Author Archive

Neighbors

Posted July 20, 2016 By Ruth

We’ve not gotten to know most of our neighbors well.  We have non-standard schedules, especially in comparison to most of our neighbors who work more traditional 9-5 type schedules.  Plus we’re both introverts.  Add in the large lot size that means that actually interacting with someone means going out of your way, and we mostly know our neighbors well enough to wave at, and thats about it.

The one exception is the couple in the property on our north side.  Older than my parents (I never asked ages, but they both retired a couple years after we bought the house, and I’m pretty sure they were past retirement age at that point and had been working part time to keep busy), but when we moved in, back in 2010, I’d have not called them elderly.  That has changed unfortunately.  One has had both knees replaced, the other both hips.  He’s had heart problems, and back problems, and kidney problems.  This summer their daughter has been doing most of the yard work for them, and roundly telling off her dad when she catches him doing something to strenuous.  Neither moves very well any more.

Sunday their house was quiet.  Not unusual, they have a trailer at a camp a few hours away and frequently go there for weekends, and the occasional weeks.

Monday it was still quiet, I wasn’t overly worried, though she usually lets me know when they’re going to be gone for a longer period so we can keep an eye on the house for them.

But Tuesday the driveway was full of cars, all day.

The kids’ cars.  All three of them.

Though all three kids, and families, are by frequently, having more than one on a weekday is unusual.  Combined with the oddly quiet house the day before I started to worry.  I hadn’t seen an ambulance, but that could just mean they hadn’t used sirens……

Tuesday evening she called me.

Saturday evening he’d been admitted to the hospital, for fluid in his lungs and kidney shut down, plus some additional symptoms.

Monday he’d had a massive stroke that basically destroyed his brain.

The funeral is Friday.

 

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Garden Update

Posted July 19, 2016 By Ruth

Blue Berries tomatoes are ripening

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Black Icicles are getting there too, plus the tallest one just topped the 7foot tall cages:

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There’s at least two more that’ll definitely make the 7foot mark, and a couple more that may or may not.

 

Sugar Baby Watermelon:

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Cantaloupe:

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Melon Pear fruit:

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Note-I didn’t realize till it was to late, but quite a few places recommend caging these plants, like tomatoes, and for much the same reason.  The weight of the fruit flattens the plants out.  Something to keep in mind if we decide to grow them again.

 

Paprika peppers:

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I’ve pulled two zucchini out of the garden, and made a batch of zucchini bread, just cause.

Oh, and this is Friday’s cucumber harvest:

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JUST Friday’s harvest.  Of course I’ve had at least a few almost every day for the last week-plus, which I’ve mostly been eating, cause these are seriously good eating cukes.  So I made two quarts of refrigerator pickles.  Which used up less than half of Friday’s harvest.  Gave away 8 or so to a friend.  Harvested another pile at least that big on Sunday.  Gave away another handful to a neighbor.  Gave away the whole pile to a former co-worker who planned to do a serious batch of pickles.  And between yesterday and today (Tuesday) I refilled the strainer with cucumbers.  I think my cucumber plants are happy.  Time to play around with a wider variety of pickles I think.

 

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Baby House Wren

Posted July 18, 2016 By Ruth

I think I mentioned before that there was a crazy House Wren building a nest inside the (functional) well pump head.  Thankfully we don’t NEED that pump, but we try to keep it functional as a backup water source, and to get water from for watering needs around the yard to help cut the water bill.  So I wasn’t thrilled to see the Wren building his nest in it.  But until he’s done with the nest there wasn’t much to be done.

There is at least one baby in the nest:

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And the parents are busting their butts to keep it fed:

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Not looking forward to cleaning that one out……

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We have a new neighborhood cat

Posted July 16, 2016 By Ruth

Got home from work yesterday, after stopping at the grocery store, and as I unpacked the car I left the back hatch open for easy access to the groceries.  This is pretty normal for me.  About the only thing I usually have to worry about is mosquitos.

After all the groceries were in the house I took a minute to unpack the cold stuff and get it into the fridge so that I could then take my little collapsable cooler back out to the car where I leave it.

Tossed the cooler into the trunk area, and slammed the hatch.

And immediately something started ping-ponging against the insides of the doors.  It was moving so fast I couldn’t even get a solid look at it and my first thought was that a squirrel had climbed into the car.

It finally stopped moving long enough for me to get a good look and I realized I was looking at a dark blue and white patterned cat.  Husband saw it wandering through the back yard a few days ago, but neither of us had seen it up close.

It was so freaked out that there was no way I was catching it.  I opened the back driver side door and it completely ignored the door to continue to ping-pong off every other surface.

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I eventually had to open BOTH back doors and the hatch before the completely freaked out cat could find an exit.

Looks reasonably well cared for.

I really wish the local folks would stop it with the “outdoor kitty” thing.  I’ve had to listen to more than one cat scream as its killed by the local wildlife.  Its really not my idea of fun.  We rarely see these outdoor cats for more than a couple months.  Then they disappear and we stop seeing them.  Not only do we have a fairly large amount of traffic in the area, we also have outdoor dogs in various yards, not to mention giant coyotes, foxes, fisher cats, mink, all of whom are capable of taking down your average cat.  These aren’t barn cats, who generally stay pretty close to their home turf.  These are someone’s pet who’s allowed to roam, and I really wish my neighbors would stop, essentially, feeding them to the coyotes.

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Garden update

Posted July 11, 2016 By Ruth

My four rain barrels have come in handy this summer.  I keep saying that I know, but its so true.  Our water bill would be SO HIGHER this summer without them.  I’m planning on how to add 4 more.  It won’t happen this year, or likely next year unless I’m lucky, but it will happen.

My mystery squash plant is thriving:

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I originally assume the vine was cantaloupe, but it clearly isn’t.  The giant leaves look like zucchini leaves, but the zucchini variety I grow doesn’t vine like this clearly is.  The squash itself is marked much like the baby pumpkins (well, the Long Pie Pumpkins I grow anyway), and that would explain the vining habit.  But the insanely quick growth (it was still a baby with bloom attached when I took a picture on the 26th, and is now a good foot long) is more zucchini style.  The Long Pie Pumpkins grow quickly, but not THAT quickly.  So do I treat it like a zucchini?  Or like a pumpkin?  I’m kinda tempted to let it keep growing and see what happens……

For comparison, a zucchini (which I’ll be picking this week, its a good size for it):

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And a baby pumpkin:

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Anyway, the rest of the garden.

The Melon Pears are THRIVING.  And to think I was worried about them.  There’re even baby fruit forming!  And yes, another mystery squash, this one looks straight forward Long Pie Pumpkin though.

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Tomatoes: it turns out the Black Icicle Tomatoes may have had a magnesium deficiency.  They’ve been awfully pale and droopy in comparison to the rest of the tomatoes.   I had a couple people try to assure me that paste tomatoes are always “kinda droopy”, but they just didn’t look right.  After doing some digging around the internet I mixed up a couple gallons of water with some epsom salts and sprayed down the leaves and drenched the soil with it.  About a week and a half later the plants are much more normally colored and far less droopy.  In addition, I was worried that they had blight, they had almost all the symptoms (and so do several other tomato plants), and now almost all those symptoms (on the Black Icicles) are gone.  I’m still going to treat the entire garden with Actinovate, just to be safe (cause I don’t have the space to do proper rotations and I refuse to stop growing tomatoes), but I’m also going to treat all the tomato tires with epsom salts too (and seriously considering doing the entire garden).  A magnesium deficiency wouldn’t be a huge surprise in retrospect.  I’ll have to see if I can arrange some soil testing either this fall or next spring.

Black Icicle tomatoes before epsom salt treatments (and one a few days after treatment):

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And yesterday:

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The difference in color is NOT a trick of the light, I promise!  In addition the tallest plants are pushing 6ft tall now!

All of the tomato plants have baby fruit on them, well, except for the volunteer plants that appeared in two tires, but thats not a surprise since they didn’t get the headstart the rest did.  For that matter, pretty much everything has baby fruit on it!  Possible exception is the habaneros, but they do that to me every year, get thinking I’m not going to get anything and then POOF, hot peppers!

I’ve picked enough cucumbers to do up a good sized batch of refrigerator pickles.  Putting them on a trellis DOES make a difference in how easy it is to find and pick fruit.  But I swear the plants are VERY HAPPY being allowed to sprawl on the ground:

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Or maybe its just the insane summer weather this year, donno…..

 

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Links

Posted July 7, 2016 By Ruth

Volcano is sinking, this may not be a good thing……

Yet another reason to be careful of that raw cookie dough.

Well digging burros.

Yet another reason not to trust auto-pilot.

Another reason why I never had any desire to become a pro-photographer.

Not sure this school quite understands the concept.

Not new, but another reason why the TSA sucks.

New Zealand town offering incentives to bring in workers!  To bad the media got it wrong again.

Turns out that the last 15yrs worth of fMRI research might be completely screwed.

I love both the colors, and the color names, I might just have to buy more yarn!

Selfies are deadly!

Illusion of the year finalists.

Sugar might be the cause of that heart attack.

The fire extinguishing ball.  Video.  I hope this catches on, I love the concept.

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Seen today while I was out running errands.  I did a total double take, positive I’d read it wrong, and then had to go back to take a picture……

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This heat is killing me

Posted July 6, 2016 By Ruth

Ok, not quite literally, but it’s definitely taking its toll.

Back over Memorial Day weekend I came way too close to heat stroke while working.  I’d been put on watering detail, and the sun beating on my head all day during the 90+ degree heat, for not quite 8hrs turned out to be too much for my system.  Despite me drinking water constantly.  I also picked up a nasty heat rash that took forever to go away.

I picked up a wide brimmed hat to stuff in my locker for when I’m put on watering duty, but I can’t find a hat that will actually stay on my head properly while I’m doing my normal job stuff, that also fits dress code, that offers enough protection from the sun.  A large portion of the problem is, admittedly, my hair, which I put up for work (not optional either, it IS getting worn up for work).  Any hat I can find that accommodates my hair doesn’t give me enough shade from the sun (and/or doesn’t fit dress code, which requires no logos other than the company’s).

I’ve mostly coped by trying to stay out of the sun for extended periods as much as possible, but sometimes that doesn’t help enough.

Monday, July 4th, I spent the afternoon outside (thankfully mostly in the shade) helping straighten and clean up and restock the gravel aisle.  And I just couldn’t manage to drink enough to stay properly hydrated.  By about 4:30 I had a serious headache, and by the time I left at 6pm I came home and essentially collapsed.

Yesterday, Tuesday the 5th, by the time I’d been at work for a couple hours (a large portion of which was outside and in the sun) my head was pounding and I was dragging.  I KNOW I wasn’t functioning on all cylinders, in retrospect I was making several (potentially major) mistakes.  By 1:30 or so I realized how bad it was and informed management that I was going home.

Today my head is still not happy, and just taking the dogs out for a quick potty run is enough to make me feel like I’ve been beaten and dragging.

I don’t normally struggle so much in the summer, but we also don’t normally get this kind of heat so constantly till later in the summer.  I just can’t seem to get adapted this year……

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Meant to post this yesterday

Posted July 5, 2016 By Ruth

But I worked a full, and busy, shift and came home and crashed.

So, anyway, here’s one of my favorite renditions of our national anthem:

 

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Dealing with Deer Flies

Posted July 3, 2016 By Ruth

For those of you who’ve never had to deal with deer flies, they’re bigger than your average house fly, and are nasty blood sucking insects.  They HAVE TO have a blood meal in order to reproduce.  And their bites seriously hurt.  Closely related to the horse fly, but unlike horse flies, deer flies will buzz your head and shoulders instead of legs and body.  They suck.  Fly predators don’t work on them.  Fly strips don’t work on them.  As far as I can tell their only natural predator is some of the flying insect eating birds.  Most insect repellents don’t do a damn thing to them.

We’ve always had at least a few of them buzzing the property, but this year has been especially bad.  Walk out a door and instantly attract at least a couple.  Wearing a hat, and saturating yourself with a horse & rider horse fly repellent reduces it, but only by some.  It had become very difficult to work in the garden, or even do any yard work due to dealing with them.

So I started digging.  Found THIS, and THIS, and THIS.  And decided I was going to try building a Deer Fly Trap.

We still had the tops that we’d cut off the rain barrels, they’re bright blue.  I can get Tanglefoot easily enough.  So on the 29th I put this up:

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The only thing I had to buy was the Tanglefoot, totally worth trying.

Half an hour later, I stepped out my back door…..and didn’t get buzzed by a deer fly?  Wow, it can’t have started working that quickly, can it?

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Damn, maybe it can……

Picture taken on July 1st:

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They’re definitely only hitting the top of the trap.  Even the few caught on the sides are on the top half.  In addition the trap has only caught a couple non-deer-fly insects, and none of those are bees or other recognizable pollinators, which was my big concern with the concept.  Since putting out the trap the worst we’ve had to deal with is the occasional persistent deer fly.

So yesterday I picked up some bright blue spray paint (maybe a shade darker than the barrel, but it was the closest I could find), and sprayed an orange HD bucket blue.  Today I coated the bottom (now the top of the trap) with Tanglefoot, along with the top several inches of the sides, and put it out.

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A couple hours later and its already collected a good number of deer flies!

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