Sunday, November 30, 2008

Silent Sunday


Saturday, November 29, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons

Then what?

We got 15 lemons off our Meyer Lemon tree this year. The kids have messed with a few--mostly tea and lemonade. They are ginormous and give nearly 3/4 cup of juice apiece.  I've added the egg to show how large they are.   
There's a bit of a problem though---they don't really taste like lemons.  They are acidic and taste slightly of cough syrup or Pledge.  Meyer Lemons are supposed to be a cross between a grocery store type lemon and a mandarin orange.  The skin is even supposed to be edible, they are so sweet.  
My lemons, and the lemons of my friend, Txjuju, have not gotten the memo.  She is in a bit more trouble than me, though.  She got 123 lemons this year!  Off one tree!
She has several ideas for their uses.  I'm thinking of making lemon curd or marmalade.  I'll let you know.

If you happen to be versed in all things citrus, could you tell me why JuJu and my lemons are failing to live up to their potential?  My dear little tree gets one more year to make sweet lemons. It is taking up a large portion of my garden and could well be replaced with sweet corn or sweet potatoes if it doesn't change its ways. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Free Stuff

One of the really cool things about living in a horsey neighborhood are the presents they leave behind.  I know some folks are irritated by finding such presents in front of their houses, but not me.  I figure if you live somewhere where horses are ridden, you'd better expect such things.  It's not like the humans on horseback can carry around an empty Wally World bag and shovel to pick up after their equine pets.  
This particular gift was left behind by a beautiful black and white draught horse. Her rider would have needed at least two WalMart bags.

I am glad to pick up after the mare.  It goes straight into my compost pile.  I can get whole garbage bags of the stuff when I go visit my friend, DD.  She has two minis that remind me of caterpillars---plant life in, plant life poo out.  It's not much bigger than caterpillar poo either.  Jazz and Thunder are very kind and put it all in one place for me for me.  I just need a square nose shovel and a garbage bag.  My compost gets a boost and it's all for free.  Besides, I get my horse fix while I'm at it. Her minis are love bugs. DD when can I come over again? Oh, I want to see you too--in case you're wondering. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Jury Rigging

Earlier this year I posted on Jury Rigging. I always thought jury rigging's origins came from someone rigging a trial by getting at a juror with death threats or money.  It really has origins in sailing and ships.  
The term jury rigging has morphed into a word meaning (loosely): to fix something with duct tape, baling wire, string, or zip ties.  Zip ties are my personal favorite, but I digress.

Below you will see my newest attempt at thwarting the gluttonous House Sparrows.  You can read all about my previous attempts here.  I must admit, that my previous try at keeping the little flying pigs out of my chicken food, failed.  

I got this fabulous idea over at Sugar Creek Stuff.  Her dad helped her out of the "Beverly Hillbillies Chicken Coop" club  (leaving me behind) by building her an amazing new chicken coop.  It comes complete with a great feeding system---PVC pipe. 
I used a 2 inch size pipe and a couple elbows.  Just in case it didn't work, I did not glue the pieces together.
Because I have trouble with fire ants, I couldn't attach the new feeder to the wall.  The ants very quickly figure out how to walk up the wall and into the feeders.  I had to hang it from the ceiling. Notice the zip ties!
In this picture, you can see how my whole coop is really jury rigged.  It is a dog pen (6 x 10) that I've lined with hardware cloth and built a door frame to keep the larger spaces near the gate from being breached by predators.  My hubby and FIL cut plywood to fit the sides and they were attached with bolts and wingnuts.  They also built a roof.
This version of a chicken feeder worked great, for chickens and sparrows alike.  I just wanted to make the buffet landing site more difficult.  Now they have just 2 inches for approach and landing.  I know they'll still eat, but not 5 or 10 at a time.  I'm hoping since the feeder is much smaller, the chickens will have a better chance of protecting it from the English House Piglets

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Computer is Back

Well, it never really went anywhere, it just took a vacation.  
I am quite used to the way my iMac works, and using a PC to post and reply to other blogs befuddled me a bit.

While I was 'away', I was bestowed with two awards from two blogs I love.  The first is from Christy at Farm Dreams.  Her dreams of owning farm recently came true in a big way.  She moved from Delaware (bbbrrrr!) to Georgia.

The next award came from Sue at White Lily. She lives in New South Wales, Australia.  She and her family grow their own veggies and meat on 88 acres.  It's so interesting to see how much caring for a family and a farm in Oz is the same as here in the US.

Thank you ladies!  Please check them out.  Their blogs are a great read.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Can't Wait to Share

In the Box This WeekWhat's GrowingThis is a mishmosh of pictures from the website of the 'thing' I couldn't wait to share. I went to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm today to pick veggies! It's currently known as Johnson's Backyard Garden. It is owned by Brenton and Beth Johnson. They own 20 acres of fertile river (Colorado) bottom land. They have been so successful this year and have such a well oiled machine, that Brenton was able to quit his day job and become a full time farmer!

My friend who often comments here, Txjuju, invited me to come along. She's one of the lucky members of this CSA. They are currently serving over 450 families and have a 500 person waiting list. My chances of winning the lottery are greater than ever being a part of this CSA.
I want badly to post my own pictures, but my personal computer is still on the fritz. The pictures I'd most like to share are of my "pay" as a worker on the farm! While I fear I'll never be able to be a member, I can partake of their bounty by volunteering. Each person who comes out to help gets a free box of goodies. Today I got butternut squash, about a dozen different varieties of peppers--both hot and sweet, 3 kinds of eggplant, kale, bok choy, tatsoi, butterhead lettuce, and watermelon radishes. All for just 4 hours of picking, bagging and boxing!

Thank you so much to JuJu for inviting me! I think I have a new Wednesday activity when they can use me. Thank you also, to the Johnson's for giving me the opportunity to come help out and for sharing the fruits (and veggies) of your labor with me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Party Crashers
We have been struggling with broken appliances at our house this year. The dishwasher, my computer and the vacuum cleaner recently joined the party. They were not invited, but you know how some party crashers are.

The computer will be fixed. Don't know what happened to it, but it will not be allowed to join the permanently broken appliance party (PBAP).

The dishwasher has been trying to get into the party for a year or more. Because we have such hard water (despite our softener), the vinyl coating on the racks has worn away in many places. Rust has replaced it. The hard water also contributed to a calcium/scale buildup near the drain. Instead of draining through the drain, the dishwasher began barfing up the water out the front of the door. We really, really didn't want the dishwasher in the party, so we just sopped up the water with a towel. It was still cleaning dishes! It finally broke into the party by having the bottom rack rust through. It no longer holds dinner size plates on the bottom.

The vacuum cleaner has been kept at bay for several years. It had been built with fairly stout plastic housing, but when I began having to tie the front on (after replacing the bag each time) with a bit of nylon rope, I decided it was time to let it into the party. I had even tried to keep it going by replacing the beater bar and some other parts. It was no use. For the last several months I have used a $30 no-name model from Home Depot. Worked great, but the filter has worn out and it cannot be replaced. We opened the door and let that little work horse right in.

Saturday, Lee and I went to Sears. We really, really, really, didn't want to shop there because their service department is a nightmare. They added insult to injury each time an old appliance joined the PBAP. What we decided, as we drove there, was that it was better to deal with a large corporation than with a small one if something broke. They were also giving 15% off with free delivery/installation and free haul off. None of their competitors could even touch that offer.

We knew with certainty that we wanted a Dyson. I pretty much knew which model. Dyson offers a FIVE YEAR warranty. There is not an appliance on the market that offers that. The suction is endless, the cord is a mile long (almost!), and the filter only needs to be cleaned every 3-6 months. My $30 model needed cleaning every time I emptied the canister.

The dishwasher purchase was a little harder. A lot harder! We went in, certain we would be getting a Bosch. I had spent countless hours researching dishwashers. The only thing folks really had bad to say about them, was they were hard to load. We decided against that brand once we took a close look at them. They are set up all wonky. It's hard to describe. Plus, the quality of the materials would not stand up to our constant use and hard water.

Now what!

We knew we didn't want Kitchen Aid or Whirlpool. That left Kenmore. AAAuuuggghhh! Kenmore is what all our broken appliances are! I was ready to bolt and wash dishes in the pool. Lee, cool headed as always, pointed out what a good dishwasher our current one had been. It has been run once (sometimes twice) a day, for 8 years! The brokenness was really because of our water and not the machine itself. We bought the exact same dishwasher as the one that had joined the PBAP , through no fault of its own.

We'd very much like to shut down the PBAB, permanently. Anyone have any idea how to do that? The police don't much care and it's not bothering the neighbors. (((sigh)))

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Teenager in the Spring


I did not take this picture. My camera is fine, my computer is not. Minor details.

Last night was my church's annual Thanksgiving dinner. We offer it in addition to our weekly Sunday breakfast for the homeless. We have noticed that our breakfast numbers are climbing. We expected it. We also expected that our numbers would be up slightly for the dinner. Slightly doesn't even begin to be the right word.

Our program will be 18 years old this April. It was started by a woman in our church who wanted to make sure the children in our neighborhood who were on the breakfast program at their schools, got to have something hot on the weekends. The program has changed shape over the years. The kids grew up. Now it is primarily low income and homeless men and women who come for breakfast.

I have been at the helm of this program (off and on) for about 12 years. Despite the sadness of our guest's situations, I love doing it. It brings me great joy to be in the service of others. I can see, without a doubt, that I have made a difference in their lives----even if it's only for a few moments while their stomachs are full and they are out of the elements.

I mentioned in my previous post about something new we were going to try---handing out tickets so folks could only get seconds and not a bottomless plate. I really expected a backlash about that from our guests. They surprised me, as they often do, by not saying one bad thing about it. Many were thankful for the chance to even get seconds. It was a darn good thing we did the tickets, because we'd have run out of food if we hadn't. The number of guests simply floored me! Last year, times were tough, and we served about 200 meals. I planned on food for 200 people. We experienced a Loaves and Fishes meal---we served 356 meals! One Hundered Seventy-Eight men, women and children got in line. We did not reach the end of the line for nearly an hour. Everyone got seconds and we did not run out of food. We served from 4-6pm. One gentleman came running in at 5:45, we were still able to give him Turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans and bread. Not the works, but he got seconds!

My congregation made this all possible with financial, time and food donations to this dinner! Some folks even brought their friends to help out. It really makes me proud to know these folks. I only hope that they receive the blessings from the program that I do. Yesterday, I was the lucky one. I got to hand out the tickets, shake hands, give hugs, and visit with those standing in line. My congregation of helpers did all the hard work--serving food and drink, keeping the food coming to the the line, washing dishes, and cleaning up. I tell people that wonder if I get nervous when this dinner comes around every year, that it takes care of itself. It is much like a teenager, as the program will be 18 in the spring. It takes care of itself for the most part. Unfortunately, it will not be graduating and going off to college. The down-trodden have been with us since the beginning of time. With the economy the way it is, people are teetering on the fence between being able to take care of their basic needs, and not. We are following Christ's example by helping those people. What it doesn't say in the Bible, is that we will receive joy by helping those people. Maybe it should---more folks would volunteer.

Think about volunteering this year. It doesn't have to be with the homeless. You don't have to commit to forever---maybe just one time at your child's school, a Habitat for Humanity day, stocking shelves at your local food bank, cleaning up a roadside of trash, the possibilities are endless. I promise that you'll feel better than you have in years. Your spirit will be lifted. Your burdens will feel lighter. You'll smile more. Your heart will be full.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Broadway Dreams

That was the name of the show.  I don't think Pearl has Broadway aspirations, but she did an amazing job.  

The funny thing is, she didn't even want to be in the musical theater class.  She'd signed up for three elective choices--sensible ones that would actually count toward her high school credits before she'd ever get to high school.  She signed up for musical theater because she was positive she'd never have to be in it.  We don't know what happened with the Health class.  The Creative Writing class didn't make.  I offered to help her get her class changed, but she said she'd stick it out. She has friends in the class.

Here we are, 3 months later and she's got two solos in the show.  Her big brother gave her the one and only compliment he's ever given her when he found out--"You should do it, you really can sing."  We were positive aliens had invaded his brain. Last night after the show, he told her she'd done a great job.  Aliens again.

We're so proud of her.  She did so well, and I'm not just saying that because she's mine.  I don't think Broadway is her goal.  I think being a vet for exotic animals is still on her list of things to do.  Either way, she'll do great.  She's an amazing young lady and she can do anything she sets her mind to.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

We Know You're Busy, But...

These poor, pathetic creatures want me to do something, anything.  I've been very busy this week, and have little extra time for dogs.

I've been tying up loose ends regarding our church program to feed the homeless. Every year we host a Thanksgiving dinner for these same men and women.  I do some cooking, but my congregation does the vast majority of it.  We have a typical Thanksgiving menu, and I need to line up volunteers to make 10 turkeys, 8 -(9 x 13) pans of green beans, sweet potatoes, stuffing, someone to make mashed potatoes and gravy, someone to bring 40-60 lbs of ice, 200 dinner rolls, and dessert for 200.  I also have to line up servers in two shifts.  I need to make sure we have enough paper goods, ice tea and lemonade mix.   I need to remember to pick up milk and butter for adding to the mashed potatoes.  I reminded everyone that is volunteering of what they are bringing and what shift they might have signed up for.

This year we are throwing a wrench into the well oiled machine, but it has to be done.  Because of the number of people we are expecting, we will have to limit the number of servings they can have.  Most 'soup kitchens' allow one serving per person-period. We have always prided ourselves on a bottomless plate.  This year they will be given two tickets at the door.  That translates into two servings per person.  I'm sure we'll be given some guff, but I'm prepared for that.  I will be the bearer of the bad news.  I can go to bed on Sunday knowing that everyone went away with food in their bellies.  No one will go hungry with two large helpings of everything, even if they protest me.

I have to toot the horn of our little church about this program.  It was started in the spring of 1991.  It has been going every Sunday morning since then.  We've missed two Sundays----once because it fell on Christmas day and the guest thought we should be with our families on that morning; the second time because we got our wires crossed and no one showed up to cook.  The program is funded entirely by folks at church.  We receive no outside funding or food.  

Keep us in your prayers on Sunday.  We'll be busy!
Another thing that is keeping me slightly busy is Pearl's schedule.  I hope to post pictures and story tomorrow.  Cliff's Notes version:  She is in Musical Theater,  their first performance was last night and she has two solos.  It's a compilation of Broadway songs.  She was amazing!  The lighting is awful for picture taking, and last night's pictures were blurry or grainy.  Hopefully we'll have better pictures tonight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hey Y'all!

This mishmosh of pictures were stolen from the internet.  I didn't want to get in a car accident taking pictures of the real thing in my area.

We are, blessedly, getting a turn lane on our highway.  What they do is, make an instant turn lane.  They take what was once a four lane highway, put up cones and signs and carve a turn lane out of the two inner lanes.  They then begin work on widening the outer lanes so we will have two lanes on each side, turn lane in the middle.  

That means, for about a year, we have a temporary turn lane and one lane on each side.  I'm all good with that.  I'm willing to deal with driving in one lane for a year for the future safety of all concerned.  What gets me is the other drivers!  
About a quarter mile back from where it goes down to one lane, there are signs--Left Lane Closed Ahead.  Another sign at 1/8th of a mile.  At that point you can see the traffic cones and the ginormous flashing sign with a big arrow pointing to the right.   This is when my head starts to spin around.  One of two things (often both) always happens.

1. Someone drives all the way up to where the cones and barrels force us into one lane and expect to just be let in.  No turn signal!  No friendly wave! No eye contact!  Just, this is where I get over, make room.

2. Someone speeds up at the last second to get one car length in front of whoever they are behind.  For goodness sakes, is being one car length forward in a single file line going to make any difference?! 

I'm pretty laid back in traffic.  Everybody has their story.  I just lose my mind, though, when folks behave like they are blind and can't see the signs and arrows and lights.  We all travel this road, every day.  We live in a rural area.  Folks go back and forth to town.  They know the lane is closed ahead.  Why are they waiting until, literally, the last second to merge?  Why must I be forced to slam on my brakes so they can get in line? Some days I just want to cause them to crash into the cones and barrels.  It would be their fault.  What's wrong with using a darned blinker to let me know you aren't a complete idiot or so full of yourself that you can't be bothered?

Okay, rant over.  If you are one of those that rushes to the front of the line when the lane ends, cut it out!!  One day you might not end up in front of  nice person like me.  You might end up in the barrels because you've encountered a person just like yourself.  

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Silent Sunday

Bedtime for Butterflies

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"What Do You Like About Yourself?" Day

I think it is very common in the United States for women to be constantly at war with their bodies.  We need to lose weight, gain weight, get this liposuctioned, get that lifted, get that injected----on and on.  

We have "voices" in our heads telling us we are imperfect in many, many ways. We also have the help of TV, movies and print with perfect women in them.  
Goodness, we've assigned labels to our food and our consumption of them--" I was bad, I ate two pieces of chocolate cake this week."  No one ever says, "I was bad, I ate two helpings of broccoli at lunch the other day."  We avoid 'bad' foods and then crave them until we eat entire cakes.  I'm not saying being overweight is the way to go; I'm just wishing we could have a loving relationship with ourselves and our food.  We would never let someone talk to our daughters/mothers/sisters, the way we talk to ourselves.

I could write a whole novel about the way we beat ourselves up as women. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that book (and hundreds like it) have already been written.

Today, I want anyone that reads this to post two things about yourself that you like. One must be a body feature.  The other, a personal feature.  Give yourself a moment of love.  Look at yourself the way others do.  You are so much more than crows feet or a squishy middle.  

I will start.  
Body: I have really great hair and skin.  My hair is thick and looks good in just about every way I've ever had it cut.  It put up with a lot of abuse in the 80's, but hung in there and now looks better than it ever has.  My skin, was a gift from my parents.  It is smooth and I've even received positive comments from strangers regarding my skin.  

Personal: I can be counted on to do it right--whatever it is.  To add to that, in my 30's, I learned to say no.  I once could be counted on to do it right, but might not be happy to be doing it.  Now, I say yes, and mean it.  I do a darn good job.

Two things.  Come on, you can do it.  If you are feeling particularly loving toward yourself today, then list more!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

This Consumers Report

Bissell 5770 Healthy Home Upright HEPA Vacuum CleanerDyson D14 Animal
This is the year of dead electrical appliances at my house.  The blue vacuum is the Bissel Healthy Home---it died at our house at age 3.  Well, really the body gave out.  The motor still worked just fine.  The canister was broken the first month I had it and they replaced it.  The second time it broke, I got out the duct tape.
Honestly, it was a pretty darn good vacuum; but when your canister is spewing dust as you vacuum, it's time for a new one.  The problem was the cheap plastic.  If you bopped the thing on the edge of the trash can to get the hair and dust out, it cracked.  The little trap door on the bottom of it broke a connector.  There was nothing holding it on but suction.  

Years ago, I bought a cheap ($30), no name vacuum at Home Depot.  It was small and bagless.   My intention was for the kids to use it upstairs in their rooms (y'all stop laughing, a girl can dream!).  Anyway, it's been my primary vacuum for months and it's doing a great job.  The problem is, the filter cannot be replaced and it has about had it.  

It's time to invest some more money.  How much or how little is the question.  I have had my eye on Dyson for some time.  The price is prohibitive, but everyone that has one thinks it's been worth it.  My neighbor has the Dyson Ball/Animal Hair one. I borrowed hers.  Here's my take on it:

*Very good suction
*Easy emptying of the canister
*Made of quality plastics (if there is such a thing)
*Easy tool use
*Very low to the floor for good animal hair suction
*Off/On beater bar switch
*Only clean filter once every few months instead of every vacuuming cycle
*Hepa filtration
*Not self propelled--yes, I consider that a plus.
*A 30 ft. long cord---hurray!!! I hate plugging/unplugging in every room.

*Very expensive to fix, and you would have to send it away
*The 'ball' thing is a good idea, but I fought it the entire time.  My wrist ached by the  time I was done.  Hurts more this morning.
*Wouldn't fit under the kitchen cabinets in the crumb gathering area.
*A little hard to release so it would recline to vacuum. The plastic in that area  looked a little less quality also.  I would worry that all the work it gets would cause  that part of break.

Both a Pro and a Con----
*The vacuum head had soft, rubber bumpers on it to protect baseboards.  In our house, a majority of our walls have stone all the way to the floor.  The stone was going to eat up the bumpers if I wasn't careful.  I'm sure for most folks, that bumper would be a great Pro.

I will seriously look into purchasing a Dyson, just not one with a ball.  It shouldn't hurt to vacuum.  I already have to talk myself into doing it each week. Pain is a good deterrent to vacuuming.  If I want to pay $300 to hurt, I'll hire a personal trainer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Plea to the Next President

A moment of brevity on this, a very important day.
Listen, I know you'll be a little busy in the coming months with the war and the economy, and global warming and stuff.  One of you talks of 'change' and the other talks of being a 'maverick', so either one of you could tackle the assignment I'd like to give you.  I mean, you will work for me (check your contract).  

I know, you'll be attending important meetings, giving interviews to whole rooms of mean old media people, making really important decisions, trying to please, all of the people all of the time, all while being the most powerful man in the universe. No pressure or anything. 

Oh, don't forget your wife and family.  They might need an occasional hug to get them through all the times when you're too busy running the world to sit down and eat a little dinner.  A little love note or an email professing your love would go a long way.  So would putting down the toilet seat and putting the cap back on the toothpaste.  And for goodness sakes, if you use the last bit of toilet paper, change the roll.  Yes, I know you "have people that will do that", but take that moment to remember that you are human.  The most powerful man in the universe can surely tackle the toilet paper roll.

You have a year to work on my request--well, 6 months really.  Maybe while you're in the bathroom changing the TP roll, you could give it some thought.  I'm assuming the secret service doesn't follow you in there?  You could also give it some thought when you're at a really boring state dinner with the president of Tinyislanddonthavenooilistan.  All he'd have to talk about, was whether his island was going to be under water in a few years because of global warming.  I know you are the master of multitasking, because you wouldn't be in the Oval Office if you weren't.  

My one request requires just one announcement---you could make it at your first State of the Union address.  You would be the most popular president in our nation's history.  Your approval rating would go through the roof.  It's something that could bring our nation together.  It's something that could heal old wounds. Congress and the House would 'skip to my lou' while holding hands.  All the Supreme Court Justices would agree, unanimously.  It would require only 5 words.  You can do it!  Just practice a bit and they'll roll off your tongue without any cue cards or teleprompters.

"No More Daylight Savings Time"


Monday, November 3, 2008

It's Nearly Concrete

You may recognize the picture from an earlier post.  Today, I'm focusing on the flower bed behind the darn House Sparrows.
This particular bed has been a thorn in my side since we moved in, 8 years ago.  No matter what I do to amend the soil, it always reverts back to "dead dirt".  There is nothing living in this dirt. Not one bug or worm.  Every year it gets compost, but every year the plants don't seem to do well.  They flower, but the green part begins looking anemic by mid-summer.  

The old fashioned orange Cosmos are the only things that really thrive.  Growing underneath them, is portulaca.  Not the pretty, flowering kind, but the wild version.  The yellow flowers they produce are about half as big as these letters.
I want, badly, not to  just nuke the entire bed with Round Up and cover it with black plastic, but I'm just about there.  I considered removing all the dirt and bringing in new, but the two Mountain Laurel trees don't seem to care one bit about the poor soil. I don't want to kill them by shocking them with a big change.  

My other option, is to just dig out the entire mess, cap all the sprinkler heads and pour concrete.  Who needs pretty flowers and butterflies and bees and birds anyway?  What about some nice lawn chairs and an umbrella?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Silent Sunday

Monarch and Queen Butterflies on Frost Weed