Monday, May 30, 2011

Emergency Call - Cover Me

"Where are you?" This is the first thing I heard when I answered my phone, knowing it was my daughter by the caller ID. "Are you at the house or the neighbor's?" she asked, her voice expressing the panic I could tell she was feeling. "We're home, where are you?" I asked.

"In The Driveway!"

Driveway?? What could possibly be wrong, I wondered.

"I need you to unlock the door, NOW"

"Ok, no problem but why??????" I asked.

"There are cicadas EVERYWHERE and I can't get in the house!"

LOL, LOL and double LOL. Yes, this is my daughter. I sent the 6 year old to fend off the cicadas so mommy could get in the house! See, I told you all she "freaks out" over everything.

Listen to the two videos- they are about 10 seconds long. It's the cicadas and this goes on all day, in fact the chirping/buzzing starts to become a droning, very similar to a space ship in a bad sci-fi movie. They are basically harmless, unless you are a young sapling. (You can hear the rooster crowing in one of the videos, it's not a cicada!)

This is Taylor braving the big, bad bugs! She got a kick out of squeezing their wings to make them chirp. No fear here!

Click to enlarge

Onto the next thing that frightens Mom. Oh no! Yesterday's heat caused the butterfly weed to bloom and now there are BUTTERFLIES everywhere!!!! Can you see the teeth? No? Well neither can anyone else!!

I don't know if the flowers cause the butterflies to turn the same orange color as the flowers or if the flowers simply attract these similarly colored butterflies. Either way, these docile butterflies will actually sit on your finger as they sip the sweet nectar.

Click to enlarge

I helped everyone out to the car, just in case a rogue cicada decided to dive bomb my daughter. She also survived the dried lizard, although not with much dignity. They will go back to their apartment now and be safe from country critters for the next week or two. Since Taylor is now a KINDERGARTEN GRADUATE she won't have school everyday so if my husband doesn't happen to be working for a few days (construction, you know) we'll bring her out here and she can hang with him helping to make some potato growing bins or perhaps help him power wash the shady sides of the house. Then they can pick some strawberries or perhaps he'll train her in the fine art of BBQ!

Sluggish Garden - Spotted Leopards

The kids discovered this giant spotted leopard slug last night amid their frog hunting excursion on our courtyard. Fortunately I had an ample supply of table salt on hand to rid kiddie hands of slimy trails after they decided to pet the slug and let it crawl on them. These must be the prime destroyers of my hostas but gee, they are so cute! Taylor calls them all Mr. Sluglie and looks forward to their annual return.

The white object is a plastic drinking cup, the type made by Solo. I also placed a dandelion leaf next to it so you can see the approximate length and thickness. For now they have their freedom, assuming my hostas are not too severely damaged.

Soon the butterfly weed will be in full bloom, covered in orange butterflies (moths?). Then we'll be moving onto caterpillars!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blue Pies, Smilin' at Me

I made a PIE!! It's my favorite, a blueberry pie, something I never, ever get. I used to buy those Hostess blueberry pies but something happened and they're all gone. I don't know if they fell out of favor or if there was some type of blueberry incident that affected the supply.

I don't cook well but I can usually bake. I just get all flustered and frustrated when I can't follow the darned directions. Then there is the problem of doubling the recipe. I just measure twice rather than add those fractions. I don't do pies though.

I have pie pans from my grandmother because my husband is known to be a big storyteller, for lack of a better family oriented word. He told my grandmother that I love to bake pies, in fact it was my hobby. So guess what I got . . . pie pans. One's a pretty glass pan with ruffled edges which I suppose help form the crust, but since I don't bake pies I really wouldn't know. I didn't use it because it said it was a 9 1/2 pan and I needed a 9 inch. Little did I know that 9 1/2 would have been fine.

We're going to have this for tomorrow's family BBQ. I made the pie with Taylor's help plus I have a sausage enchilada dip which is served hot and made with cream cheese, mild sausage and spices. I have strawberries and grapes plus some apples that I'll slice for the kids so they can dip the slices into the personal sized tub of caramel dip I got for each of them. We'll probably doctor up some of those baked beans and pop them in the oven and maybe make a cold pasta side dish depending on what everyone else brings. Generally, everyone is bringing their own meat for the grill. Someone will surely have marshmallows for the fire pit.

I hope we get a dry day and those kids can finally try out the kites from Easter. If not, I'll give them some old cans and they can try catching a few more tadpoles that are swimming through the grass next to our culvert-- before it dries up too much.

Pie Pan Lizard

Pie Pan Lizard

"Taylor, go finish your milk," I called to my granddaughter this morning. She hopped over to the breakfast bar where she left her half finished cup, climbed onto my counter height chair and let out a SCREAM!

We had to play this trick on her, it was just too much of a temptation. When we cleaned out the garage my husband left a pile of things for me to go through and determine if we should throw them out. One was a plastic pitcher, the kind you would make tea or lemonade in. I could tell something was inside so I took a look and found this poor lizard that had died and somehow was perfectly preserved. I had to save this! I knew Taylor would love it!

After running up the stairs, still screaming, she stopped, turned around and returned to the living room. She gingerly approached the breakfast bar and took another look at the little creature, all posed as if he was checking out something behind him. You see, as much of a girlie girl as she Wants you to believe, at heart she is the ultimate tomboy preferring to running, jumping, wrestling and taking dares as well as any boy. In fact, she has been know to beat boys a few years older in "wrestling" matches during our bonfires!

She has named her lizard, Denny- don't know why, but that's what she picked. We have a dried seahorse that I found in my grandmother's shell collection so I guess this will join it. We will pick up a clear plastic box so she can observe her lizard for awhile. She'll have a great time scaring her mom when she comes over to pick T up! While Taylor is a tomboy loving the frogs, bugs and various other critters, her mom is scared of EVERYTHING with the exception of a cat or dog. Even butterflies for some reason "freak her out" as if they were hiding gigantic teeth all folded up in their tiny little mouth. I side with Taylor.

I know some of you will find this gross and I'll admit we're a little weird at times. This is one.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bargain Basement - Savings on a Shelf

Meet our bargain basement, recently organized for better visibility. We are reworking both the garage/workshop and basement/game room while it's too damp to enjoy the outdoors. For several years we have taken advantage of sales, stocking up on staples and items that are suitable for longer term storage.

We have some old grocery store shelving- you should see the prices still marked on them- it'll make you cry! We organized by type of canned food and expiration date with a section for "Oops- better use NOW"! Bags of beans, rice and pasta are stored in the lower shelf tubs while packaged goods are higher and segregated by pasta, flavored pasta, potatoes, rice/bean flavored mixes, cake mixes, etc. For the cans, when we run out of the "current" shelf we will refill with the newer item on the lower shelf.

The USDA recommends
Except for "use-by" dates, product dates don't always refer to home storage and use after purchase. "Use-by" dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates.
As long as the seal is not bad your properly canned food could last for years. It may not taste as good, but it should be fine.

You'll notice I have about 16 cans or better of coffee. That's the 34 oz tubs or cans I consider my emergency stash, a family practice dating back to my grandparents who came over from Denmark believing we would have a coffee shortage. We didn't but they probably never had to buy coffee again. I remember every cabinet and shelf stocked top to bottom with coffee, more than you could drink in years.

I had the last laugh here though. Most of this was purchased at $5 or $6 over the last year or so. A recent glance at the grocery shelves confirms this has at least doubled since 2009! I've seen it up to $14 for the large tub.

Our baked beans were $0.33 each and we bought a boatload. They are perfect for bonfire side dishes, holiday dinners, and regular dinners at home. They can be plain or doctored up savory or spicy, sweet or hot! All in all, they were cheap.

This does not include my pantry storage in the kitchen which is 7 ft tall and 2 ft deep which is way too deep to keep track of things, many of which get pushed to the back and lost. We'll transfer most of that downstairs keeping only the product we intend to use for the next couple of weeks up top. It also does not count our frozen or canned food we have stored such as the applesauce, pickles, cured ham, etc. All of these were purchased at great prices or grown and prepared ourselves. Add to this the laundry detergent we purchased on sale plus our new clothesline, we've just saved another handful of cash!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Swimming in the Grass

We have frogs and tadpoles swimming in our grass! Yes, in our grass. Our culvert is damaged so water backs up on one side when it rains heavily. Typically this is a quick fill up and drain process but not so these days. Our constant storms have left us waterlogged, in fact, the water is more than ankle deep and goes for quite a bit, enough that you can't step over it at all. There are hundreds and hundreds of large black tadpoles swimming between the blades of grass, hiding under clover leaves and trying not to be caught. Thanks to an old spaghetti sauce can four now live in our garden pond. I am wondering, due to the size of the parents, what type of frogs these are. Bullfrogs or leopard frogs perhaps?

As if we needed it this year, we installed a water source for the garden that sits pretty far away from the house, probably 160 feet from the hose bib. Our neighbor dug the trench across our drive and through the wooded area between the house and garden. The main bib at the house has a splitter that allows water to flow in one direction or the other- or both. The leg that leads to the garden hose can be turned on at the house but remain off until you turn on the hose at the garden. It makes its way there through schedule 40 pvc pipe with a coupler so we can drain it in the fall.

We are struggling to get growing this year due to the weather. If we can get a few good days of sunshine in we will be doing better. We planted the beans this week, both bush and pole, plus some chard, onions, summer squash and snow peas. The regular peas are coming up along with good radish growth plus the volunteer pumpkins are starting to vine.

Everything is covered with straw to keep down the weeds plus till into the garden next year. I put out some cherry tomatoes in pots and decided to try some smaller onions in a container. I saw a cute shallow planter filled with lettuces so I thought way not try it indoors? It can't hurt.

More severe weather is heading our way with rain predicted until the weekend. I've packed up the most critical items and will be putting them away in the basement just in case. The storms yesterday brought down trees and power was out in several areas. We were sent home from work mid day. The weathermen suggested we could experience the worst weather ever over the next 24 hours or so. Already the storm sparked a tornado that hit a suburb in Oklahoma leaving behind death and injury. Within the hour will be in Joplin, MO, a town that doesn't need this right now.

I'm having Blogger problems, in fact I cannot log on using my computer so I'm borrowing this. My apologies if I haven't seemed attentive.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This is My Blackberry

This is my Blackberry.
In the next couple of months Taylor will gingerly pluck off the plump, reddish-black berries and pop them in her mouth even before I can get them into the house. I'll help with the ones buried further in the brambles emerging with handsful of berries as well as some nice scratches from the countless thorns. A little painful at time but the challange of trying to pick them without wounds is too overwhelming to leave them alone!

Calling All Volunteers!

The volunteer pumpkin patch is coming along nicely. The seeds were left in the compost by my nephew and are obviously pretty good seeds. They came up last year and the leftovers made an appearance this year as well. With any luck we will get several mid sized pumpkins for Taylor and a few other kids.

A New Taste Treat?

My neighbor chose to plant radish and kohlrabi in our communal garden. I like radishes but I've never had kohlrabi so I'm pretty interested to see what it will taste like. The garden is coming along pretty well considering all the rain we have had since we supposedly moved into Spring.

A Watcher in the Garden

Spotty, the cat, waits patiently in the courtyard keeping a careful eye out for the other male cat that calls my yard home. They seem to have a truce going at mealtime but when it's over, they need their own space.

A Fall Fanfare

The hostas have done exceptionally well this year. I planted various colors of coleus in the bed which should lead to a spectacular fall as the hosta flowers start to fade and the coleus sends out its spiky blooms.

The Sisters

I call these blooms The Sisters. This is our beautiful early peony, the largest plant with the most prolific blooms. It has a few more blossoms in its back pocket but will soon rest for the remainder of the season; however, our mid season peony is beginning to take over in order to grace us with fragerant aromas over the next month or so.

It looks like we have another partially dry day with temperatures in the 80s. Unfortunately the severe weather that hit Kansas and Oklahoma yesterday is heading for us today and should be here sometime after 4 PM. At some point we need a little more sunshine on a regular basis if the summer crops are to mature. In the meantime I'm going to plant some lettuce varieties in a shallow planter and keep it in the breakfast room area where we started our seeds. It is definately sunny enough so I hope it's cool enough to keep the plants going so we have some fresh greens for awhile. It's an experiment but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Couple of Cute Chicks

We've got some new neighbors, a couple of cute chicks! The mama barn swallow made a nest on top of our upstairs porch fan, just like every year. This year everyone survived and we now have two young chicks calling out to their mama for food.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

The two upstairs front bedrooms both have two full glass doors that lead out to the upper porch, each equipped with a screen door. The fan with the nest is right outside Taylor's room so she can lay in bed and watch the babies fluttering in their nest and calling out to mama for more food!

It is pretty messy under the fan but it won't be too much longer and they will fly out on their own. In the meantime we get to enjoy a little nature from right inside the house.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Laundry on the Line

Freshly laundered sheets are swinging in the breeze on this oh so wonderfully rare dry day! I arrived home to a brand new clothline, the type your grandmother might have had in her backyard. Nothing is motorized, nothing retracts or folds up, just a T-pole with 5 ropes strung across. My husband installed it while I was at work and ran some sheets through the wash so they would be drying by the time I arrived home. What a nice surprise!

Now, we'll fashion a clothes pin bag from a recycled plastic milk jug or just pin a few to the bottom of our shirts as we attach each laundered piece letting the sun do its job rather than running the dryer.

We need to get a new dryer, ours is making a terrible racket even after being repaired three times. In the meantime we have been hanging our clothes as much as possible only to discover about a $25 reduction in the electric bill! Now I remember using a clothesline when I was younger so I'm game to keep this going. Perhaps I'll get inspired and sew an apron with a big clothespin pocket!

A Clothesline Poem (Anonymous)
A clothesline was a news forecast, to neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep when clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link, for neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by to spend a night or two.
For then you’d see the “fancy” sheets and towels upon the line.
You’d see the “company tablecloth” with intricate design.
The line announced a baby’s birth, from folks who lived inside
As brand-new infant clothes were hung, so carefully with pride!
The ages of the children could so readily by known;
By watching how the sizes changed, you’d know how much they’d grown!
It also told when illness struck, as extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too haphazardly were strung.
It also said, “Gone on vacation now,” when lines hung limp and bare.
It told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged with not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon, if wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows, and looked the other way…
But clotheslines now are of the past, for dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home is anybody’s guess!
I really miss that way of life - it was a friendly sign;
When neighbors knew each other best by what hung on the line.

beekeepersgirl #691
poem link

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baja Rolls at El Agave, Cure for a Bad Day

It was one of those days where everything goes wrong! Rainy, chilly,nagging headache and then the power went out-then immediately back on, except the computer was dead. We have a whole house surge protector plus the computer was plugged into a surge protector powerstrip but the quick on-off was just too much. It was old,barely working anyway, but we didn't want to invest in a new computer until we had to.

Yipes! There goes our stuff- except for what we had put on the external drive such as really important documents and photos. Really, there's not much there to worry about but we had to replace it since everything we do involves something on-line such as bill paying, banking and most importantly, pictures!

We take a visit to our local Best Buy and they have an inexpensive laptop for the right price plus I have a copy of Office that my company gives us for home use. Now we're set, except for the hours of setup, moving things around and explaing the super cool Windows 7 ribbon to my husband.

By now it's nearly 7 and we haven't eaten since breakfast. The head is pounding and I know I need to take aspirin, but I hate taking medicine and will resist until it does me in. I give in and take some aspirin. By 8 I have to eat but my head hurts too much to cook, plus it's late, so we get in the car and go to the little Mexican restaurant in town since it's about the one and only non fast food place anywhere near us.

I found headache relief through Baja Rolls. These are delicious- nothing like I would have ever thought I'd eat, since I'm picky when it comes to meat. Really, picky is saying it mildly.

They start with tortillas. Then they lay put in a filling of spinich, black beans, feta cheese, and grilled chicken cut into tiny pieces plus a little salsa. Then they fry it to a golden brown. It's cut into pieces and positioned in a ring around shredded lettuce and a chopped tomato-onion mixture. We get the white cheese dip to drizzel over them. It's a white cheddar with jalapenos and probably thinned with milk so it's warm and creamy. Taylor and I shared this plus brought back half for today.

We tucked Taylor into bed and she was out like a light!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Not So Mystic Feline

Gotta love a talking cat! Click on the square if you don't see a picture right away.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Congratulations To Miss Taylor, 2011 Kindergarten Graduate

Cheers! Applause!! Pomp and Circumstance !!!!!
Congratulations To Miss Taylor, age 6, - 2011 Kindergarten Graduate !!!!!

Tonight we celebrated with Taylor's choice of meal: Hot Dogs on the Grill, Tater Tots (fried)- cheese optional - and a chocolate tuxedo layer cake. Yumm.

At work I just moved into an office on another floor so my department had sent flowers and a bouquet of mylar balloons in various shades of silver and blue, one with a pretty flower on it. Since it was the weekend I passed it along to Taylor for her celebration.

What did she say about the balloons? "Oh, how pretty?" No. "What fun!" No. What she DID SAY was, "I love to suck the air out of those balloons and talk like a munchkin!" Yep, takes after her grandparents. LOL

It's rainy and somewhat cold so now we've settled in, watching one of her favorite movies - Gremlins! It's one of her mom's favorites too, in fact, my daughter named our cat Gizmo! Well, off to finish the movie and maybe play a hand or two of Tastes Like Chicken (card game).

Congrats, T !!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Making Our Beds

We're creating a second garden bed near the house, in addition to the larger co-op garden on our side lot. We have terrible soil, very rocky, so we need to create our own.

First, my husband cuts down a couple of old trees. We have five wooded acres on a ridgetop so trees are no problem. He then measures and cuts them to fit together in a rectangle. Then we lined the bed with thick newspapers.

In this case we had to start with some purchased dirt mixed with manure and peat. We planted some purchased items plus some transplants with the bed pictured filled with climbers.

We cover everything with straw which keeps the moisture in and weeds down. If weeds pop through the newspaper, we pile on more straw, which becomes mulched in at the end of the season. We'll add egg shells, coffee grounds, leaves, grass clippings, etc. throughout the season, layering it to create soil for next year.

Bed #1 houses the tomatoes and peppers plus everything is ringed with marigolds. We'll have to fence it off since the raccoons, oppossums and deer come visiting pretty often, taking only a bite and leaving the rest.

It's going to jump into the 90s the next couple of days - and this is Spring??? Then it will cool down to the 60s. The poor veges won't know what to do.

In the meantime I have the flowers waiting in the shade of our porch until the cooler temperatures come back.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Garden- Mother's Day Blooms

Good Morning, Sunshine. Rain clouds take a brief rest gifting us with a few days for sowing our seeds and nestling our transplants in the soggy soil.

Iris flank our mama and baby birdbath, ringed with sella d'oro daylilies and guarded by penstemon digitalis (beardtongue) that should be in bloom shortly.

The bee balm burst open its blossoms like a fireworks finale.

A small azela is tucked away behind hostas, keeping the weigelia company.

I severly trimmed the hedge rose rooted at the edge of our retaining wall. Hundreds of tiny blossoms developed, just about ready to pop open.

Perhaps my Mother's Day gift will be some quality time planting the nine flats of various flowers and veges covering my breakfast nook for the past few weeks. Then I may take a break and savor one of the delightful sugar cone ice cream drumsticks, covered with chocolate shavings rather than nuts, that are awaiting in the freezer. I suppose its the next best thing to ice sculpture buffets!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Woods Will Be A-Buzz'n

Guess what's coming back this year, thirteen years since we last visited? Yes, cicadas. The big, ugly, thunderously noisy clumsy flying insects that will hang from your deck rails and shed their exoskeletons all over the place. And it really, truly, looks like this: (scroll down)

They start their "singing" early and go until dark. It lasts a couple of months. The last time, in 1998, it was so loud that you couldn't hear each other speak. The sound, en mass, is similar to a science fiction spaceship sound. I've never heard anything else exactly like it.

They are about 1 1/2 inches long and can't fly well, worse than June bugs. Their eggs are deposited inside tree branches. After they hatch they move underground and become grub like for the next periodic cycle, some being 13 and others being 17 years. When they come back, they crawl out of the ground and attach themselves to the trees. Since they have an exoskeleton, they have to molt, all in one piece.

While my kids thought they were gross the dogs believed God was tossing puppy treats from heaven. We didn't have to buy much dog food that year. I hear some people cook them up for a meal. For now, I'll pass.

So . . . What do you think? Do you get cicadas?

cicada links

University of MO Extension Periodical Cicadas link

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Invasion of the Transplants

Where is my Spring? Our last frost date is supposed to be April 15, but being on the border of two zones, we know to wait until May 1 for more tender vegetation, just to be safe. It's now May 3 and we have the potential for a light frost tonight.

I am out of room. I have 9 flats of flowers and/or vegetables in my breakfast room window, plus a grape plant, a lilly and some other plant I can't identify (a gift). Thankfully, I don't have a breakfast room table and chairs. We have a dining room that leads into the kitchen which has a big breakfast bar. I don't need a third seating area in 40 feet. That made it easy to set up some saw horses and a long board between the two walls of glass. But it is getting to be a little much.

You can't see the shade plants that are on the floor, or probably the grape plant but it's all there. Soon, if I don't plant, the cucumbers will begin to climb the window sills, entwining themselves among the slats of the mini blinds. The pumpkin is a giant variety so the eventuality is: Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater . . . I'll soon have my own place I suppose! I wish I had a greenhouse, then I'd start a money tree!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Start of Something Tasty

It is the start of something tasty: all the tilling, erecting supports, running a water line, seeding and transplating the vegetables that were started indoors. I've been looking forward to this all spring, and I was sick. I have no idea what happened but things just got worse and worse on Friday until I gave up and went to bed at 9:30 that night. By Saturday morning I couldn't keep anything down and was running a fever so the work proceeded without me. I had hopes of capturing every step for a gardening diary but that just wasn't going to be.

By Saturday night I had recovered enough to drag myself up to the garden and sit on the four wheeler, taking some pictures as the two families joined forces to create what will sustain us throughout the summer, fall and canned for winter. Rick, our neighbor, had his tiller going full force mixing the horse manure from last year which had been amended with straw and leaves for a nice winter compost. It has become dark, rich soil easily worked and full of nutrients.

Both families have small gardens in our own yards that will serve as our backup for the things that we particularly like,perhaps to try some special varieties or growing items not suitable for the communal garden. We will be planting some extra peppers, tomatoes and some vining plants such as watermelon, pumpkin or zucchini. That is if our rain ever lets up after the brief reprieve yesterday.

I also have a flower garden filled with Grow Native varieties suited for Missouri such as bee balm, butterfly weed, columbine and primrose. My one shaded area is covered with hostas which will be entwined with coleus of many colors. By fall it is thick and colorful, plus a munching ground for Mr. Slugly, our giant slugs that tend to eat my plants, but that Taylor loves. These are not your common garden variety slugs, more like small snakes that leave a lovely sticky slime everywhere they crawl. I would say they are at least 3 inches long and thick as your little finger.

I have pots on my desk for easy access to kitchen herbs but I also have some bags of potting soil stacked in back of the house along the gravel patch of our unfinished retaining wall. If I punch a few holes in the bottom of the bags and then make holes in the top to pop a transplant in, then cover it all with mulch or straw, the plants will do just fine. At the end of the season you break open the bag and mix it all up. Place the bags for the next year on top and do the same thing. In between plantings add leaves and straw plus scraps of vegetation or coffee grounds and eventually you'll have a really great planting bed.

It is our 29th wedding anniversary today so we had lunch after dropping off Taylor and then picked up some flowers at the nursery for the entry way containers. We decided ice cream would be a special anniversary treat so it was a blizzard for him and my all time favorite vanilla swirl cone dripped in chocolate. Now, we're too stuffed for dinner! Oh well, it was supposed to be BBQ pork steaks and potatoes but it's raining anyway. Maybe tomorrow.

Hope your gardens are coming along just fine too.