not mine.
Despite my lack of love for the little munchers, I think that's a horrible way to go. I'm often a 'live and let live' kind of girl in the garden, but in this case, I can't share my tomatoes.  I don't have enough. I do what any critter lovin' person should do---I put them quickly out of their misery---I feed them to the chickens.  The End

Friday, June 13, 2008

Butternut or Spaghetti

Back in March, I posted that I had a volunteer in my garden.  I have many volunteers thanks to my inability to wait until compost is fully cooked.  I have ID'd all of them except this one.  I'm hoping someone might know.
What I do know---It is a squash of some sort.  It is a winter squash, but which one? Judging by its shape, it is likely butternut or spaghetti.  For awhile, I thought it might be a gooseneck gourd, but the foliage doesn't have the same scent.  
Also, is there something I need to do to make sure the squash stays on the vine? Several have started growing, only to shrivel up and fall off.  I know we have bees, but their numbers are down a great deal this year.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Two Tribes, No Bloodshed

Tribe CeeCee
Tribe Deb

I'm very excited about this post.  Well, not excited, but pleased!  My dear husband knows what an animal lover I am.  He has also put a moratorium on any more animals joining our family.  He has been long-suffering and tolerant for the most part when any new critter appears at our house.  That is why I was astounded when he told me that a friend of a friend of his was looking for a babysitter for their two chickens. They spend the summer in Utah.  I was convinced that aliens had stolen my husband and left another man in his place.  I think he secretly thinks it's cool to tell his executive friends that, "Yea, my wife has chickens.  She even does the rooster's toenails."   So it must be that he thought, 'what's a couple more chickens?'

The thing is, it's not that simple.  You don't just add two more chickens to your current flock.  There are a multiplicity of reasons, but bloodshed and disease are the primary ones.  The words Pecking Order were hatched (no pun intended) in chicken flocks.  Someone has to be low chicken on the totem pole.  Adding new chickens stirs things up and the totem pole has to be reassembled.  Just dumping new chickens in with the old ones ensures enormous bloodshed---usually on the part of the new chickens.  

Tribe Deb, as I call the new chickens are just babies--not yet a year old.  They are a Black Australorp (Glitter) and a Barred Rock (Gertrude). Guess which one Deb's kids got to name. :) For several days they were by themselves so I could watch for diseases.  After that, I jury-rigged a pen within a pen so the two tribes could see each other, but not have all out war. It's what the folks at call a "Meet and Greet".  
Some folks like the idea of introducing new chickens by putting the new ones in with the old ones after dark. There's a theory that says if they wake up together, they won't know anything has changed. For many people this way works, but I wasn't so sure.  My chickens are up and around in their coop before it's fully light outside.  During the summer, I am not up and around before it's fully light outside.  That would mean Tribe Deb would be trapped in the chicken coop with Tribe CeeCee with no one there to referee.  Wouldn't risk it.
After a week of being able to see each other, I took a special snack out this morning and let all the chickens into the big chicken run.  Another theory is that special snacks will take their minds off new chickens.  There were a few tussles and a bit of chasing, but no blood was shed.  Hooray!  The two tribes are staying well away from one another at this point. I've put out two buckets of water and two buckets of feed.  One of my books suggested that the old chickens would run the new ones off food and water if there was only one set available.  Thankfully, I have a very large chicken run so that can't happen.  I will be there tonight for bedtime.  The roosting situation will have to watched very closely.  Mine, after 3 years, still fuss at one another about who is sleeping on the "top bunk".  

I've learned and successfully integrated one flock with another.  Small potatoes for most folks.  It won't bring about world peace, but it will make my life, and the life of the new chickens a bit easier.  I think Tribe Deb was a bit embarrassed about the Beverly Hillbilly look of their jury-rigged pen anyway.  Chickens are very sensitive to such things. :)

I know this looks crazy, having a link as my title, but it's the only way I've found to make it "clickable" for you.  My iMac refuses to let me post clickable links anywhere in the body of the message.  Go figure?
This is a petition to stop the insurance companies from making mastectomies an outpatient procedure.  If you click on it, it will take you to the petition and much more information regarding the Bill before Congress.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just a Pedicure, Please

I look at this picture and am amazed.  I don't really know why, as it's me with the nail file in hand.  I was there.  It's just that roosters get such a bad rap for being little two-legged monsters.  Tiny T-Rex's.  I guess they could be, considering the sharpness of their beaks and the lengths of their spurs and nails.  

Chicks at our house have no choice but to be cuddled madly.  They have been known to be found on a child's lap, watching T.V.  Tuesday was no exception.  When it became apparent that Tuesday was a roo, I worried what sort of roo he'd be or whether we'd get to keep him at all. I'd heard horror stories about children, other animals, and grown-ups being chased and sliced open with spurs and beaks.  Extensively enough to need stitches.  

Like all things that I have no experience with, I began researching in books and online.  I came across a website---http:/, that tells you what their wee little rooster brains are thinking.  It follows that the roo just wants to be boss.  You have to become boss and it shuts the whole terror-rooster thing down.  I continued to pick him up and carry him around.  I picked him up when he really didn't want to be picked up.  I would sit in the chicken run and when he would approach a hen with amorous intentions, I'd shoo him away.  I would have the hens follow me when they free-ranged in the afternoons.  I'd announce to them when I'd find particularly yummy snacks.  In other words, Tuesday is playing second fiddle to me.  Occasionally, he'll test his status with me by doing his little "I'm the boss" dance. He quickly finds himself in my arms on his back getting a belly rub.  He also gets kissed, which makes him wonder if I'm about to peck his head off.  

I'm not a chicken expert.  I just learned from people that have giant flocks and know what they're talking about.  It's that sort of expertise that allowed me to keep Tuesday and sit with him in my lap, giving him a pedicure.  He's completely unconcerned.  I think he's secretly glad that I trim his nails, leg feathers and especially his enormous spurs.  I don't know how he walks or roosts, the spurs are so long.  I cut and file them because in the spring and summer, he spends way too much time trying to make little chickens.  One of my hens is his favorite and she is now down to the bare skin on her back---a common occurrence.  That doesn't mean I have to like it or support it.  Trimming nails and spurs makes it more difficult to get purchase on the hens.  Everybody wins---he gets a great spa treatment, the hens get a break and I get to prove again, that I am head roo.  

Monday, June 9, 2008

Beautiful Pests

I know they are just giant rats.  I know they cost thousands of dollars in damage to landscaping every year.  I know they cost even more to the unfortunate person who encounters one with their car.  I prepare my children every year in November, during the rut, that if a deer jumps out in front of me while I'm driving 65 mph that I will hit it.  My other option is to slam on the brakes, swerve and potentially end up in oncoming traffic or off the edge of some very steep dropoffs.  I will not risk my own life, or that of others to save a deer.
I would also sob uncontrollably if I killed one.  My biggest fear concerning the deer, is hitting one and not killing it. I don't own a gun, but that possibility makes me wish I did.  I'd put any animal out of its misery if I needed to. 

We have had a resurgence of coyote activity in our immediate area, thanks in great part to lots and lots of undeveloped land.  The coyotes are keeping the deer population down just a bit.  In the area where my mom lived, they are as populous as squirrels.  She lived in a little golf course neighborhood.  Green grass, water and no predators makes for too many deer.  

All that negativity aside, I love the beautiful pests.  I watch the does every year get all round with impending birth.  One day they appear and look quite a bit less round, and I know there is a tiny bundle of spotted cuteness somewhere.  For nearly a month, fawns lie like statues in hiding places picked by the does.  She goes back to feed them only two or three times a day. This is how thousands of fawns get "rescued" every year by well-meaning folks.  They think they've found an abandoned baby, when really its just doing what it was told--"Stay put, I'll be back in few hours to feed you."  I wait in anticipation for the appearance of the fawns.  Yesterday I got a call from my neighbor, "One of the does has brought her fawn up to your water!" (Yes, I provide water---I know, I know, but we haven't had rain for weeks. I'm a sucker for thirsty animals.) 
I raced outside with my husband's telephoto lens and took way too many pictures.  This particular doe I believe, is a first time mom.  She's very skittish and lost complete track of where her fawn had wandered off to after our photography session.  When I realized her fawn was now acres away, I stopped and went indoors.  She came up this morning for water and didn't look completely engorged, so I'm assuming she found her fawn.  

The doe I'm waiting for is my favorite.  She's been around for 3 years and brought babies up every year.  She lets them hang around with her for a full year.  Last years fawn was a little buck and he's bigger than her already.  I'm feeling quite sure that she has twins hidden somewhere.  She got huge and then one day came up for water with her girlish figure back.  I often see her in the evening with a very large udder.  She drinks a bit of water and then resolutely wanders off to the neighboring acreage where I'm sure the baby(ies) are.

The deer are just a bit of the wonder and joy of living on acreage.  I  l.o.v.e. living where I can see all manner of wildlife every day.  I'm shameless when it comes to my attempts at luring them closer so I can photograph them.  Birdfeeders, flowers and water are my main lures. Birds, insects, deer and tree rats (aka: squirrels) are the main things I see.  Even the sight of predators thrills me.  I'm pretty easy to entertain.  

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I Can't, for the Life of Me...

...figure out the picture you see above. I never had a cat until we moved into this house nearly 8 years ago. Lucky came with the house. It took him a couple years to train me that just because he's looking out the window of the back door, it doesn't necessarily mean he wants to go outside. It also took him some time to train me that he does things in his own sweet time. Going in and out are leisurely activities---there's stretching to be done, checking for monsters, and the very fact that he is NOT a stupid dog that bounds in and out of the back door at their master's pleasure.

He does show signs of interest in humans, but only when it suits him. He's not a hide-under-the-bed sort of cat. He interacts with Lee and me when there's food involved and on cold winter nights because our bed is warm. He interacts with Pearl because they are bonded. James gets 'spoken' to about food when no one else is around to tend to it.

It's his interaction with Thomas that has me completely befuddled. Thomas does things like make up songs in Spanish about how fat Lucky is. He once surrounded Lucky with odds and ends while he was sleeping and then took pictures of him and posted them on his MySpace page. He jumps out from behind doors when the Lucky is walking by and gives him a hearty "BOO!". Thomas treats the cat very much like he'd treat a little brother. He just yanks his chain every now and then. Most cats, at least what I thought I understood about cats, would find this treatment worthy of punishment. For years I have fully expected to hear from Thomas that the cat has coughed up a hairball in his bed---or worse. Instead, Lucky hangs out with Thomas on the couch. Thomas can be laying there, watching a little T.V. and Lucky will get down from his favorite chair and jump up next to Thomas. He doesn't do that with anyone else in the family! I've long heard that cats are most attracted to those that aren't "cat people". Thomas is an "all animals" person like the rest of the family----so that myth doesn't hold water. Can anyone shed some light on this behavior? I just don't get it. It makes me smile, but it makes me screw my face up in a question mark every time it happens, too.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Tarantula Season

I figured it was only fair to warn you in the title about the information that I plan on sharing. I think by now, it's very clear that I love all creatures unless they sting. They can be cute and cuddly or what some folks consider creepy. I still think they're cool.

The only time we ever see tarantulas is in the early summer. They are always male. They go on scouting expeditions for girlfriends in the middle of the day. Usually tarantulas are purely nocturnal, but when love is in the air, all bets are off. These boys get on a mission and can't be swayed from their course--even by women with cameras.

Some folks are brave and pick them up. I don't sky dive and I certainly don't pick up spiders with large fangs. Yes, I know I pick up snakes, but they have a business end that is easily avoided. When you pick up a tarantula, the fangs come with the body. I digress. The reason I like the little critters is because they are useful, just like snakes. Ha, I knew there was a reason I was talking about snakes and spiders in the same post----they are both useful against pests that cause humans to shriek and get diseases. These spiders make meals out of scorpions and red-headed centipedes; both of which serve no earthly purpose on this planet but to bite/sting humans. That's probably not true, but it sounds reasonable.

Anyway, I've had my camera ready this week, just waiting until I came across one of the big guys. Yesterday was the day. All is right with the world. Summer has begun because tarantulas are on the march of procreation.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Boredom Buster

Above you see my answer to "I'm bored" and "There's nothing to do".  Today is our first day of summer.  Last summer it took my youngest, James, a mere two days to pronounce that he was bored.  I thought that must have set some land-speed record.  I was wrong.  He set it today.  By 7 a.m. there was much lying about and sighing.  "What is there to do?"  I think the very idea of not having friends surrounding him for most of his day was more than he could fathom.  He hadn't even eaten breakfast---goodness, at least that's something to do!  We suggested that he do his typical early Saturday morning activities (before his siblings are awake).  Those things include computer games, breakfast, some cheesy cartoons, and some Lego rattling.  None of those things would fit the bill.  He just wanted to be bummed and bored.  

At 8:10 I heard the familiar "beep, bop, beep, beep" of the telephone being dialed.  "Who are you calling, you'll wake people up!!"  "I'm calling Jackson to see if he can come over, since Nathan is grounded."  I'm glad he's willing to expand his friend base, as Nathan is his very best friend.  I'm not, however, willing to alienate Jackson's parents so early in the summer by calling so early.  I have a 9 a.m rule about calling or receiving calls.  

I'm not one of those parents that goes-goes-goes all summer.  It's great for some families, but I "Go" all school year.  I need a break.  James will be needing to arrange play dates (we don't live in a neighborhood).  I'm good with that.  It's just that today, no one is coming over to play. My dear James just might pass out from boredom.  

I was told of a cure for his malady by a friend with four children.  When one of her children pronounces that they are bored in any way, shape or form, she hands them a pair of gloves.  She finds things to fight their boredom---weed pulling, bathroom cleaning, and in our part of Texas there is the rare treat of rock moving.  If you're lucky, you'll unearth fire ants, red-headed centipedes or scorpions as you move rocks.  We have enough rock on our property to build a nice rock wall or line a good sized swale for water runoff.  

Feel free to use my friend's idea.  I think she'd be proud.