Thursday, July 31, 2008

What I'm Doing on Friday Night

I I have evidently been living under a rock for a couple years. I crawled out from under it about 10 days ago. This book series is the new Harry Potter.  I missed it somehow??

Pearl came home from school several days last year, all in a huff.  "All my friends are reading this stupid vampire romance book and that's all they talk about.  They want me to read it, but it sounds dumb." I told her she didn't have to read what she didn't want to.  When school finished up, it was forgotten.

I called my friend, DD, right before I went to church camp to see if she'd read any good books lately.  I had exactly one hour by myself each day, and I wanted to read. She suggested a book "that I've read twice and I never read books twice!"  She named it--"Twilight".  It didn't ring a bell for some reason.  I wasn't able to locate it before camp, but saw it at a bookstore later and bought it without even looking to see what it was about.  I brought it home and heard a loud, "Arrrggghhh! My own mother! How could you be such a traitor!"  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Turns out I had bought the very book she'd spent all year avoiding.  I reminded her that she didn't have to read anything she didn't want to.  

I read about 20 pages and was hooked, line and sinker!  It's Romeo and Juliet, Bad Boy and Good Girl, Fantasy and Reality, all rolled into one book.  It is not some "vampire romance novel"---well, it is, but it's soooo much more.  I laid the book down to make dinner, and Pearl picked it up.  She tried very hard to look unimpressed.  She read it, all 550+ pages in 36 hours!  We rushed right out and got the second book (700+ pages).  All done in 48 hours.  Third book (630 pages), three days.  She had to finish the third book by this Friday.  That's where I come back in.

Friday night at 12:01 am (technically Saturday morning), we will be at Barnes and Noble with 9 of her friends purchasing the fourth and final book, Breaking Dawn. We will arrive at 8:30pm to get in line for the 9pm purchasing bracelets.  Since we've pre-ordered the book, the bracelet issue isn't such a big deal.  At 10pm, the festivities begin.  I've been told there'll be a costume contest, a scavenger hunt, trivia contests, random giveaways and general merriment.  There will also be the big debate about whether Bella will become a vampire and stay with Edward forever and ever, amen.

Following our purchases and several cups of coffee on my part, I will put 7 of the nine girls in my Expedition and bring them home to my house.  The party will continue with extreme book reading,  and consumption of all things fatty, sugary, salty, and crunchy.  I'm hoping that some sleeping might occur before their parents arrive at 10am on Saturday morning.  You know what, I don't really care if they sleep.  That's their parents problem.  

Personally, I hope Bella becomes a vampire.  I'll be extremely ticked if she doesn't. I'm just starting the 3rd book.  I have about 24 hours to finish it.  You know what, remind me to take a chair.  I'm too old to sit on the floor for nearly 5 hours. :)

Feeling a Little Blue

This is Pearl's pet rat, Lucy.  I had a scare a month or so ago--thought she'd been killed by our cat.  Thankfully, that wasn't the case.

We are having another crisis with her now.  In the last week or so, she's blown up like a balloon.  We knew there was no way that she'd get fat in that short of time, even though she gets the occasional yummy treat.  

I searched and searched online and everything pointed toward a very common ailment in female rats--mammary tumors.  The only thing is, she doesn't have tumors or lumps.  She's just squishy, like she's filled up with something.  She's all but quit eating and drinking.  She certainly can't get around like she usually does. In my online searching, I came across a "rat help" site where you could leave symptoms and other rat lovers would email you with their ideas.  Thankfully, I got two responses and it seems our dear Lucy might have an infected uterus.  At this point, I don't know if we can save her or not.

We left her at the vet this morning and they're going to get back to us with a diagnosis.  We may have to make the decision that all pet owners dread--euthanasia.  Thank goodness, it's an option we have.  We hate that Lucy's suffering. If we can fix what's making her ill at minimal cost, then we will.  If it's too late, then we'll be ready to make the call.

She's a great pet.  All the rats we've had have been great pets.  They're wicked smart, funny, and very friendly.  Very much like a tiny dog that doesn't bark.  I'm hoping for the best for our little sweetie, Lu.

Update: Lucy had internal bleeding, most likely from a tumor.  We had her put down.  Thanks for your kind thoughts. :(

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Are You Neighborly?

Texas State Flag
First, I had to look up 'neighborly' to see if it was really in the dictionary.  I know folks in the south use the word without hesitation, but we also use words like "fixin' to" (get ready to) and "all y'all" (everybody) and "over yonder" (over there-must be accompanied by a finger pointing in the direction of "yonder").

Neighborly is, in fact, in the Webster Dictionary. " adj: of, relating to, or characteristic of congenial neighbors; especially: friendly <>. "  Geez, no wonder they say the English language is so hard to learn. That definition looks like legal paperwork.  

Why am I carrying on about being neighborly?  My story doesn't really have to do with actual neighbors, but with a complete stranger. Neighborly was the word that came to mind.  I was at a stop light in my small town (outside Austin) yesterday.  A hippy-lookin' dude pulled up next to me and displayed the universal symbol of "roll your window down, I have a something to say to you"--His arm waving in a circle in the air.  Did I hestitate? No.  I rolled down my window.  It never occurred to me that I was in danger.  I figured he just needed directions, as his plates were from Arkansas.  Here's how our exchange went:

Him: "Hey, didn't there used to be a funeral home and a gas station on this corner?" 
Me: "Yes, they both closed up and sold out to Walgreens.  Hopefully they made a boatload of money."

Him: (signed the cross)"Oh, heavens, the big names are coming, huh?" "I used to be from these parts (from around here) and I loved this little town." "I moved to Hot Springs to get away from all the sprawl and make my business a little better."  "I make tie dye silk shirts.  The hot springs up in Arkansas are better for the dye and their healing qualities make me feel better."  

Me: "Why are you back down here?"

Him: " I just came from Kerrville.  I signed up for their music and art festival in May."  "Bring your family and come see me next Spring."

Me: "Well, the light changed.  You take care and drive safe."

Him: "You too. Adios."

I felt neighborly. I didn't really help him out in any way, but did provide a bit of relief that he wasn't out of his mind--there had been buildings on that corner.  My question---would you roll down your window in your town?  Am I just naive? Is it a small town thing? A southern thing?  Would I have rolled it down at some intersection in Austin? Well, if you knew me, you'd know I would, but I'm crazy that way.  I talk to strangers, despite my mother's warning not to.  

I may be way off base, but I believe in the general good of humankind.  Just being neighborly is a good place to start.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chocolate Fix

You weren't expecting a picture of a flower, were you?
Introducing, Berlandiera lyrata aka the Chocolate Flower.
It doesn't look like chocolate, it looks like many of a bazillion other yellow flowers. Why is it called the Chocolate flower?  It smells just exactly like cocoa!  I'm not pulling your leg.  

I was at my favorite local nursery, Natural Gardener, talking with one of their hyper competent staff members about yellow or orange flowers that the deer might not eat.  I was on a mission this spring to help my friend, DD, find a low growing, full sun, perennial, deer resistant flower for her yard.  It also needed to be yellow or orange. She, like me, has way too many pinks and purples, and was tired of falling back on Lantana to fulfill the color requirement.  

Often, if a plant has a very strong scent, the deer will leave it alone.  That rule doesn't always apply, or we in the Hill Country could plant our tomato plants without fences.  I know I hate the scent of tomato plants, I guess the deer don't mind.  I digress.  After a while, my new friend at the nursery led me to the plant you see above.  I laughed, "No way, it can't possibly smell like chocolate!"  He ran his hand across the plant and held it up to my nose.  I could not believe what I was smelling!  The scent lingered in the air.  I was hooked.  I bought two.

To test the deer resistant theory, so as not to disappoint DD, I let the plants go through several watering cycles before I moved on to the next stage.  My nursery buddy said deer will eat anything that is newly planted from a quality nursery---they are attracted to the nitrogen smell in the dirt.  Go figure?  Once my watering thing was complete, I planted it in my front bed near my rosemary and lantana.  It was gone the next morning.  Apparently, the deer like chocolate too.  

Sorry DD, since the deer would have eaten it at your house, I planted the second one in my fenced area in the backyard.  

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lookie What I Got!

Thanks Sugarcreek!  
Please, everyone check out her site. 
You'll have to get into my "Links" section to visit her, since iMac won't let me put links directly into my posts.
What's interesting is that I look at only about 5-7 sites on a daily basis, and conversely, they look at mine.  What has happened is that I have no one to pass this award on to.  They've all been awarded already.

I Should Know This

If a person is going to run a volunteer organization, you think they'd have a clue what all the volunteers are supposed to be doing.  They should also know when the job is finished.

I am the crew chief in my garden.  A couple of my plants this year are volunteers.  I have searched books and Uncle Google to find out when to harvest my butternut squash and my sweet potatoes.  I got no answers.  Poor things, they are giving it their all.  No breaks. Fighting off invading bugs.  Enduring long periods without water.  Sweating out extreme temperatures. Their proud leader has no clue when they will be done with their hard work.  Does anyone have a clue what to tell my intrepid volunteers?  When will they be able to finish up?

Friday, July 25, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Because I have an iMac, my computer won't let me post an actual link to the lovely blogger who tagged me.  You'll have to visit Twinville by looking to my sidebar that has "Links I Visit" as the header.  She's listed under Laughing Orca Ranch.  She and I are very much alike except her husband keeps letting her bring home livestock, whereas mine won't. :)  
Just so you know I'm not grammatically ignorant--Yes, I know I started this post with an adverb.  Mrs. Stark in 9th grade English would frown.  Sorry Mrs. Stark.

Six Things You Don't Know About Me:

1. I hate my cheeks.  They are too round, were always too round---extra weight not withstanding.   They were the subject of the "cheek grab" when I was little.  Old ladies that I didn't even know would grab them in the grocery store and say, "Oooo, your cheeks are just soooo cute."  Being trapped in the grocery basket, there was nothing to do but put up with it.

2. I nearly go postal and cry when my husband, Lee, buys new electronic gadgets that I must learn.  He bought a new TV remote when the old one worked just fine. Never mind that it was being held together with a hair band and electrical tape. When we switched from a PC to an iMac, I was thrilled because I have a gigantic moniter and it has cool things to play with like iMovie, iCalendar, etc.  Poor Lee thought he'd gotten off easy.  When I realized that it didn't work in the same way as the PC  and iMac DOESN'T even provide a users manual, theeeennnnn I went postal.  Apple wants you to come into the local store (at the mall, eewww!) and take classes.  NOT! It took me 6 months to fake my way through using the darn thing. Now I love it.  Poor Lee.

3. I have eaten the following weird meats. Rattlesnake, which I killed when I was 13.  Thirteen year olds aren't very smart.  Opossum, raccoon, and squirrel.  Believe it or not, all those meats were served at one meal.  My second cousin lived way back in the sticks (you think?).  I loved visiting his place as a young girl because he had a real live farm with real live farm animals!  He would kill the critters listed above and put them in the freezer.  My kill of the rattlesnake, with the help of the neighbor boy,  prompted that unusual dinner.  Just for the record: We killed TWO rattlesnakes. Rattlesnake does taste like chicken. Those other meats are very gamey and greasy.  

4. Post 3, leads to post 4.  My first kiss was with the neighbor boy listed above.  He lived several acres away from my cousin.  He was very nice and his name was Jeff.  

5. I wish "Saving Private Ryan" had come out before my father died.  It would have explained so much.  He was in the Pacific theater during WWII.  He came back messed up.  WWII was not all love affairs and musicals as the movie industry would have us believe. There was not one thing that was glamourous about it!  He didn't talk at all about the war as I was growing up.  When he came unglued due to alcohol abuse and being BiPolar when I was in my late teens, I found out what had him so messed up---he had to kill a woman.  She had a hand grenade in one hand, the pin in the other.  It was his men or her.  He chose her.  You opened doors for women, you complemented women, you bought women flowers, you took women to the movies, you never hit women and you certainly did NOT shoot them.  " Saving Private Ryan" would have allowed me to forgive some of Dad's mental issues before he died, instead of after.

6. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was in high school.  I wasn't doing so well in my Sr. year advanced biology class and my teacher told me, "You can forget a biology career. If you can't manage a decent grade in my class, you'll never make it in college or in biology."  I believed him.  I gave up that dream because of one authority figure that was echoing what my mom was telling me--"Why would you want to do marine biology?  Is this because of a boy?  You can't make enough money to support yourself as a marine biologist, what if you get married and then get a divorce."  Yada, yada, yada....
Don't EVER let anyone squash your dreams, ever!  

The end.  I am supposed to tag other blogs, but the ones I read regularly have all been tagged already.  You can visit them by hitting their links on my sidebar.  

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Exoskeleton Invasion

Well, not really an invasion, just a troop advancement.  In the first picture, you get a tiny picture (click to blow it up) of the hundreds of spider webs that have cropped up all over my house.  If we were in a real battle situation, I would have to say that they've 'won the hill'.  We have spiderlings (baby spiders) in every corner, under every piece of furniture and in every window.  Right now I'm not sure if they are the enemy or Switzerland.  On one hand they make everything look as though I'm a bad housekeeper, which I am, so what else is new.  On the other hand, their webs capture flies, scorpions, pill bugs, dog hair dust bunnies, and ants.  That last creature makes me think the spiders are allies----the ants.

The second picture is of carpenter ants.  Big ones.  Several months ago I heard a scritching noise in the wall in my bedroom.  I immediately thought of mice, but ruled them out because it was daytime.  I banged on the wall and the noise went away.  Out of sight out of mind, huh? Over the course of a month or so, I heard the noise in the daytime and the night, all in the same area.  My mind wandered back to a time in the spring when I'd seen ginormous ants on the windowsill outside where I was now hearing the noise in the wall.  Fast forward and now we have a carpenter ant nest in the wall.  We don't really want to "nuke" the bedroom by having a professional pesticide guy come out, so we spray ant killer stuff on the baseboards once a week.  So far, it seems to be working.  Every day there are new ant bodies on the battlefield that is our bedroom rug.  The scritching has gone away, but bodies continue to pile up.  We'll continue our battle until the ants retreat or are all killed.  Wish us luck.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Time

As a young girl, I hunted with my father.  I was good at it and was proud to help put meat on the table. We never hunted for sport and always ate what we killed.  We were primarily bird hunters--dove, quail, pheasant, duck and goose.  
More than once, I had to put a bird out of it's misery.  I'd shot it, but not killed it. Wringing it's neck was the right thing to do and I understood it.  I understood that if an animal is suffering, you help it out.
I began going on hunting trips when I was five. I received my first shotgun for Christmas the year I turned 10.  I hunted with a gun until I was 15--I outgrew my dad.  Boys became far more important.

Once I had children, I got rid of any guns I still owned.  I no longer hunted, and had no need to have something in my house that could kill someone or something. Last Wednesday my feelings changed again.  I need a rifle.

While I was away at camp, I checked my phone and found a message from earlier Wednesday morning.  I picked it up and about fainted--"Mom, it's Tom.  It's 7:30 (am!!).  Call me on my cell phone, no one is at home".  Immediately I wondered if someone was in the hospital. Tom never tumbles out of bed until at least noon.  I got a hold of him and it turns out he was at the neighbor's house. Late Tuesday night a deer had run full force into their gigantic iron gates.  "She can barely walk, mom."  I then called the neighbor.  I begged her to call the sheriff to have the poor doe shot.  I told her of another neighbor that is a hunter and could do it.  Unfortunately, she'd talked to some dork at Parks and Wildlife and was told that deer are amazingly resilient and can heal themselves.  

Fast forward to Saturday when I returned from camp.  I took a look at the doe and she didn't look good--(you think!?).  The neighbor was feeling like things were still looking up, as the doe had wandered a full 100 ft. from her original landing place after slamming into the gate.  She never stood up or walked around in the early hours of the day or at dusk.  She made no attempt to get up when we approached.  I went home--there was nothing I could do.  The deer wasn't on my property.  She was still alive on Sunday morning. Sunday evening I received a tearful phone call from the neighbor, "CeeCee, can you help me help her out of her misery.  I think she's dying.  I feel so awful."  This is where the need for a rifle comes in.  I've been thinking about one since we moved out to the country, but was worried about having a gun in the house.  I'm not worried anymore.  My kids are bigger and I plan on keeping the ammunition at the another neighbor's house.  I wanted so badly to take a ball bat over and kill the deer, but I was afraid she may try to get up--I didn't want to make it worse than it already was.  Instead, I waited for the hunter-neighbor to come home.  He killed her in one shot.  
He said she was dehydrated, broken and barely weighed 30 lbs. He got within 5 feet of her and she never even looked at him. Arrggghhh!  She suffered for 5 days.  I couldn't have changed that, but I could have helped her out two hours earlier than when it finally happened.  We have so many incidents where I live of deer being gravely injured, but not killed.  I always have to call on hunter-neighbor.  

My opinion, that I know everyone will not share, is that if an animal needs to be put out of it's misery it's my job as a human being to do it.  God put animals here to provide us with food--wild and domestic.  In return, we must care for them, even if it means putting them out of their misery.  

Now I need to find a shooting range and become a good shot again.  It's time.  

Home Again

There should be more to that title, as many things have happened in my absence; but I'm sticking with it anyway.
Camp was, for the most part, wonderful.  We had 55 campers.  Our director was in her element and the kids enjoyed her leadership.  Our staff, while short on teenage help (because of another church activity elsewhere), managed to stay upbeat despite the oppressive heat.  God helped us out by providing a lovely breeze throughout the week.  My Eating Class went well.  Usually I have a couple rowdy kids that seem to put the whole class on edge--not so this year.  Hurray!
The one thing that made the camp less than perfect for me was a couple girls in my cabin.  Unfortunately for them, their hang ups are 100% their parents fault.  I'm convinced that there ought to be a test you have to pass before having children. Geez, you have to pass a written test to drive a car, why not to have kids?  One poor girl was so angry she couldn't see straight.  Her anger is the product of two parents, who in their divorce, can not manage to be civil to each other.  "My parents hate each other so much, they can't live in the same city!"  The poor girl wore that around all week.  She couldn't get along with anyone and refused to be loved.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get through to her.  Many times I had to fuss at her because of her hateful attitude, I hated doing it every time.  I knew what was driving her, but couldn't let her hurt other's feelings.  It was obvious that her parents use her to transport their venomous feelings toward each other.  What they don't understand is that when they cut down the other parent, "Your father is such a looser. Your mother is a hateful @%#^&$*!",  that they are really cutting her down.  She is 1/2 the other parent by blood! Auugghh!  It was a good thing that neither parent showed up to pick her up (she was taken home by another church member), I might have embarrassed myself.
The other girl in my cabin just kept me up too late.  She, going into fifth grade, is afraid of the dark and afraid to sleep by herself.  Her folks lay with her until she falls asleep and they let her keep the bedroom and hall light on all night. I asked her dad to work on that over the next year.  Being awakened several times during the night was exhausting.

I got home, took a shower and took a nap.  I spent Sunday afternoon tending to my very overgrown garden.  In the picture you can see what is happening to my poor pomegranate tree.  It was so heavy with fruit that it was beginning to tip and the branches were forced into the "weeping" position.  I hated to do it, but I trimmed off about 50% of the fruit.  Many were not ever going to get large enough to eat, so off they came.  The tree feels much better.

In the continuing saga of appliance breakage, my vacuum (3 years old) gave up the ghost while I was gone.  The appliances are winning.  Here's what we have since May---air conditioner, hot water heater, refrigerator, dryer...dryer...dryer... and now the vacuum.  Our dishwasher is leaking water and you have to hold your mouth just right for the start button to work, but it ain't officially broke yet. :)  I've spent far too much time on Consumer Reports and Consumer Complaints online. What I've decided is that you should always buy the low end appliance, because no matter how much you pay, you're going to have to replace it  in 3-5 years anyway. Really.  I just wonder if we aren't headed toward a pile of broken appliances somewhere that rival the mess Wall-E was picking up in the movie?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Out for a Week

"Eating Class"

I'll be going to be a counselor at our church camp for elementary age kids this week. I'm teaching the "Eating Class", as it became apparent to me several years ago that kids this age really just want to eat what we make in "Cooking Class".

I woke up this morning with the dread that I won't be sleeping in my own bed with my own sweet, hubby again until next Saturday night. I'll admit that we have pretty luxurious digs at camp---at least our cabins have bunkbeds with matteresses, a bathroom and a window unit A/C. What's really weird about this process of sleeping at camp is that it takes me at least 2 nights to get used to the noise put out by the window unit--similar to a jet landing in the 20 x20 room. When I get home it takes me a couple nights to get used to the extreme quiet in my own bedroom.

It's supposed to hover at 100* all week. We'll be harping on the kids to drink lots and lots of water. The cabins are the only place on the campground with A/C. Say a little prayer that no one gets overheated. Heat exhaustion is evidently not much fun.

My older two kids have already gone to their camps. This is James' camp. I will be at the same camp as him, but rarely get to talk to him. I have to seek him out for a good morning hug and a goodnight kiss---and then I have to sneak it. Wouldn't want to embarrass him in front of his homeboys. He'll be a little bit of home, right there in camp. I really miss my hubby, other two kids and my silly pets when I'm away. Yes, 40-somethings can get homesick. Gotta a problem with that? :)

I'll have anywhere from 5 to 7 girls in my cabin. I'm responsible for them 24/7 for a week. They don't belong to me. It's my job to remember "WWJD?" when I want to strangle them. Believe it or not, even little second grade girls can have attitudes and be downright mean to other little girls. We have a rule in my cabin---No Whispering. Little girls whisper about other little girls, and it's not ever anything like, "She has the cutest t-shirt on, I wonder where I can get one". It's usually something like, "She's wearing the ugliest t-shirt, how can we be mean to her all day and make her cry." Actually, they are for the most part, a great group of girls. They are out of their element and pecking orders have to be established. By the end of the week, they are hanging on each other's necks, sobbing, because they don't want to leave each other. By then, we all have matching t-shirts that are camp t-shirts and have our theme printed on them.

Talk to you next Saturday or Sunday. Have a great week.

PS..I forgot to tell a bit of funny on my oldest, Thomas---He says that WWJD? stands for "Who Wants Jelly Donuts". It's just like him to be dry and silly like that. That's why I love him. I won't get to see him for a bazillion days---he will be leaving for 10 days to another camp before I get home. Hugs to you, Tom, if you see this.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Broken, No More

You know, I was really quite positive that when Jake, the "Certified GE repairman" showed up today, that the dryer would not get fixed.  I could feel it in my bones.  It just wouldn't be right.  I was almost sure that I was going to be able to tell people that, "My dryer was broken and it took them an entire month to fix it!" If Jake had waited until the 13th, I would have been able to make that delicious claim.  I was going to have a T-shirt made, for goodness sakes!  I would be hailed as a hero for not killing the GE CEO.  It wasn't Jake's fault the dryer is garbage. 

Three things stand out in this little dramedy as ironic.

1. I originally called another repair service first.  They said, "We can't get out until next Tuesday."  At that point, that would have been a whole week away and I had 5 loads of laundry to tackle.  I called the GE repair center and they could be out in two days.  What do you bet, that first repair center would have had it fixed in under 26 days?

2. The parts you see below are as follows.  The group on the left is a "gotta use these if you use propane" widget.  The one on the right is a Heat Sensor.   Here's the ironic part---the one on the left is brand new, it came out of a cabinet above our dryer.   A little light bulb went on inside my head when Jake was explaining what had gone wrong.  He said the dryer had never had a propane widget installed and has no idea how it ran so smoothly for 2 years.  It had been running on a natural gas widget.  They are different, apparently.  The propane widget had burned out the Heat sensor, thus the dryer would not dry clothes.  We never switched out the dryer to a propane hookup from a natural gas one.  We had the part, but never did it.  We broke our own dryer!!

3. The most ironic and painful part of all this---the bill was nearly $400.  We could have bought a brand new one!!  

Jake was kind enough to leave me with these wise words, "Those units will be toast in about two years.  Don't buy GE again."  This coming from a "Certified GE repairman". Where the heck was he when we were wandering around Home Depot picking out a new washer and dryer?  Couldn't repairmen and women have superpower anonymity? By day they repair the garbage that we call appliances, by night they wander through Sears, Home Depot, and Lowes (in a costume that hides their identity, of course) and whisper in people's ears---"Don't buy that one, I work on those all the time. I don't work on that one much at all. Be sure to buy the 5 year extended warranty on that one if you really, really have to have it." Then, we'd slip them a $20, 'cuz they just saved us hundreds of dollars in repair costs and saved the landfills from filling up with broken appliances.   

Alex, The Answer is "What is 12?"

"Alex, I'll take bird facts for $1000."  The number of hummingbirds that visit Ceecee's feeder every day? Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding! "You are correct and you've won the round!"

I got a new feeder this year because the other one fell and broke.  To be honest, I never read one thing on this new jar.  Didn't need to.  Four parts water to one part sugar---that's all I need to know, right?  
Our month long heat wave was causing my hummingbird food to go south a lot more quickly than I was used to.  I looked out one morning and saw that mold had begun to grow in the jar.  Time to get to it, or I risked killing the hummers.  That moldy stuff will kill them, if you didn't know that already.
While giving it a good scrubbing and bleaching, I found myself actually looking at the red wording on the outside.  There is a way to figure out how many hummingbirds are visiting your feeder.  How cool!! All you do is fill it to any of the lines in the feeder, note the time and amount, and then look at it again 24 hours later.  You then subtract one number from the other and voila', the number of birds fighting over your feeder.   (Don't forget you can blow these pictures up by clicking on them).
I started with 60.

I ended with 72.  

We have three main players at our feeder--Rufous, Black-Chinned, and Ruby Throated.  This time of year, with all the juveniles at the feeder, I can't tell one from the other--male or female.  Too much beak to beak combat, also.  
We have 20 different kinds of hummingbirds alone here in Texas.  I guess that's why Texas is a hotspot for birders.  

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger

Datura inoxia
Datura metel

The first picture is of a common roadside weed, often called Jimson or Loco Weed. I never knew what it was and could only glimpse it going 60 miles an hour.  One day on a walk, a few years ago, I came across a most beautiful plant.  It was covered in beautiful white flowers and had the most amazing seed pods I'd ever seen.  They were round and covered in the most evil-looking spines. Very alien. Many looked like they had exploded and the seeds were everywhere. Like any good gardener, I scraped up some seeds and brought them home.  I was fascinated by the fact that the seeds looked exactly like tomato seeds.  

Thank goodness (again!) for Google, or I'd still be searching for this plant's name.  I typed in 'trumpet flowers and tomato seeds'.  Up pops Datura, aka Jimson weed. Much to my delight, they were in fact, related to tomatoes---both from the nightshade family.  I thought it was cool that I was sort of on the right track, all by myself.  To my great dismay they are a part of the nightshade family that wants very badly not to be eaten.  In other words, they are terribly poisonous.  They can be deadly.  Because I had pets and small children, I had no hope of planting the seeds in my pockets.  I put them in the trash and pouted.  

I would go visit the plant every year and collect seeds. I would wander around my house and property, determined to find a place where I could grow them without endangering anyone.  Each year the seeds went in the trash.  Over time, I forgot about the beautiful plant.  I quit visiting it.  What a shame, too, because they are highly deer resistant (you think?).

This spring, while perusing my favorite plant nursery, I found myself following the most heavenly scent.  I came upon the purple flowers you see in the second picture. I knew immediately what I was seeing, only more beautiful and more seductively scented than the Jimson Weed.  The bad news is, it's just as toxic as its wild cousin. The good news is, I have the perfect place to plant it now and my children are old enough to be convinced to leave it alone.  Hurray!! I bought four. 

Over dinner that night I explained that, "That plant out there will kill you, so leave it alone."  Needless to say, I wasn't very popular for buying it.  Why would I buy a plant that could kill someone?  "Because, it's pretty and I've always wanted one?" was my meek response.  I kept them anyway.  The moths love them and they fill the night air with perfume.  

How did our ancestors differentiate between the plants/foods that belong to the nightshade family?  Potatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatillo, Peppers and Eggplant are all foods we eat heavily at my house.  Well, not eggplant unless it's covered in tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.  Who got brave and thought, that plant over there will kill me, but this plant might not?  Who was the first person to take an amazing bite of a tomato, even though folks had declared it toxic? I guess it doesn't matter, I'm just so thankful that person didn't die.  Summer wouldn't be the same without tomatoes.  I digress.

Let me leave you with a mnemonic sentence that describes the effects of nightshade poisoning, in case you ever run across someone that thinks it might be cool to smoke one of the flowers. "Blind as a Bat, Mad as a Hatter, Red as a Beet, Hot as a Hare, Dry as a Bone, the Bowel and Bladder lose their tone, and the heart runs alone."  Coma and respiratory arrest soon follow.  Oh, and you might have a tactile response that you are covered by crawling insects. Doesn't really sound like much fun, but the flowers sure are pretty.

PS..I forgot to add, all parts of this plant are toxic.  I must handle them with gloves on or I risk a poisoning.  Kind of like owning a rattlesnake, only it doesn't move. :)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cliche' Thursday or The Dramedy Continues

Behind Every Cloud, There is a Silver Lining.

My "Certified GE repaiman", Jake was true to his word and showed up to fix the dryer.  I was so elated he was coming today, otherwise he couldn't come until next Monday "at the earliest".  The dryer gods must be smiling on me--finally.  
I got the call from the GE service center computer telling me he was on his way at 7:45 am.  NO WAY!  You mean I don't have to wait around all day??  Now I knew the dryer gods were finally smiling on me. 
I put the dogs away before he got here.  The computer call says that all dogs and cats must be put away or the repairman can't come in the house.  I guess dogs know that GE appliances are trash and bite the repairman, just to make a statement. Don't know why cats are a problem.  I guess the GE repair center wants to be politically correct---we wouldn't want to single out dogs as always being the bad guys.

Lee is working from home today, so I went in my bedroom with the dogs and proceeded to get ready for the day.  If Jake showed up, Lee could let him in.  I heard a knock at the door, the dogs went postal, heard Jake and Lee exchange a few words and then Lee came and let the dogs out of the bedroom.  "Honey, don't let the dogs out, they'll bother Jake!" "No they won't, he left."  HUH!  The Jake and Lee exchange went something like this.

Jake: Hi, I'm Jake.  Do you have the part?
Lee: Huh, I thought you had the part.  Why would we have the part?
Jake: Well, it didn't come to the shop and I thought maybe it might have been shipped here.
Lee: You're kidding right?
Jake: No, I'm not.  How about I call later today and see if it gets delivered in todays mail.
Lee: You're kidding right?
Jake: No, really, I'm not.  I'll call later.  Maybe I can swing by at the end of the day if the part comes here to your house.

The real question is, if he has our phone number, why didn't he just call us in the first place to see if we'd gotten the part instead of driving all the way out here?  I guess that would make too much sense.  GE is not making any brownie points with me.  And I thought I hated Sears.

The Silver Lining------Jake showed up at 8:15 am instead of 5:15 pm to ask us if we had the part.  We aren't stuck here at the house for another entire day.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Time for Hyperventilation

These two should be mortal enemies, except that the one on the bottom is a family pet. Lucy the rat, belongs to my daughter, Pearl.  Pearl is very, very careful not to let Lucy run loose in her room unless the door is closed tightly.  Lucky, our cat, would make short work of Lucy, pet or no pet.  As far as Lucky is concerned, a rat is a rat.  

One day last week, Pearl and I had a wonderful mother-daughter day out.  We ran some errands, but also got pedicures and had lunch.  Pearl wasn't feeling particularly herself that week.  Being more forgetful than usual and ran a temperature one day.  I just chalked it up to having too much sun.  We all have our forgetful days. Pearl was having a forgetful week and riding the roller coaster of emotion.  Just regular teen angst, but it was unsettling to her.  

 When we returned from our outing, I walked into my room to put my things away.  What I saw on the floor stopped me cold.  I picked up a perfectly severed rat head.  Not just any rat head, but a head that looked very, very much like our dear, Lucy.  My mind raced--Did Pearl accidently leave Lucy out this morning and leave her door open? Do I hide this and let her just think Lucy is loose somewhere in the house and we'll find her one day? If I do tell her, will her intense love of her cat be tarnished forever? How will she deal with the fact that she left her rat out to be killed by her own cat? How will she ever get over the guilt, she loves Lucy so. Before I made any decisions, I put the head in a baggy and ran upstairs to see, if by some grace of God, the head I was holding did not belong to our pet rat.  

I looked in Lucy's cage and normal sleeping place.  No Lucy.  My heart was beating a thousand miles an hour. I could barely breathe.  How would I tell Pearl her rat was dead?? The door to the cage wasn't open though---where was she!!? Please, please, please don't let this head belong to Lucy!!! I moved her bed and there she was, curled up in a ball, sleeping. She looked up at me with "What, I'm sleeping here!"

I could breathe again.  My heart rate came back to normal.  I found Pearl and told her the story.  I showed her the head.  She agreed it looked like Lucy.  It looked like a pet rat and not like our field rats that Lucky brings to his gift-giving alter.  Whose rat was this?  We don't know anyone in our little acreage neighborhood who has a rat for a pet.  I sincerely doubt that anyone will be posting signs, "Lost Rat".  We may never know.  All that we do know is that our Lucy is safe, and that's all that matters.

It's a Boy!

This little man belongs to "Skittish Doe".  He balances his mom's jumpiness by being totally cool about everything.  His mom was getting a drink out of their watering bucket (I can't help it, we're in a drought) when I took this picture.  He walked away from her and just laid down--all with me sitting just 50 feet away with a big, scary camera.  

If you click on the picture, you'll see how we figured out he was a little buck.  He has two little dark spots on his head where antlers will grow in next year.  He also had a very large scar on his hip.  I keep wondering how he managed to survive without infection; especially since it's been a very hard couple months without lots of green food and water for his mom.  It's very well healed up, so it had to have happened in the first month of his life.  That's when the little ones act like statues all day and wait for mom to come feed them.  They don't budge from the spot where she leaves them for a whole month.  

Fireants are real problem for all ground dwelling babies that stay put (deer, rabbits, and ground nesting birds).  That's why I think it's especially amazing that this little guy didn't just get eaten alive by fireants with a large wound like that.

Folk often ask me if I name the deer that come to our water.  Nope.  They're wild animals that might get hit by cars or killed by hunters.  I've come to tolerate their existence by planting only things they will not eat.  They really are pests.  I would like to allow hunting in my neighborhood to thin them out, but too many folks are city people who just think they're cute.  Thinning only proves to strengthen the herd.  Too many deer and not enough food causes them all to suffer.