Thursday, July 28

Butterfly Day

How many butterflies can I attract to the garden today?

This guy was just beautiful.


Sunday, July 24

Flowers, Despite the Drought

Despite the drought, some of my flowers have been doing well. I have not been watering the flower gardens as I am trying to conserve and only water the vegetables. Some have not made it long - my roses have wilted away as well as the poppies and several other varieties.

The yarrow is doing very well however, as are the tiger lilies...

I do have one box flower plant this year but the blooms only lasted a few days and this morning they were pretty wilted.....

Purple cone flower seems to be one of those plants that can grow in just about any conditions. It is what I call a 'tough' plant, durable, resistant and hardy. and the bees and butterflies love them...

Can anyone refresh my memory and tell me what this weed/plant is?

And I know this is a weed of sorts but I think they are pretty. And as long as they are growing in places that I am not going to be running into them, I let them stay....

Finally, these yellow daisy's are everywhere. One the side of the road, filling farmers fields, and scattered around our property. They are also popular with the butterflies...

Saturday, July 23

Social Season

Yesterday as the little man and I drove to my parents house to enjoy a day of geo-thermal air conditioning, we went past the town Fire Hall. All four trucks were outside, lined up outside of the bay doors and the empty wooden racks that hold the metal folding chairs were outside as well.

The is social season.

Yesterday was the Raspberry social in town, where people make deserts and dishes to pass and people sit with the same people they sit with at church on Sunday. I think Mom made baked beans to send down even though we didn't end up going ourselves. Being a fireman's wife, she feels obligated to contribute - attendance or no attendance.

My small town social season was a fixture in my childhood. Although they used to be larger, as they have dwindled in attendance due to generations aging and people moving away, they are still a draw for the town and surrounding area. My Grandmother would work there every season, in the kitchen, which was always hot, steamy and full of older ladies stirring things in large pots. There was always the same crowd of older men talking about whatever old men talk about at socials. As a kid, I did not pay attention. We were there to see the other kids in town and play baseball in the grass lot across the street from the Fire Hall, next to the cemetery.

From this, my social memory can be summed up in one day of one year at one social, I am not sure which. It was a particularly hot afternoon and as we were lounging around waiting for our turn at bat, I looked across the street at the Fire Hall. That year, the trucks had been parked in the lawn behind the hall and the bay doors were open about 3 feet each to let in a breeze. (Not all the way, mind you, since most of the people were older and complaints of "a chill" would have been circulated. The tables were set up in such as way as they ran lengthwise and as I looked across the street at the three feet of open door all i could see was a long row of ladies behinds clad in floral print skirts, sitting on a row of metal folding chairs.

Funny, ok, a little. But I love this memory. I wish I would have had a camera so I could have it blown up poster size and hang it on my wall. That picture, more than all the other memories and photos of socials and the people at them, most reminds me of my small little town and how they did things. For some reason that is how everything should be - a nice line of print dresses sitting on fire hall chairs eating raspberry deserts at the social. the fact that all I could see were the rears is just icing on the raspberry pie.

Friday, July 22

Garden Update

Those are my tomatoes - all green ones. I do not have a ripe tomato yet - not even one that looks like it might be thinking about turning anything but green. Lack of water maybe?

Even though I use the sprinkler almost every night and give them a good long drink, they seem to be concentrating on spreading foliage than producing something eatable. The only things we have been able to eat from the garden yet are peas and onions, which I am not complaining about, but shouldn't I have beans by now? And maybe some cucumbers? Both of these plants are looking like spring seedlings rather than mid-summer producers.

The drought here has affected a lot of things, most noticeably the dry creek bed, our neighbors completely dried-up pond, and the light-brown crunchy grass. Yesterday it topped out at 98 degrees here but it was so humid that it felt like about 109. Today is better with the temps only in the 90's (did I just say ONLY?) and it is a little less humid. They say we might get a little rain on Monday but I am not holding my breath. The perky weather man, who I would be 1 million dollars does not have a garden, seems to love to say "It's gonna be another hot one - I'll tell ya how hot right after this (smile)."

I wish I had more to report on the garden front - I wish I had pictures of ripening sungold tomatoes and budding cucumbers, of purple pole beans ready to be picked and little mini-pumpkins forming on the vines, but I don't. I can post a picture of an onion but that would just be a picture of the green part sticking out of the ground - not a groundbreaking alert.

Hopefully things will pick up and I will be posting about how we have so many tomatoes that I am giving them away. But not today. Today i just crossing my fingers for rain.

Thursday, July 21

Feeding the Ladies and Where's the Rain?

Since I have been letting the ladies 'free-range' during part of the day, they have been behaving pretty well. They have managed to dig up some plants in the shade garden and yesterday my neighbor called to say that they just saw a chicken running across the road. They did not know about the 'free range' project and thought they were all supposed to be in the pen.

All in all, they are happier, healthier and hopefully enjoying life a little more. And, but taking dust baths in the paths between the tomato plants they have drastically cut down on the number of weeds. Thanks girls!

My little helper is hard at work tending his flock - according to him they are HIS chickies. But it seems that everything is "mine, mine, mine" recently so I am letting it slide. His favorite words, besides 'mine' are 'no' and 'now'.

Finally, a note on the weather. It is HOT. Hot, humid and sticky with no rain in sight. We had a tiny bit of rain yesterday morning but not nearly enough for the gardens, creeks, or yards. This week is supposed to be one of the hottest of the summer which puts a delay on my yard projects. I am too pregnant to get so over heated. We need a few days of a good, solid, soaking rain to get things back into growing-mode. Until then I am using the sprinklers in the vegetable gardens and limited in teh flower gardens to conserve water. The yard is currently brown.

Say Cheese

My little girl....

Wednesday, July 20

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Any guesses?

You got it - the barn door should be ON THE BARN.

We had a day of high winds here last week and the door was open just enough to catch some wind and send it off it's track.

It landed right on top of my lilac bush. It took two grown men to pick it up and get it back on the track, which was not easy. That is one heavy door.

That is what qualifies for excitement around here.

Tuesday, July 19

What is a Smartie?

Pregnancy cravings can sometimes be so overpowering that you will eat things that you would not normally eat. I am not one of those ice cream and pickle people, but the dish of chocolate ice cream is definately high on the cravings list.

I have recently been craving Smarties. Those little round candies that you get in the bluk department that come in a clear plastic tube. After eating a few rolls the other day I noticed a wrapper had escaped and the little man had picked it up. I asked his to throw it away for me which he did.

I wondered how that little wrapper would take up a little landfill space. Would it decompose? Was it going to be around when the little man's great-grandchildren were zipping around in little spaceship cars? Given that i have so much time on my hands (yeah right) I decided to look it up - and the actual content of Smarties while I was at it.

The first thing I learned was that Smarties actually come in flavors. I had no idea that those colors were supposed to taste different - I just thought I got a sour one or a sweet one once and a while. Turns out that they come in six fruity flavors:

White = Orange-Cream
Yellow = Pineapple
Pink = Cherry
Green = Strawberry
Purple = Grape
Orange = Orange

One new thing learned already.

Next, to ingredients and calories. My thought was sugar. Just sugar. But here is the ingredient list:

Ingredients: Dextrose, Citric Acid, Calcium Stearate, Artificial Flavors, Colors (Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2 Lake).

There are 25 calories per roll.

Well, I guess I am not surprised that I am mostly eating food coloring. But I must point out that according to the Smarties website, 'All Smarties® products are vegetarian and vegan.' Can I feel good about that?

But back to the question that started it all - the wrapper. What is it made out of?

Yep, you guessed it - it's a PVC wrapper. Or Polyvinyl chloride. The same material that makes up the piping I use inder the bathroom sink. The white stuff that lines the plumbing isle at Home Depot.

So I am eating dextrose (sugar) and coloring wrapped in PVC.

A note on the wrapper: PVC can be made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers, the most widely used being phthalates, being phased out of many products in the United States, Canada, and European Union over health concerns. Phthalates mimic human hormones and also affect various life forms including fish and invertebrates adversely. PVC used to be used in making baby toys but it has not been used in years due to the concerns that the additives can end up in the systems of children who chew on these toys. So if it has been not used in toys due to the risk of the toxins entering the childs system via chewing, then how do we know that these chemicals are not being absorbed into the Smarties which I am eating?

The State of California is currently considering a bill that would ban the use of PVC in consumer packaging due to the threats it poses to human and environmental health and its effect on the recycling stream. This brings us back to the landfill issue. How long wil the wrapper be there? - Probably forever. Yes, it is a tiny, thin wrapper but it does contain chemicals that leach out. And consider that according to their website, Smarties are the most popular Halloween and party candy.

More specifically, the language of the CA bill analysis stipulates that EPA has listed vinyl chloride, a "constituent element" of PVC, as a carcinogen. It also further cites that there are concerns about the leaching of phthalates and lead from the PVC packaging.

There is also, apparently, a risk of drug additiction. Smarties, according to Forest Hills, Michigan's Principal Nancy Susterka, are a gateway drug. Read more here.

Monday, July 18

Monroe County Fair

Saturday we braved the heat and humidity and spent the afternoon at the Monroe County Fair. I have never been so I was looking forward to seeing all the animals on display from the 4-H groups and the other exhibits. And, my favorite talk radio personality was participating in the goat milking contest.

In hind-sight, I should have just gone by myself but that is another story. Roy and the little man were both cranky and having tantrums, but I was determined to enjoy as much as I could.

We went to the livestock barn first since it is what I really wanted to see. The goats were all very friendly and wanting attention from the many, many little kid hands eager to pet them.

The chicken and bird display was very impressive - so many varieties! Geese, turkeys, chickens and other birds all looking their best. With rooster crowing, we looked at the birds. I wanted to read the tags on the cages to see what kinds of birds I was admiring, but as i said, someone was having a tantrum. I am lucky to get some pictures that turned out as I was being dragged along by a crabby two year old at times. I loved the coloring of this bird - if anyone knows what it is, please let me know!

This bird was also very impressive:

Of course, you can't put a ton of chickens together and not expect to get some eggs:

These guys were just hanging out, enjoying the show of people going by:

Inspecting the poultry during a lull in the crankiness:

The bunny and guinea pig exhibit was large and soft. Since someone did not want to stay in their stroller and insisted on trying to touch each and every bunny, my pictures did not turn out. Even the fast focus is not fast enough the keep up with the little man. In my effort to protect bunnies, my photos were mostly blurry. I could not help posting this one, however blurry. This guy just wanted out.

Ahh, a picture that made it!

Up next were the cows. I have never been able to 'pet' a cow before, and thanks to a very nice girl who saw a tantrum in full swing, we were allowed to pet some cows. Thank you nice girl - crisis averted!

I got to pet Mama cow on the left - she was so soft and friendly!!!! All she wanted was for me to scratch her head and nose. You could just see the happiness in this cows eyes. So soft - I could have spent hours sitting in that straw with that cow.

As promised, Bob Lonsberry from WHAM radio was there to participate in the goat milking contest. Blurry picture again thanks to malfunctioning camera (crabby husband who does not like Bob Lonsberry). But I was still able to watch and it was very entertaining even though he came in third (out of three).

We then moved on to the other barns to see the rest of the non-animal exhibits. There were some very nice examples of quilting and sewing as well as a robotics demonstration and plant, flower and vegetable tables.

I wanted to spend so much more time looking at all the varieties of plants and just see more in general but the other two people in my 'fair party' were just not cooperating. We went outside to the fair grounds with the rides and food - and the heat. We had some pizza and ice cream and little man half-heartily went on a few rides, which he normally loves. I knew that this was not going to get any better so we all trudged back to the car and went home.

I really have no idea why Roy and little man were so moody on Saturday other than the heat, but I was out in it too, hauling around an extra 30 pounds of growing baby, and I managed to have a good time. So, lets just forget about the fair-spoilers for now. I had a great time!!!!

Road-side Photo Op

Driving down a back country road the otehr day, I spotted some things that I couldn't help but stop and take pictures of:

Sunday, July 17

How Far Do We Have To Go?

I was in the kitchen the other night doing the dishes, the little guy was in bed, and Roy was watching tv.

Nothing exciting or interesting about this other than the fact that yes, I do dishes at 9:30pm. I hate doing dishes. I save them for last.

The windows were all open to catch a cool night breeze and I heard a car horn beep.

Nothing exciting about this either since our neighbors beep when they go by. Kind of like a notice "I'm going out - watch my house, and do you need any thing from the store?"

A few minutes later I went into the living room and Roy asks me if I heard what happened.

Happened? What happened?

Apparently, I had missed the show.

A teenage kid had been walking down the road when a sport utility came up slowly behind him. It was his mother and she was pissed.

"You are my son and i will always love you! But you are a %$^*@#& drug addict and you need some &@!#*&^% help."

"You can't tell me what to do! Get away from me you &^*#$%^@ &*%@$!"

Then the kid started pounding his fists into the pavement and yelling more &^%*#$%#-type stuff.

Another car pulled up- beat up and rusted, driven by what Roy assumes were friends of the teenager. The boy got inside and they drove off with the Mom following in her sport utility, horn beeping.

Drugs, yelling, fighting in the street - I thought we left that all behind when we got the heck out of the city. All this on our quiet road that doesn't even have lines painted on it.

I am kind of glad that I didn't actually witness it. Just hearing about it makes me think about my little boy and how I hope that I will never be that Mother. Her little boy was probably just as sweet and cute as mine. She probably has his baby book and tiny clothes stashed away in her attic. She must have had such high hopes for her son, just as I have high hopes for mine. We live in the same neighborhood. My son will go to the same school as this boy does. How can I avoid this outcome in my own home when I thought we had gotten away from it?

How far out do we have to move to get away from the possibility that this might happen to us?

This really scared me.

I'll bet she thought she was doing everything right in raising her son the right way. Discipline but not over-bearing, strict but not crazy-over-the-top, involved but not hovering.

Needless to say, but any advice or suggestions about how to prevent this type of outcome with my son would be greatly appreciated. He is my first and all I want to do is put him in a bubble right now until he is 45.

Saturday, July 16

Home-Grown Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are too expensive.

There. I said it.

I know that they are, at garden places, prices according to the amount of work that went into producing them, which is totally fair. And for people that want to pay $20 to $40 per basket, that is totally fine with me.

I can not afford to pay these prices out of my household budget. And the baskets at discount stores are much less expensive, but they are not the full and vibrant baskets I am looking for.

Solution: grow my own.

This year was my first year doing this and I started with starting some red and yellow Nasturtium in the basement along with the tomatoes. I was hoping it would work and I could produce full and pretty hanging baskets for my front porch, but I just wasn't sure.

The result was a mixed bag - it worked and they are full, but they could be better. I used a light-weight potting soil so the baskets would not be too heavy and I made sure that i had good 'trays' so that I would not just be pouring water right through the roots and onto the porch.

Bottom line is I saved money, I have hanging baskets, and I am going to try again next season.

Does anyone have any suggestions for flowers that fill in fast and 'cascade' over the sides of the basket?

Friday, July 15

4:45 am is Not My Friend

Yesterday I was awake to hear the first birds start singing to bring up the sun. It is not as spiritually wonderful as it sounds. Do you know what time the birds start singing in the morning? Around 4:45. AM.

The little man decided that he wanted to get up and he was ready to play. I was not. Roy definitely was not since he does not have to leave for work until 7:00. I dragged myself downstairs and stretch out on the couch while the little man played with numerous toys that make too much noise for 4:45 am.

Despite the barnyard sounds coming from the Fisher Price play farm, I somehow managed to drift off for about 10 minutes. The sound of jingle bells inside of cats toys woke me up and I knew I would be finding a mess. I found it in the laundry room where little man had pulled down the baby gate and gotten into the cats food. He had taken all the dry food in the bowl and dumped it into the water feeder, which was now a big mushy mess of swollen not-so-dry cat food. Water had spilled out onto the floor and the little man, soaking his fire truck jammies.

He will totally thrilled and was trying to bring about 13 jingle bell cat toys out into the dining room.

Can we now guess how the rest of my day went?

Actually, it was pretty good. My sister-in-law and her daughter came over and took the little man to the local kids play center that has inflatable bouncing equipment specifically designed to make kids tired. So I got a good 5 hours of nothing but peace and quiet. It was a good thing too since it was to the point of either little man goes or I go.

Turns out I got to go to the garden and get a whole bunch of things done. I got all 35 tomato plants staked and secure (the plants are getting heavy and the cages are starting to tip, so I put a strong 3' stake along side each one and tied them up). I also managed to get weeding done which is not as easy as it used to be. I am 6 months pregnant and the bending, kneeling, squatting and reaching is getting challenging. I could weed a row then I had to take a break and she was kicking me the whole time.

She is taking all my energy so I have to budget said energy, as well as my time. There is that horrible "B" word again. But I did get to see a hummingbird on the Bee Balm. Here is a picture of the Bee Balm. Hummingbirds don't like to wait for pregnant ladies to waddle into the house to get the camera.

I also have a ton of black hollyhocks out right now, along with a ton of other flowers which I will post later. I love hollyhocks but it seems that all I have are black ones this year. They are pretty but I can't help but notice the blooms all seem to look shiny and greasy. Kind of like glossy photo paper instead of matte.

After a few more lingering yard projects knocked off the to-do list, I headed inside for a break and some sewing. I big pile of things that needed mending has been waiting for months and I got them all done while listening to my favorite radio talk show without interruption. By interruption I mean "Mama! Mama! I want juice! NOW!".

I am going to take yesterday as a good, productive day even though it started out with the need for extra anti-depressants.