Saturday, July 31, 2010

She's At it Again!

The morning glory vines are history!  They were still blooming nicely, but:  I planted them to shade that south-facing window from the sun, but because the sun is so far north this time of year, the window doesn't get any sun; conversely, all that foliage was blocking cool night breezes, which I really need; lots of the inner leaves were dying and not all that pretty to look at; and it was blocking the light big-time, which I really didn't realize until it was gone. They were also high-maintenance (lots of watering) which I don't like.  So -- off to the compost pile!

Since I was in a destructive kind of mood, I dug into the basil and tomato plants and did a lot of cutting back and thinning, much needed.  That's all on top of the bin.  Yes, those are two down pillows atop the morning glories -- I need to turn both bins soon, and will put one pillow (with the casing cut open) on the bottom of each pile.  They still smell really, really bad.

I also used my scissors to trim all the bermuda and crab grasses that had been encroaching over the plastic for months now, and added that to the compost pile as well.  The stuff is really, really insidious. Notice how big the buckwheat is getting!

After I cleared out some of the masses of basil and tomato leaves, I found a surprise: nice hot peppers turning red.  Lots of green ones, too!

After that, and a good shower, I was off to run errands.  I finally got the drill chuck and bit and extension cord and proper primer to continue working on the side of the house.  Now, all I need is some cooler weather!  My main reason for this trip to Home Depot, however, was to order the replacement sash kit for 'the window'.  For some reason the window sales lady didn't understand, the base price of the unit came up lower than it did last time -- about $30 lower -- so we didn't argue with the computer.  I used my $99 rebate card from Energy Star (for the washer) to pay part of it, and that helped my bank account a bit, although it was still on the pricey side.  But, has to be done.  Now, I need to get more serious about getting that window ready -- finish sanding, filling holes, priming and painting.  If I'm able, and I'm not going to stress on it -- I'll get the other window sanded down and ready to prime and paint, too, and the windows in this room will be done. That will be oh, so nice.

For the rest of the day?  Right now I'm feeling very lazy, but I'll likely get the new drill bit outside later when it cools off, see if it really helps with the paint removal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Win Some, Lose Some

I just finished watching the movie "Patton", with George C. Scott.  I know -- it's been around for a long time and it's even been in my Netflix instant watch queue for a long time, but I had not seen it until now.

It must be said that from the time I have sentient memory of the subject the name "Patton" was spoken by my father with the same reverence others might use with the word "God".  My dad served in the Pacific during WWII so never served under Patton.  After the war, he returned to civilian life in Cedartown for a couple of years but when I was around 6 (sometime before 2nd grade started in 1949, but after 1st grade was over) he decided to re-up and was assigned to Fort McPherson in Atlanta, which was and may well still be 3rd Army HQ.  Patton was no longer in command, of course, but the base HQ was a lovely, white building with stately columns that was called Patton Hall, so he certainly was not forgotten.  He was a hero to my dad, although I have no memories beyond the fact.  Because I was so young and impressionable, some of that hero-worship seeped into my blood and I still can't see the 3rd Army emblem patch without feeling stirred.  Dad served at Fort Mac a couple of times, and we lived on base both when I was maybe 8 and again when I was edging toward teenage-hood, so the 3rd Army was part of my youth in a big way.

Later, as a horse-crazy kid, Patton became a hero of mine when I saw the Disney movie "Miracle of the White Stallions" many years ago.  By the time I saw this, I had visited the Spanish Riding Academy in Vienna and seen the horses, although we weren't able to see them perform that day.  Coincidentally, I recently watched this movie again and realized that it was filmed a year or two after my visit, and the horses I was watching in the movie might well have been the ones I saw and petted.  Patton, of course, saved the stallions and liberated the mares from Czechoslovakia where they'd been sent for safekeeping during the war.  By doing this he saved not only an ancient institution, but may well have saved the breed from extinction.  In watching the Disney movie recently I learned that Patton had competed against the director of the Spanish Riding Academy as part of the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team, so he was really a many-faceted man. 

After yesterday's post about success, I thought I'd mention a couple of less successful recent efforts.  With humor.  Since washing the down comforter worked so well, I thought I'd try washing my two down pillows using the same setting. They're 5-6 years old and in need of cleaning.  Well, let me tell you that you should never wash a down pillow labeled 'dry clean only'!  They washed just fine, but during the drying process (which still isn't over a couple of days later) the down core developed a really nasty, sour feather smell and guarantee you, it's not something you'd want to rest your head upon. These particular pillows have a stable down core of some kind that is supposed to stay in place in the middle of the pillow to avoid a flat spot.  This is apparently what's not drying and what's stinking up the place. I suspect they may eventually hit the compost pile, if that doesn't go away.

And -- yesterday morning I reaped a large harvest of San Marzano tomatoes and got one of my wild hairs, this time to dehydrate the tomatoes.  Remember, we have been in the midst of a heat wave, complete with daily heat advisories, and I don't have AC in this house.  Never mind.  I set my oven at 200 degrees, halved and seeded the tomatoes, put them on a rack and let them sit all day.  I think the oven had been going 11 or 12 hours when I finally turned it off, only to turn it back on this morning for an hour or so.  When I got home today, they weren't quite completely dehydrated and I'd learned my lesson about letting the oven run in hot weather.  I swear, more heat comes out of the vent of that thing than stays inside the oven.  Or, so it seems. I guess it'll be great in the winter. I tasted one of the tomatoes, found it OK, but then I began to wonder if they were safe since they'd been in the oven unheated all day, and were still a tiny bit moist, so I dumped the whole mess into the compost pile.

So -- win some, lose some.  I lost these two but they're minor.  I think I need to get a real Excalibur food dehydrator in order to preserve garden produce, particularly by next year when I should have more.  I could take advantage of all the lovely summer peaches we have here, too. And apples, and cherries, and maybe, even plum tomatoes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am nothing if not stubborn and determined, and there was no way I was not going to find this today!  Unfortunately, there is no milepost here, but my guess from the last one posted is about 61.75, which means it's almost exactly 10 miles from the point I enter the Trail at 51.75.  And I have to say that either the mile post signs along the trail are wrong, or the trail map is wrong, because the last sign post is here:

and while you can't read the fine print, this sign post reads 61.25 and once you pass the curve, you can see the arched state line sign in the distance.  The sign to the right is this one:

and while there isn't a mile point listed here, the trail map says the Esom Hill Trail head is at 60.07 miles.  Minor point, really, but something's wrong somewhere.  Is it 60.07, or 61.75?  I'm guessing the latter, because I know the maps of both trails are old and not overly accurate in places.  Maybe this is o ne of those places.  The good news is that there's a porta-potty here, in case I ever need one.  On hot days like this, all liquids find their way out just fine through the skin.

But, back to the Chief Ladiga and Gateway Park, which is really very nice.

The pavement has matching welcome signs.

and Trail signs....

And the park itself has a nice shelter, concrete benches, picnic tables and a good bike rack.

There's a road crossing not to far in the distance here, but I'd had enough exploration for one day.  I sat gratefully in the shade for about 10 minutes, with my Clif Bar and water, before heading home.  And by the way -- my sense that the the trail is all uphill from Cedartown is correct:  according to the trail map, elevation at the Martin Trailhead (which is after I get on the trail and a couple of uphill climbs later) is 808 and at Esom Hill, 910.  Not significant, but noticeable both ways.  I sure get home faster and easier than I get there, despite being tired.  And really, I'm not at all tired and am, in fact, fairly energized after about an hour of rest.  Safe to say at least 22 miles, probably 23-24 as I'm sure it's more than a mile from home to where I get on the Trail. Total of about 2.5 hours, including the rest stop.  Saw lots of other cyclists out today, which is really unusual and rather nice.

When I got home, I noticed this fella on a parsley stalk in my garden, along with a few relatives.  This is one of those times when I really love the internet:  with this photo I was able to identify this guy as a Black Swallowtail butterfly in-the-making.  This is one of my favorite butterflies, large and beautiful, so these guys are welcome to all the parsley they can eat.

On to the rest of my day, whatever it may bring. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Busy Day

My goodness, what a busy day!

We had a gully-washer of a rainstorm last night.  Here, it's pouring from a corner of my 6" gutters, and before it was over water covered an area from a couple of feet onto my lawn, across the sidewalk and curb and almost met the water on the opposite curb.  Fortunately, it drains quickly once the rain stops, but I did notice a high waterline on the lawn this morning.

I started this day out with a nice, long ride on the Silver Comet Trail.  Hadn't meant to go so far, but was determined to ride for at least 30 minutes before turning back.  Then, I noticed mile markers along the trail (don't know why I never noticed them before, but I didn't).  These are different from signs at road crossings and access roads, which always show mileage to the tenth of a mile.  I'd noticed one at 52 not too far from where I get on the trail, then saw more.  At the 30 minute stage I'd just seen another -- not sure which -- and thought I'd keep riding on to the next one, then the next one, and the next.  I saw 57, thought I'd try for 58 but apparently there isn't a sign for 58 and by the time I reached the next sign it was something like 58.75, so I thought what the heck, let's try for 59.  Then, I reached Shiloh Road and a little frisson moved all over me.  I knew where I was -- the little burg of Esom Hill which is my mom's ancestral home for many generations, and where generations of ancestors are buried at Shiloh Baptist Church.  That was mile 59.1, or something like that.  OK. The entire SC Trail is only supposed to be 60 miles, and I couldn't get that close without trying for the end even though I didn't have my camera with me and would really like a photo of the state line and the Chief Ladiga trail sign.  At the next road crossing the Trail continued, but the sign marker said 60.07.  I thought maybe my memory was wrong so I turned around to head home, where I checked the map and found that the state line is maybe 1/4 mile further on.  That's OK -- a goal for another day.

I also found, not for the first time, that the Trail headed west is a very slight uphill grade for most of its length, although it looks flat.  My legs were feeling the exercise before I turned back (can you say, jelly?) but once I turned around, I was immediately going faster with less effort, and I didn't rest or even get off the bike.  So, at least 16 miles on the trail, probably 18-19 total including the distance from home to the trail head, and I still had lots of energy afterward and I did it all at my old average cycling speed of 10mph.  Not fast, never was, but it's consistent. Never mind that I used to manage that average even when riding the Rockies and Sierras, not just a flat little trail. Next time, I'll take the camera, some water, and maybe a snack, and see how far into Alabama I can get.  It's a good thing I had lots of energy left,  because I had lots more planned for this day, such as....

Making some goat's milk yogurt.  I have some of the Redwood Hill brand left to use as a starter, and can't imagine that the process is any different with goat's milk than it is with cow's milk.  It takes several hours to set, so I won't know for awhile.

Yummy tomatoes, after the boiling water bath, before peeling.

Making some tomato sauce for the freezer.  I wasn't going to do it, but last night it was cool in the house after the rainstorm, so I took advantage of that to boil some water to loosen the skin on the tomatoes.  Anyway -- what is the point in planting San Marzano tomatoes, which are supposedly the finest sauce tomato in the universe -- if I'm not going to make sauce at least once?

A nice mess of fresh herbs from the garden -- basil, oregano, rosemary and parsley.

After easy peel removal they hit the food  processor to reach a nice rough consistency (I was taught years ago when I cooked at Mama Nina's Italian Restaurant in Yountville, CA that you need chunks of tomatoes in the sauce, not just smooth tomato sauce), they hit a pan already sizzling with chopped onions and garlic in olive oil.  A bunch of chopped fresh herbs hit the sauce along with a little pepper and some kosher salt, then I moved the pan to the simmer burner which I now love!  At its lowest setting it is perfect for all-day cooking of tomato sauce without burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Gotta love that!  And even though it's still cooking, the house smells utterly wonderful when I come in from the outside, and it tastes great, too.  I just may have to find a way to use part of it for dinner tonight, rather than putting all of it into the freezer.

I didn't leave it on the chair long -- put it flat on the grass so it's easier to keep the lumps of down loosened up.  This thing is actually white -- I've had it for so long and never washed it that I guess I thought it was supposed to be off-white.  Giggles.  What can I say?

I also decided to wash my king-size down comforter (the new washer has a 'comforter' setting and is something that could not happen in even the largest center-agitator washer).  Worked like a charm and it's now drying out in the sun on the grass.  Hard part is getting the lumps of down broken up and loose again.

Where are you, little hummers????

And...I've had my back porch buzzed by a hummingbird a couple of times this week -- once when I was standing out there and it hovered eyeball-to-eyeball for awhile as if to say "OK dude, where's the food". So today I bought a cheap feeder, made some nectar and hung it up.  It'll probably take them a day or so to find it.

Gosh -- aside from running errands around town, I think that's about it, but the day is young.  I got my vitamin order from  Swanson's last night and immediately took three of the new whole food multi-vitamins with dinner.  I've always scoffed at people who take some supplement and say it's worked miracles right away -- it just doesn't seem possible to me, and I've certainly never had it happen to me personally -- but last night I had lots of energy, attacked the other window in this room so I can paint it when I paint the other, worked on the tomatoes, and the energy this morning and day has continued.  What else could it be?  The stuff is called 'Alive' by Nature's Way, and if this continues I'll sure be taking more of it. The customer reviews are great and it's just filled with good stuff.

Kinda hard to see now, but give it a few days.

The buckwheat is coming up this morning, and it happened literally overnight.  I've been covering the area at night, uncovering early in the morning.  Not a sign of it last night around 8pm when I covered it, but it was up and already yellow from lack of sun when I uncovered it early this morning.  Wonderful!  If it follows the pattern from the other bed, it'll keep coming up for several days before all is sprouted.  Life is good.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Construction -- as Opposed to Destruction

This stuff is truly dead, although given half a chance would probably come back.  I used the hand tool to scruff it up, get as much rotted stuff up as possible and stir up the soil to make it more amenable to seeding and amendments.

I've been fretting for weeks now over just how to handle the large area of black plastic in the back yard and have put off the decision as long as I could.  The question wasn't so much what to do with the soil underneath as it was how to handle the plastic.  I hate plastic.  I hate using it and even more, I hate putting it into landfill.  That part of me wanted to take all the plastic up in the large pieces so it could be re-used.  But, I really didn't need to build green manure in the whole thing, only the areas that will hold planting beds. The rest will be walkways.  To do this, I'd have to cut holes in the plastic.  I also knew that I didn't have enough seed to do the entire area, nor probably the energy to do it all at once.  This morning, I 'just did it', to borrow a phrase from Nike.  Measured and cut out the two 4x8 planting beds, scruffed out what dead grass I could get between a rake and the hand fork, then set about amending the soil and seeding the buckwheat. Also added two big buckets full of partially-decomposed organic matter to the compost bin, which is always good.

Obviously, I wasn't being very careful when I cut out the plastic to the rear!  I didn't notice how far off I was until it was too late, but that's OK.  Both areas are larger than the final will be, and I can make them nice and even when I build the beds.

After I raked out most of the dead vegetation, I seeded thickly with buckwheat (much higher than the recommended rate, on the theory that more is better and might as well use what I have), added cottonseed, blood and bone meals that I had leftover from spring, plus some Epsom Salts. Then, I topped it all off with about a half inch of topsoil.

Since all that loose soil would be too inviting for the neighborhood cats, and since the birds love that buckwheat seed, I covered both areas loosely with the plastic after I'd watered everything in nicely.  It takes 4 days for the buckwheat to sprout, and a few more to get it large enough to keep the cats away.  I'm not sure how conducive this plastic will be to germination, so will need to be careful.  Today is cloudy and very humid, so the sun isn't heating it up.  Hopefully, enough air can get underneath to keep it cool, and I can actually keep it uncovered during the day when I'm home, recover it at night and on the days I work.  I hope this works.

The plan for the walkway areas, as of the moment, anyway, is to use a different cover crop called Medic Mix, which I can plant as late as October for overwintering, and which supposedly will dissuade even the toughest grasses and broadleaf weeds from growing.  In the spring, I can just mow it down, then top it with cedar mulch.  In theory, anyway.

So -- that's been my day to this point.  Good exercise, good accomplishments.  I don't know what the rest of the day will bring and it's early now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Morning Glory and Sweet Sassy

My morning glory vine has been blossoming for a few days now -- more and more each morning.  This is exactly what I envisioned when I sowed the seeds, and I do love it.

It's wild and unpredictable, kind of like me, I guess.

The buckwheat is sprouting, although not exactly evenly.  That's no doubt due to my method of covering the seeds, which clearly isn't a very good one.  I'll do better when I sow where the plastic is, if I ever decide just what to do there.  Somehow, I can't drum up much enthusiasm for the garden these days.

"Kitten" now has a name -- Sassy!  And a very fitting name it is, despite the sweetness shown here as she was napping in her favorite spot.  I hadn't been able to come up with a name I liked, so I just stopped trying and figured she'd name herself -- and she did.  Last night I was watching here walk into the house ahead of me and the thought came that she sure is a sassy little thing -- and it stuck.  She sasses me all the time.  She's understood what the word 'no' means for a couple of weeks now, but sometimes, like a defiant two-year-old human, she chooses not to obey.  It's clearly a choice -- I'll see her start to do something and say 'no', and she will stop for a moment, flick her ears and narrow her eyes in consternation, then do it anyway.  Other times, she'll choose to obey and turn away from what she's doing, but she will do it with lots of dirty looks and defiant sounds.  And when she plays with one of her tiny fuzzy mice, you'd think it was an African lioness strutting with a fresh kill.  Sassy, indeed.

I have opted against the bike this morning -- just don't feel up to it.  Not a lot of sleep, not a lot of energy.  Not quite sure what the day will bring, other than a trip for milk and, hopefully, eggs.  I heard a source for raw goat's milk and cow's milk on a local call-in radio show last week and wrote down the number.  I'd just been to Carlton Farms that day, but now that's gone and I need more.  Sure wish I knew how to solve the sleep issues -- the supplements I've been taking don't seem to help a lot.  Xanax helps, but I won't take that more than twice a week.  I've really become addicted to the Redwood Hill Farm Kefir, now that I've gotten used to it.  I add one of the flavored varieties to a morning smoothie with a peach and blueberries, and it's just wonderful.  I'm almost out, need to make another trip to Harry's for more.  Could do that today -- not sure when I'll have another chance until Tuesday.  Can I be without it for that long?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One of Those "Duh" Discoveries

 I've been hibernating during the heat -- not much to accomplish outside for various reasons, so I've stayed inside. Last Saturday, July 3, I went for a short ride on the Silver Comet Trail early in the morning, and found that to be just delightful, even though I was once again a little out of shape.  This past Sunday I did the same thing -- purely on impulse long before the sun cleared the trees -- and went a bit further.  Could have done more, but since I've been somewhat inactive I've gotten a bit lazy.  Sad but true.

I'm not sure quite when it occurred to me that I have four mornings every week that could begin this way and that I ought to take good advantage of that.  Duh!  The biggest factor in actually doing this, of course, is remembering to do it, but this morning it was right in the top of my mind and I headed out a little after 7am while the world was cool and quiet and peaceful.  I went a good bit further this morning and I felt so good out there that I used the time for some real training -- pushing the body for speed and higher gears -- and that felt great, too.  I haven't done that for awhile.  One of these days I want to attempt to ride the other direction, towards Rockmart, but need to get those hill-climbing muscles in shape first.  Since the westerly direction doesn't offer any serious hills, I decided to make the most of the ones it has and use higher gears, more muscle.  That worked, too.  And there are higher gears left to use.  I think this has gravitated to the top of my mind now, and I plan to be out there more and more often on these free mornings.  I was gone less than an hour this morning -- hardly a detriment to doing whatever else calls for this day or any other. And in all truth, there isn't much of anything that makes me feel quite so good as riding the bike, especially out in the quiet countryside.  Again, Duh!

I splashed through lots of shallow standing water from last night's rain, and since my bike hadn't had a good bath for a year or two, I gave it one when I got back home.  Got all the dust and gunk off, oiled the chain, and she looks much better now.  This bike is 14 years old -- one of my first purchases when I moved to Corvallis back in 1996, and although it's had a lot of miles, still looks fairly new.  Much on it is relatively new -- tires, seat, toe clips, rear carrier, handlebar grips -- but the basic bike is as I bought it.

We had one of those wonderful thunderstorms pass through last night around 7pm.  Wonderful, because there was no lightning, the thunder rumbled softly in the distance, but brought a wonderful, long, soaking rain for the parched greenery.  I sat out on the porch swing reading, watching the rain, and watching the kitten try and figure out what was happening.  She was by the screen watching a bird when it happened, eventually scrambled away, ears back.  She is SO much fun to watch -- everything is new and exciting to her.

Not sure what the rest of this day will bring, other than a trip to the library.  I'm about ready to take up the black plastic and go about seeding the buckwheat, but with a week of possible thunderstorms ahead, I may just wait awhile.  Otherwise, a heavy rain would wash the seeds away.  I think I'm going to have to top them with some topsoil, since I can't really (read: won't) dig the area first. I'm hoping the topsoil will at least keep the birds away, but it wouldn't help during a rainstorm, certainly.

Hope your day is a good one.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Beautiful Gift.....

Last year when I was in San Francisco, I visited with my old friend Jim DeWitt, a well-known artist who was at one time an internationally competitive sailboat racer and sailmaker.  Nowadays, he mostly paints.  During our visit, he told me he didn't have a photo of Sandpiper, the sailboat he owned when we were together.  He took this little (33') boat across the Pacific to Honolulu in the TransPac yacht race, tore up the competition on SF Bay in her, then somebody torched her with a Molotov cocktail, destroying everything except most of her aluminum hull and the toilet.  At the time, Jim had a small wooden houseboat/studio moored at Brickyard Cove where the Richmond Yacht Club is.  Sandpiper was moored alongside.  The theory was that somebody broke into and ransacked the houseboat, then torched everything to cover up the crime.  I'll never forget that middle of the night phone call, or the sight of Sandpiper, still smoking, lit by a police spotlight when I arrived shortly after Jim.

This is the photo I sent Jim last fall.

This is what I found in my email inbox last night.  He'd taken the photo and used it in his own, wonderful, inimitable style to paint a memory -- and he shared it with me.  I added the copyright text in order to use it here and not have it copied, or at least not have a usable copy.  I'm going to get a good professional print of this and hang it on my wall.  This is certainly one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received -- maybe the most wonderful.  Thanks, my friend.

On a more mundane subject, yesterday my mailbox held a pound of buckwheat seed that I'd ordered to sow where the black plastic is.  I went out early this morning while it was relatively cool to make this happen in one of the existing raised beds. It'll crowd out any weed and provides a bunch of good green manure.  I'll need to turn it under 5-6 weeks after germination, and it won't take long for this bed to once more be ready for planting food crops.  I'm thinking fall/winter items.  All I had to remove here was basil and nasturtium.  I hope I have enough buckwheat for the new area -- certainly will for the two new raised bed portions, but I had in mind to sow it all in order to discourage more weeds/grass from coming up in the walkway areas.  See the little puddles on the black plastic?  We had a little rain overnight, apparently.  Probably just enough to make the grass start growing again!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Garden Bounty

It's that time of year -- even though my squash plant went south on me and the new bean plant is just starting to produce, the nightshades are doin' just fine, thank you.  I've been ignoring the yellow and red peppers for awhile, bein' too lazy to cook 'em up, but my appetite must be returning because on a day when it's 98 in the shade, I chose to turn on that hot gas burner and saute some veggies for dinner.  Go figure.   

Besides the peppers there's a small Japanese eggplant, a few tomatoes tossed in at the last minute to warm up and a big sprig of rosemary.  I just realized that I neglected to add garlic to this mix, and while it's good without it, everything is better with garlic, and even better with more garlic.  I must really be out of practice, because garlic is usually the first thing I think of at a time like this.
Half of this with a Bruce Aidell chicken Italian sausage made for one very nice dinner.  And enough for tomorrow night, too.  Kroger only carries one variety of Aidell's sausages, and while they're not as good as the wonderful house-made organic sausages at Market of Choice in Eugene, I have to accept that I'm not in Eugene anymore and I'm lucky to get anything other than Hillshire Farms around here.

Stuff and Nonsense

Took my baby for her first visit to the vet this morning.  I don't have a carrier yet, so I wasn't sure what to expect of her in the car, but she sat in my lap and stayed calm both directions.  No problems whatsoever.  We were at the vet's for over an hour -- she saw small dogs, a Great Dane, a bird, and none of them bothered her until she saw another cat -- hiss!  She was SO good through it all, including the doc probing in dark places, putting stuff up her nose and more stuff down her throat.  I swear, this is the best all around kitten I have ever owned, and I've had a lot of them in my life.  I also broke down and had the doc put some flea stuff on her, because they were multiplying faster than I could wash them off her.  She has bloodworms -- so will need to be wormed at all of the next three visits for shots.

It's gonna be a hot one today!  Forecast for 100.  Driving home I heard a fella call into the local radio station and say that it was so hot the devil had just stopped in and asked for a glass of ice water.  I don't plan to do much more -- gonna stay inside and stay cool.

I scanned this photo this morning to send to Ken and his wife.  This was Ken with his dad, Ken Sr., about 1959.  He was sitting on top of a hand-crank ice cream machine while Big Ken cranked away.  I've always loved this photo, and had to share it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4th fun, or you never know...

....what a day will bring.  Yesterday morning started out fairly normal -- I was outside scraping paint off the siding, my neighbor had come over to chat while I worked, said he was ready to clean out the crawl space if that was OK with me (he needs the money to get his truck fixed).  He has a great Tyvek crawl suit and that literally covers every part of him aside from the face, and he wore a mask.  I'm not sure how much he got done because I ended up leaving before he was through.  At that point, he had maybe three-quarters of it finished but thought he'd have to do the rest today.  I'll have to check it out later.  Now, I have a big bundle of it out on the curb awaiting pickup.  Cool.

While I was scraping away my phone range.  I almost didn't answer it, because I had to run around the house and get to it before the machine picked up, which is a dash, but I made it.  My cousin Ken was on the other end, inviting me to a big get-together at a friend's house, and I wasn't about to turn down that opportunity.  I worked a bit more on the siding, about three hours total, but time was telling me I needed to go about the process of cleaning up my dirty body, so I put things away.  It'll be there waiting for me next time I feel the urge.  A few weeks ago a friend gave me an old drill to use in the process -- I just need to get a chuck for it, then one of those wire brush attachments and a long power cord.  I haven't had the $$ to do that lately, but when I do it should make short work of the paint that doesn't come off easily.

But, on to the fun side of life.  After a few wrong turns and after asking a couple of people how to get where I was going, I found their wonderful house out in the country and the three of us took off for the party, a good long drive away at a home on this lake.  Life is good.

I know some of you out there believe I'm the devil's spawn but here is proof that I came into this world in the usual way -- I have kinfolk!  This is Ken's son and daughter-in-law. Ken is the son of my first cousin which, according to my know-all genealogy software makes him my first cousin once removed.  For some reason, it doesn't tell me what his kids would be, but I'm guessing they're first cousins twice removed. 

It's too bad the fish didn't cooperate and show his width, and I know it looks a bit on the small side,  but for a bream (pronounced 'brim, for you Yankees out there), it's a pretty good size.  They caught quite a few of these in the course of the day, but put 'em all back.

This is Ken's youngest grandson, from his daughter and son-in-law who I didn't manage to capture on film.  You couldn't get this boy out of the water!

Fishing with granddad (papa).

Half of me had an urge to get out and paddle Ken's kayak, half of me didn't, and the lazy half won.  One of these days!

One of the guests had been an extra in a movie filmed in the area last year and her tales were fascinating.  Called "Get Low", it stars Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek and is due for release this month.  Here's what IMDb has to say about it: "A movie spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party... while he was still alive."  Should be a fun movie, and it'll be nice to see the local scenery.

One of the highlights of the day was the low country boil.  Again, for you Yankees, this is a dish from the Georgia and Carolina coastal areas that will make your heart sing if you ever have a chance to try it.  The cook was very kind to allow me to follow her moves with the camera.  It takes awhile to cook, but is oh, so worth the wait!

First, the potatoes boil, since they take the longest.  I'm probably going to have the sequence a little off, but I think the sliced  lemons and limes went in next and there's a big bag of seasonings that goes in at some point, too.  Eventually, the citrus slices come out after they've flavored the water then the corn goes in, then a mess of fresh Andouille sausage.  When those come out and into a container to keep warm, the shrimp go in for about two minutes, then everything is dumped onto one huge table and everybody digs in.  My plate was rather meager, I'm afraid, because I'd snacked on chips and dips earlier and because my appetite still hasn't fully returned from when I was sick last week, but I had to get some of everything to try.  My goodness, it was good!  I was sorry I couldn't eat more but I sure enjoyed what I had.

And, what's a Fourth of July party without fireworks?  The kids, not surprisingly, had a great time with their sparklers, as well as the fireworks.  I had the camera set on 'fireworks show' (imagine that) and was rather pleased at the results.  I'm still not sure how to best use that feature -- when I press the shutter, the screen goes blank for awhile and I'm not sure whether to hold it in place at that point or not.  Mostly, I didn't hold it there the entire time it was blank, and it did just fine.  

I had problems with timing the bursts of the fireworks, but some of them turned out fine.

Before the fireworks began a couple of guitars came out and a songfest was happening inside so I hunkered down to listen.  Some fine singing in this bunch!  There was a young woman who is auditioning for American Idol in a couple of weeks, and she was really good.  All in all, we were up waaaay past my bedtime, but I got my second wind during the fireworks.  The old clock was edging up on midnight when we left and was right at midnight when I drove away from Ken and Lynn's place.  I had a lonesome, hungry kitten waiting for me but she didn't get much attention, I'm afraid.  Naturally, by then I was so wide awake that I didn't sleep much, but that's fine -- I can nap later and sleep tonight.  I wouldn't have missed this for the world!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Saturday

Hasn't been all that momentous, really.  But, progress has been made.

After my angry rant yesterday I said to hell with the diet, I needed a treat, and for me, that generally means food.  I hied myself off to El Nopal, a lovely Mexican restaurant at the other end of town I'd yet to visit.  A nice dinner, some good chips and salsa all washed down by a Dos Equis, and I felt a lot better.  After that, I slept well and woke up this morning determined to do something fun -- a ride on the Silver Comet Trail.  Turned out to be a short one, just under an hour because my legs and overall energy were not interested in doing more, but that was enough.  I felt much, much better afterwards.  I need to start more mornings like this.

My neighbor really doesn't want to clean out under my house, according to his wife this morning.  All that fiberglas is itchy and it's a hot job.  Duh.  I just went outside and checked it out for myself, pulled out what I could from the small entry.  Aside from the crawlspace being tight, which it is, I didn't find it all that onerous, personally.  Raked out all kinds of stuff aside from insulation:  clay flower pots, plastic flower pots, what looks like a small oven grill.  I can do this entire job myself, really.  It's not so bad under there and once my eyes became accustomed to the light, I could see just fine.  I need to get a long hook for the entry door so it doesn't keep falling shut, and of course equip myself with long sleeves, long pants, eye protection and something to cover the nose and mouth, to keep the glas out of my body.  Wonder where I could get a surgical mask?  I have some of those foam masks, but they're hot and miserably uncomfortable.  A bandanna would probably work better.

Disposal is a more difficult issue.  Normally around here, people just put unwanted stuff like this out on the curb and the city hauls it away.  This comes away in pieces, smallish pieces, and tends to blow away.  The environmentalist in me doesn't want this stuff blowing all over the place.  I put what I took out today into my garbage can, but it's not likely to hold everything I take out, even in small increments.  Of course, the environmentalist in me decries the whole idea of this stuff entering a landfill, but I sure don't know what else to do with it.  Sad.

So, I have a project before me, and one I can get into.  Save myself a few $$, make sure the job is done the way I want it done.  I've crawled around such areas before, in my Atlanta house, although with far more space to work in for the most part.  I insulated both floor and attic of that house myself, so this is not a new concept to me.  Maybe I'll end up putting it all back in place myself, too.  Why not?  That should be the easy part!  Paying for it is what's going to be tough.  I'll definitely go with Johns Manville brand, which is formaldehyde free.  They have one version that is completely encased in plastic, very easy to use, but it's all pricey.

Aside from errands, and feeding the plants with some Garrett Juice, I think that's been my day.  Oh -- I spent a good bit of time on both the Comcast and Charter websites, spoke to a delightful young man at Comcast.  Turns out I should be able to get their internet service plus basic cable TV for less than I'm paying ATT for just internet.  He seemed to be unable to determine if there is service in this neighborhood and will call me back next week to confirm.  There is cable here -- in the living room.  Don't know if it's Comcast or Charter, but I'm hoping Comcast. From the website, at least, Charter didn't seem to offer the basic services I want, just bundles that are expensive (or, cheap for awhile then expensive after the initial time period).  I don't want that.  The Comcast telephone is a bit higher than my basic ATT service, so I may be forced to keep that for the time being.  And yes, it's worth paying them for the balance of the modem cost simply to get rid of them.  I may end up with a cell phone, although that may also be too pricey.  Will check that part out after I get the internet squared away.

I had the bright idea the other day to make use of all the basil in the garden, rather than tossing the trimmings into the compost pile.  Years ago back in Atlanta, an Italian friend of mine who was also a fabulous cook told me I could freeze pesto, as long as I put a layer of olive oil on top of it.  At least, I think it was freezing -- maybe it would just hold indefinitely in the refrigerator that way.  Since I already had all the ingredients, I made three batches of pesto today and froze them individually, then put a layer of olive oil on them. We'll see how it works.  Then, I made a batch of vanilla ice cream (no, I really am not going to go hog wild off the diet, because I've recently lost almost 10 pounds and don't want to put them back on).  Still, a little treat here and there -- why not?

Yet to come this 'holiday' weekend is turning the compost piles.  I think perhaps another ride or two on the bike may be in order, also.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bah Humbug!

All I can say is, I'm glad you're not here in this room right now, and if you're smart, you're glad too!

Bad day?  That's putting it mildly.  I've been really bored at work for quite awhile now -- since I caught up on all the backlog of work, there's not much to do.  On a busy day, maybe a hour of it might be used working.  The rest I twiddle my thumbs, occasionally answer the phone, and play computer games, all of which do nothing by frustrate me.  I do not do idleness well. My boss has been all distracted lately with buying a fancy new car for his wife, and when I arrived at work today I found that he wouldn't be in until noon because they'd gone to Atlanta to pick it up.  Well, by noon, he was still in Atlanta and hadn't even signed the paperwork yet.  Back in mid-afternoon, he says, but I've heard that story from him many times before.  Wouldn't matter so much, except this is payday and that meant he wouldn't be here in time to sign my paycheck.  I stewed awhile longer, then walked out.  It was a total waste of my time, even with the piddling amount I'll be paid to have been there.

Then, I got home and found a bill from ATT, which was still over $80, after monthly phone calls to them to correct their error.  Next month, I keep being told, and 'next month' it's still the same.  The woman in May gave me a credit, and the woman today did, too.  Like a fool, I didn't call last month or I probably could have gotten it then, too.  Today was a fine day to call -- I was already pissed and this just added fuel to the fire.  Every time, I get told a different story.  They have me over a barrel for another 5 months because of the damned modem, for which I'm paying $10 per month and for the balance of which they will bill me if I cancel the service.  I will NEVER use ATT again, as long as there are other options out there.  I think they've forgotten that Ma Bell isn't everybody's mother.  We have options now, when Ma Bell screws with us.  Rant, rant.  I'm still about to explode.  But, on to other issues.

Remember this?  This was my bathroom when I moved in, as inherited.  Yesterday, I got my bathroom window installed, and now it looks like this.

I'm not thrilled with the installation -- when he put the outside trim back on he did a really crude job of it. The bottom piece is now not level with the other siding on the house and looks bad, plus he didn't put it on so that all the corners match up.  I'm going to have to take the bottom piece off and redo it myself, I guess, and get my neighbor to help with one of the replacement side pieces that is too wide to fit evenly.  Sloppy.  I think I'll stick with James from now on -- he's slow to get to things, but when he gets to it, he does a damned good job.

My squash vine, which looked so healthy last week, has been wilting a lot lately despite copious additions of water.  I suspected squash vine borer for various reasons, finally looked it up today and yep, that's what it has. No help for it other than pulling the plant up, which is what I did.  I planted a new seed a few days ago, should still have time for more squash this summer.  

Pretty, isn't it?

I just love it when kittens sleep with the tip of their pink little tongues sticking out!  She was just waking up, looks a bit stupid, but trust me, she's got some smarts, as cats go.

I have three days off now, and it just might take me that long to be ready to go back to Rome.  Fortunately, our weather has cooled to a far more tolerable, and more normal, high 80s rather than high 90s.  We are all relieved!