Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sage Bush Update

I think the Sage plant is a goner. I've not done anything special for it, but made sure it was watered. Maybe I watered too much? Alas, my wonderful culinary herb bed is short by one herb now. Maybe my friend will share another one with me?

Wish I knew what killed it. But I guess this is the way of gardening.

Great times for Great people

What seems like a lifetime ago, I lived overseas, in SW China. There I made some very good friends. Now, we keep up sporadically, I wish it was more, but such is the way of life. Blog certainly make it easier to keep up!

One very, very good friend came home around the same time I did (I forget if it was shortly before me, or shortly after me) to get married. (That was 7 years ago!) Today, I read in their blog post that they are holding their new little girl in their arms. My friend did not birth this child herself, but the process has been just as hard and much, much longer. If you want the story, see their blog...

What a joyous day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Compost systems, Mulch and Dirt

My original compost bin was made with plastic white trellising, because that's what I had. Here it is overflowing with grass clippings from the yard. The trellising was starting to bow outwards and buckle on one side with the weight and I couldn't get into it to turn it. Very frustrating.

I'd read about using wood pallets, but without a truck I wasn't sure how to get pallets home. I stopped at a place that had a sign "we buy and sell pallets" and asked there. The guy looked at me funny (I only wanted 4), and asked how I was going to get them home. I pointed to the car (its a small 4 door sedan -- barely fits Hubby) and I think the man struggled to not laugh out loud. This is not a new experience for me. Its amazing what can be fit into various small spaces, and what can be tied on, and so forth. I lived in China, I remember how this works. However, I decided to not risk my back seat fabric and passed on the offer of free pallets. "Only 4? I'll give you 4." The poor guy had no idea who he was offering free pallets to. Keep in mind, I'm the woman who accepted 12 cubic yards of free mulch. This last Thursday, I finally got my pallets, but not from that place. That story follows below.

Several factors converged for stuff to get done this weekend. First, school is out. Second, I "adopted" a student at church to do some yard work (fund raising for their missions trip). I'm going to have him help me put down cinder blocks for a second raised bed, which means I need dirt. I asked around to borrow a truck to get this dirt. To jump ahead, I decided to get the dirt delivered (plus, got more -- 4 yds), and used the truck to get pallets for my fancy-wancy 3 bin compost system. I spent an hour or two Friday morning putting it together and then Hubby and I spent another hour moving partly composted compost from the old bin to the new bin.

We filled it as much as we could, but it wasn't all of the compost from the previous bin. When I turn whats in this bin into the 2nd bin, I'll add more to the first bin.

You might wonder why I'm set on bins and not just piles. I do have neighbors and figure I should strive to keep things looking somewhat nice. And bins just seem nicer than piles. And I'm a Fancy Nancy kinda girl -- even when it comes to decaying matter. And I got to build something. Why do the version that requires no building when you can do the version that needs something built for it? (Hubby is going to choke on that statement! He's just the opposite me on this matter.)

The mulch pile is slowly dwindling. Hubby has worked hard moving it wheel barrel load by wheel barrel load back to my garden. We were concerned about it being in the way when the dirt was delivered, but that turned out not to be a problem.

This what 4 cubic yards of dirt looks like:

This is very sandy soil, unlike what I got back in March. I'm learning where to get stuff from. My next garden shopping objective is to visit Bonnie's, a well regarded local nursery.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Crazy Mulch

Today, I did something crazy. I talked to the tree dudes and got a truck-full of mulch. 12 cubic yards. Seems crazy to me. Did I mention it was free?

Hubby has already moved about 20 wheel-barrels full from the pile, and this is what's left.

Crazy, is it not? But I'm loving it. My dream of having a "real" garden is starting to come true. I'm mulching all the "paths" around the beds and vines and there will be plenty to mulch the beds, too. Here's the progress after 20 loads:

Luckily, there are two others interested in having some free mulch, so I'm guessing it will be gone by the weekend. I'm sure I'll use more for the flower beds out front, and if any is left from that, I can the stuff, or it might get layered thicker on the "paths".

Free stuff is the bomb. 12 cubic yards of mulch that's free rocks.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Airline Miles and Magazines

Since moving to Texas, just about all of our airline miles have come up against expiration. We figure that California must have some law against this, since we never saw notices like this while living out west. Moving to Texas apparently means we must choose magazines or let the miles go to the wind.

I've already gotten both our Dads three golf magazines (that makes 6). I got Hubby The Economist, Money, Business Weekly, Wired, Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal. I get Martha Stewart living, Afar, Veranda, Woman's Day and Cat Fancy. That's for a total of.... drum roll, please.... 11 magazines! This is all just from our Delta miles.

Today, I got a notice from Midwest. My miles are expiring end of June and I'd better get magazines or the miles go poof. I thought, well, if there is a knitting magazine, I can get something good. But, alas, when I go to view the magazine options, there is nothing of quality. Goodness, I all ready get 4 magazines that are pure fluff and pomp, why add more?

I'm all for less government in my life, but I must admit... it was nice getting to keep my miles and not have to buy magazines to make use of them. I guess I just need to fly more, so I can get enough miles to buy an airline ticket. Hmmm... I wonder where I could go.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Garden Work

Gosh, it will be nice when I have mornings to work. Afternoons are hot.... but then, in month, even mornings will be hot... just can't win around here, can you?

Been out working in the garden and gosh am I sweaty. And I'm not done!

But first, I have questions to see if anyone knows. The flowers on my birdhouse gourds are all wilting and dying before blooming. Any ideas what I need to fix?

On my pepper, the joints are all a black color and some have white powder looking spots. On one plant, a few flowers have browned and died, any ideas? On others I have several small, baby peppers.

A picture of blooms from underneath (either chili or cayenne pepper, I forget)

Baby peppers!

This is the best picture of the black stems and wilted flowers I could get:

My sage bush is doing something crazy. Its new the ground (from a friend, was in a pot for the longest time), so the issue might be related to that. From the ground come many multiple branches. Recently, some of those branches have begun to wilt away, leaves, stems and all. I cut off several, but it seems another is doing the same. Hopefully, you can see this in this picture:

Any thoughts?

On the good side, the lettuce is starting to bloom. I like the leafy kinds (not the produce a head kind), so I want those flowers. I'm excited to see what the flowers look like.

This poor guy had this top clean chopped off. I'm not sure what happened.... maybe he will produce a another stalk that can produce flowers.

I'm taking Rhonda's advice (of Down to Earth) and redoing my cinder blocked bed. The two sides I've done so far look so much better than before. Its just beautiful! And I will have more dirt to put over the potatoes... some are showing a bit and that cannot be good. I suspect they will be ready to harvest soon.

The huckleberries are just full of ripe berries. I'll harvest them soon. I think I'll make Basic Huckleberry Sauce, from The Encyclopedia of Country Living.

Okay, off to check on the ribs (on the grill... yum!) and put another row of cinder blocks down. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My favorite hot-pads

To make sure we are all on the same page: hot pads are the things you use to grab hot stuff.

My father-in-law gave me these the last time we were up at their place. I think he got them at Menard's or some such, probably for free with rebate. I wish we had Menard's around here.

The label said they would protect your hands up to 500' or so, and likely had some other good things about them on the label. I have given up my trusty Weber Grill Mit for these. The dexterity available to me is far greater than the Mit, and they seem to keep my hands cooler for longer. True, I don't have the same fore-arm protection that the Mit provides, but its been a long time since I've singed arm hairs. Its my hands that get so hot, especially when rearranging coals. I love my charcoal grill -- its a Weber, and as summer is coming on and its getting hot, I'm hoping to use it more (less stove and oven use).

On that thought, I should build/get a solar cooker. Certainly is sunny enough, even in winter.... hmmmm.....

Hank's new Favorite hiding place

Hank has decided on a new favorite sleeping/hiding place. One or two times, I will call and call and look and look before he comes sauntering out. I wonder why he likes this spot?

Baby sparrows

Here's a video of the babies. That's me whistling, trying to get them to poke their heads up.

Garden Journal Update

Warning! Long post!

Wow, the weather warms up and things start growing! I know that soon enough it will be too hot for stuff to do much growing, but I'll enjoy it while I can.

Here's all 4 beds lined up. One is raised, sort of, with potatoes in it. Right behind has huckleberries and herbs, and one pepper plant. Behind that is tomatoes and peppers, and behind those are carrots, onions and lettuce. I plan to raise that back bed end of May.

Here's the pea plants and several birdhouse gourds. You never know how many seeds will germinate, and I hate to throw out ones that are growing, so I've got 6 bird house gourd plants growing.

Something is eating the mint. I haven't figured out what, yet. But the mint is putting out new leaves where old ones were eaten, the plant isn't done for yet.

The sparrow nest in the tomato pot is full of baby sparrows. They are almost as big as mama sparrow, and their eyes are open. If I counted right, there are 5 or 6 babies pilled in there.

Tomorrow I should harvest my first tomato. These are in hanging pots on the patio. They don't get quite as much sun as the ones in the garden, but they are full of tomatoes.

The tomatoes in the garden are producing. I figure it will be a few weeks before harvesting any of these.

The peppers are full of flowers, I'm very excited about these proto-peppers. I think Hubby is, too. There are two chilli peppers and two cayanne peppers and three or four sweet peppers. He is most excited about the spicy ones.

The huckleberries are covered in fruit. I'm wondering when to harvest them. I think I'll wait till they are easy to pull off.

The cucumbers have little, baby cucumbers on them. I put them up on a trellis to make mowing easier for Hubby. I did the same for the gourds. the pumpkin are staying on the ground, I'm not sure the bamboo would support them, as the vines themselves are huge (third picture from here).

Gosh, I'm so proud of my garden and I want more beds come fall growing season. The lettuce is being allowed to bolt, I just want seeds. The leaves are rather bitter, I guess its warmed up too much for them.

We got a mower with a bagger, so we can compost the clippings. When Hubby mowed this week, he dumped all clippings into the compost bin; unfortunately, it was more than the compost bin could hold! I'm hoping to get some wood pallets soon (next Thurs?) and add two compartments to one side, then it will be easy to flip the pile when it needs to be turned and I can hold more compost. Currently, it smells like hay -- and in the heat, its not so nice.

:::sigh::: its a long post, but seems to short to have told of all that is happening in my garden!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fun giveaway

Now, I've never felted anything before, but I'm willing to try most things once. So, here I go!

Soggybottomflats is giving away a felting kit (or is the material felted already?). Looks like fun and I'd like to try it, so I registered for the give away. Seems like my name is never pulled when the drawing happens, but I gotta give a try, right? Readers... you should give it a try, too! (its fun blog to read, too)

I've decided I will just make stuff (knitting and such) that I just might give away.... then I've got gifts when I need them. Sometimes parties and showers are kinda last minute, sometimes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The first grandbaby

Just in case there is someone I haven't told... that'd be any blog readers, I think.... my sister is pregnant with the first grandbaby for my side of the family (and her side of the family).

Just yesterday, it was determined that its a boy. So, no longer must we say, "our niece or nephew", but can say "our nephew"

Isn't he cute?

And here is the sweater I knit for him. He will get plenty more, along with blankets and all sorts of things I might make.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Darwin Award for a Squirrel

I have a Darwin Award to hand out. As we were driving to church this morning, I sat peacefully in the passenger seat noting the passing scenery. We've driven that route many times over, so the scenery wasn't unfamiliar to me.

As we drove, I noticed the incline of grass and the chain link fence. Then I saw the quick movement of a small creature, and a squirrel emerged from the tall grass, ran through the chain link fence, down the incline, across the shoulder, across the right lane, directly in line with the passenger side tires. We heard it, the thump-thump, and we felt it. I'm sure he felt the first thump, but I'm guessing he didn't feel the second thump because he had really good aim at getting under the tire.

What inclines an otherwise smart and crafty creature to commit suicide by Anaconda (that's the name of the car). These squirrels have planted many numerous pecan trees (I'm constantly pulling them from flower beds and flower pots), they seem to have fun dodging the feral cats and always find a way to get into the bird feeder. Alas, something, somewhere, somehow inclined this poor fellow to dash into the road to meet Anaconda.

This is the third road kill squirrel I've seen in the past few days. Is there something about the warming days that prompts them to be impetuous? Just glad I wasn't driving.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Harvesting Beans & other updates

Yeah! I harvested a handful of Uncle Chuck's Beans this morning. They are quite beautiful with their purple and green look.

I have seen 5 little baby sparrows in the nest in the tomato pot. They are so feather-less! We had some chicken eggs hatch at school, and the chicks are quite covered in feathers, but these little guys -- their eyes are still closed and they are pink, pink, pink. I hope I get to see when they start to fly.

The garden is doing great. We got some rain yesterday which wet everything down so nicely and cooled the day off by 20' or so. Today is still cool, though it will be time to button up the house soon. I had to prune the parsley, it was just taking over the area. When those huckleberries are done with (and they have tons and tons of berries on them) and the pepper finishes producing, that will be the dedicated herb bed.

I got a good answer on how to get my cinder blocks straighter and better looking, so I might be re-digging for the bed with cinder blocks soon. And when I'm ready to raise the other beds, I'll do it right the first time.

I'm off to knead the bread again. I should vacuum, too. But all in all, I'm doing much better at the daily routines and keeping up with life. Menu planning has fallen to the wayside, but I continue to strive to use up what is in my pantry and freezer. I have great plans for putting together my own freezer meals, ones we like and I started writing out my process. I'll post it when I get it figured out; I love the idea of freezer meals, but usually we aren't too crazy about the ones I've made from recipes so far. So, my thought is to create freezer meals of the dishes we love, then I will make those more often. Hubby will like that!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The End Cometh

11.5 days till school is out! And several of those days are non-teaching days, due to other activities.... like field day, teacher work day, party day, combustible demonstration day.

Senioritis is hitting hard, and I'm not even a student. This might be more contagious than H1N1! With the warm/hot weather, I do what I have to do, then I crash on the sofa under the fan to knit. I have been so lazy, and its been wonderful!

Garden, however, is not feeling senioritis. Those plants are working away, blooming like crazy. There are flower on the cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, parsley, sage (culinary and the stuff out front). The worms in the worm farm are busily working and eating away. Everyone but me is working hard!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Teacher Treats

Being a teacher is hard work, and I love my students and want to give them the best opportunity at the education I can I offer. This week, they have totally expressed their appreciation!

And I've already eaten a few items! There is also beautiful bouquet of flowers, and every time I gush about how loved I feel this week, one student says, each time, "There's more tomorrow, too!"

I love being a teacher!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Woot! Woot!

Today, my kitchen was featured on one of my favorite blogs to read:

I'm just giddy with excitement... I can hardly contain myself. But Hubby is back in the office working hard on a paper, so I won't bother him right now. I'll call him to take dinner to friends soon any hows, I'll tell him then. 'course, he might read this first!

Causes and Effects

Life got busy, and I got overwhelmed. It seems odd to look back and see where it all began. I decided I wanted to have more time for various things, so somethings needed to be cut back on. I decided to cut back on email... so I unsubscribed to lots of different things. was one of them. I didn't realize how much those emails got me moving and keeping up with my hot spots as they did. Now, that might be a random coincidence, but since unsubscribing the hot spot on the dining room table, kitchen floor and living room coffee table grew to unprecedented sizes.

Rachael.... unsubscribing to flylady is not a good excuse for letting your house go crazy. Get back on it and take care of it.

Of course, maybe stuff starting going awry when I started blogging more? oooo, that's scary.

To those who read this post, what gets you off track? What is your great distractor in life?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Changes in perspective

One of my favorite blogs started me thinking. Here is the original post:

I have a theory on how this change in attitudes has come about. This is a primarily US view, though. Sorry to those not in the US. Perhaps the same holds for other cultural/ethnic perspectives, I would be interested to hear what others think.

Our grandparents (mine, at least, I'm in my 30s) came through the depression at an impressionable age. But then they got through a war, got married, had families, and found themselves in a very profitable time. They were drawn in to this prosperity, especially after the very hard times of the 1930s. Their children (my parents) saw the joy and comfort their parents found in material wealth, and pursued it even further. But neither found exactly what they were looking for. My generation has seen the truth of it... the lack of contentment in our grandparents or in our parents, nor is there any true joy or peace in us. We have seen two generations not find peace in economic prosperity, so we are looking else where (at least some of us are). More and more are returning to what life was before our grandparents (or parents), thinking we will find peace and joy and contentment there.

I saw the same thing while living in China (mainland). Those who came through the cultural revolution knew hardship and poverty, and they saw the prosperity of the west. So, when in the 1980s they were given the opportunity to pursue the same, they did. When I was there, early 2000s, many knew that they were not finding the peace or contentment in wealth that they expected to find and had begun looking else where.

There ends the theory of origins... and here begins the theory of solutions.

In either lifestyle, simple and slow or complicated and busy, we will never find true contentment, peace or joy. Those things cannot be found on this earth or in anything earthly. I truly believe we will only find these things in true reconciliation with God, through his son Jesus Christ.

I do think the simple and slower life is important and is more healthy. It gives us time to reflect, to enjoy, to love others well. But it is not the answer we are looking for. I do find great joy in gardening, in cooking, baking bread, knitting... all the things you find me writing about here. But when times get tough, whether it is the death of a loved one or a miscommunication oriented spat with someone (I know about both, unfortunately), it is knowing that I am reconciled with God and back on path to being the woman I was made to be that I find peace and a deep, deep joy that is incomprehensible, even to me.

I think I will end my sermon there, though there is so much more in my heart that needs to be said. I will say it at a different point, though, a time more appropriate for those words. For now, this is all that needs to be said, I think.

Birds in the backyard

We mowed yesterday and that always seems to draw birds to the yard (except when we let the grass get really tall, and that draws birds, too!)

This morning, I saw a bird that looked like this:
The Painted Bunting

I wondered if he had fell onto a pallet of paint he was so colorful! I googled "blue head yellow back red breast bird" and discovered that he is called a Painted Bunting. First time I've seen him (or one of them), that was quite a treat.

The sparrow has not abandoned the nest on the porch (in the tomato hanging basket). At last count, I saw 6 eggs in the next. There are tomatoes forming on those plants (I'll give the birds first dibbs on those), and I've tossed some sunflower seed in the planter, also, to feed mama bird. I"m such a sucker for this kind of stuff.

I've seen a mockingbird in our tree, and I've heard a woodpecker somewhere out there. Sounds like he is drumming on metal, though. Will they do that?

Last night was chilly, down to the upper 50s, so windows are open this morning, and the house was down to 67'! I think its about time to close them though to keep in our coolness.