Thursday, September 29, 2005

2.09 a gallon

I've been thinking recently about the coming winter and what we will pay for heating oil. We locked in at $2.09 a gallon (thank god), but still, that's more than we paid last year. We've made our old house as weather tight as can be, with ridiculous insulation in the attic and the most efficient windows and doors, but there is no way to seal up every tiny hole in a 105 year old house. Last year we kept the thermostat at 60 degrees. Every now and then I would turn it down to 58 degrees to see what that was like. It's pretty cold for inside. It's not that we can't afford it, it just pisses me off to pay a lot for fuel. So we will use the wood stove more and dress a little warmer. I can't help but think of my grandfather when he still lived in his house. In the winter (and this was when fuel oil prices were reasonable) he would basically live in his kitchen. He had plastic hung over the two doors into the kitchen and two portable heaters in there. There was a portable heater in the bathroom and a down comforter on the bed. Seriously, you could see your breath if you weren't in one of those rooms. He refused to pay for something he didn't see as absolutely necessary. It was like a game to him, continually thinking up ways to outsmart 'the man'. I find myself acting like that a little nowadays. Husband says I'm turning into my grandfather, constantly saving things that I don't currently have a use for, but just might in the near future. Even he is starting to see the light. He made a firewood crib out of scrapwood and a few 2x4's over the weekend. I was very proud. Now I'm trying to figure out sources of cheap wood, cause it would just irk me to pay $140 for a cord of wood when we paid $90 two years ago. Or maybe I'll look into the thing that I saw in the Mother Earth News. It is an adaptor kit for your oil burning furnace, you convert to burning used cooking oil, like the ones they use for diesel cars. I can almost feel the pride beaming down at me from heaven. My grandfather bearing witness to my increasingly thrifty ways.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The first round is on me!!!

It will be a great Dem meeting tonight. My campaign is kicking off and DELAY GOT INDICTED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's like freakin' Christmas. Bwaaahaaaahaaaaahaaaa. The House of Bush is crumbling. First Abramoff, then Safavian, then Delay.....paging Senator Frist.......

Toad pee and bunny blood

Yesterday evening was interesting. Husband moved the wood pile to a different location, and the toads I mentioned before? Well, they were hunkered down at the very bottom of the pile. I don't think they were hibernating just yet, but they were very torporous and just kind of blinked at me. I once again moved them to the compost pile. Hopefully they get the message. So after the great toad resettling, I let the dogs off their leashes to go inside. Emmett starts sniffing a patch of grass right outside the back door. Like three feet outside the door. And it's a next of bunnies. He pulls one out and lays it on the ground next to the hole and looks up at me. Chessie knows better. I shooed them away and picked the bunny up. He was bleeding from the nose but was still squirming a lot. I held him in my hand to keep him warm for a few minutes and he still seemed okay, so I pulled the grass back and put him back inside with his blind and fuzzy brothers and sisters. We never saw the mother. She must come at night. Very odd place for a nest, especially at the end of September.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

post script

Now that I'm thinking about the increase in critters in the yard because I have tons of weeds, I am reminded of the recent onslaught of toads the past week. In the evening, just past sundown, as I sit and watch tv, I've been hearing the rustle of leaves just outside the screen door. At first I assume it's a criminal and my pulse quickens, but the dogs don't bark and it's right outside the door. So I flip on the light, and there is a toad. I recognize three different ones so far. I've never seen this many. The farmer cut down the corn around our house so maybe they were disturbed because of that. I pick them up and move them towards the compost pile. Dogs eat toads. Try to anyway, before the toad releases that nasty defense toxin which makes the dog spit the toad out and retch on the lawn for the next 10 minutes (I know this from experience). So not only have no chemicals and tons of weeds given me large spiders but also adorable toads.


So organic gardens are more diverse. The MORE weeds one has, the more the soil gets broken up, which helps everything else. I knew it all along. Don't believe me?

The study also says that the level of critters in your garden will increase. Which is why for the
first time ever, I've seen a few too many of the yellow garden spider. It's kinda big and I'm not really a fan of spiders. Actually I'm terrified of them, but I would never kill one outside. I was picking squash last week, kinda walking all stooped over, and my face came within about 6 inches of her big old web and there she was , right in the middle. Actually, the zig-zag caught my eye. This particular spider builds a large web and that zig-zag incorporates some kind of ultraviolet pigment of something, visible to birds, to prevent them from flying through the webs. Pretty neat. So my weeds and lack of chemicals has resulted in enourmous spiders. Good for me. Haha. And on Sunday, I was repotting a houseplant that had been outside for the past month, and when I pulled it apart from the other plants around it, I saw a spider web pull apart, and a wee one of these fell to the ground. I'm really, really, really glad that the spider fell out, and didn't come into the house. Because that plant gets hung next to my side of the bed. And I will kill a spider in the house.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Found Objects

So I ordered the bulbs I mentioned here before, and on Saturday, I purchased three Lenten roses and a great little tree called Rhamnus "Fine Line", shown below.

I planted it in front of a light-colored wall, so it should stand out nicely. Anyway, while I was planting my newly purchased stuff, I dug up pieces of pottery. Usually I dig up pieces of things when I plant stuff. Pieces of Blue Willow plates, blue and brown glass, so this wasn't suprising, but I couldn't figure out what it was that I dug up. It was a weird shape and was part rose colored with a cobalt blue edge. It must have been a planter or something. Maybe a weird little garden gnome. It definitely didn't look like a dish or bowl or anything. I wondered why I found it where I did. Was my house built on an old farm dump or something. Who dumps glass and broken pottery right outside their door? Strange. When I used to do more field work, I came across old farm dumps all the time. Usually they were way out in the woods and I could spend an hour sifting through the remains of life long ago. Old blue Milk of Magnesia Bottles, glass doorknobs, old perfum bottles, Noxema jars, old tiny bottles, blue tinged canning jars. Even old pickle jars and ketchup bottles are pretty. I have tons of these in the house and in the garage. In the summer I cut flowers and bring them in and display them in these funky old 'found' jars. My husband is a bit of a scavenger also. He has a bunch of those old colored glass insulators that they used to use on overhead electric lines. He finds them along the railroad tracks. And when we used to go to Ocracoke, we would kayak to this great spot near the harbor entrance where we could spend hours scouring the rocky beach and picking out beach glass and pieces of pottery. I have old jars full of beach glass in my bathroom, each labeled with the year and where it was found. I love stumbling on cool old things like that. Thinking about where it has been before and who has touched it and how long it took for it to travel from the last person to me.

Race to the bottom

So Scopes II kicks off today in Harrisburg. I'd love to sit in on this case, but I think I would get to angry to just sit there silently. This is so very embarassing to have happen in our area. What's that quote? Pennsylvania is made up of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Alabama in between? That sounds about right. Nobody cares if you want to believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, and Noah had Dinosaurs on the Ark, or that God simply twitched his nose Samantha style and Humans popped into being. Fine, believe it. If you think that God will save you a seat in heaven because you impudently refused to use that miraculous organ he gave you called a brain, believe it. But don't teach it in our schools cause it isn't SCIENCE. They had some snippets in the media so far from the trial on Yahoo. The lawyer representing the ID people actually said that it should be taught because there is controversy. This issue is literally 'boiling over' in the scientific community. I'm sorry, but there is no controversy within the scientific community. There is a ton more we can learn about evolution to fully understand how it works, but that still doesn't make ID science. Maybe we should start teaching the flat earth theory again too. And really, nobody can see gravity. Maybe it's just God holding us down with a finger on our heads. So ridiculous. The whole anti-intellectual wave that is sweeping the country is just giving me the creeps. When did it become Godly to be stupid?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Am I the only one?

This is a great article by Anna Quindlen from Newsweek. And no, I guess I'm not the only one.

But sometimes it sure as hell feels like it. Okay, I admit, I scrutinize the ripple effect of most every action I make a little too much. But do most people not do it at all? Every day I drive home in my little 96 Honda Civic doing the speed limit. I can afford a bigger, newer car. But my car works, gets great gas mileage, and I have no car payment. Why would I buy a new one? As traffic stacks up behind me and one after another SUV going 80 whip around me, I wonder. What is going on in the head of someone that drives an SUV? A gas guzzling vehicle speeding yet. When you drive above 55 mph, your fuel efficiency decreases by as much as 20%. That's why, during the early 70s a 55 mph speed limit was enacted. Not for safety, but to save fuel. Am I the only that knows this or am I the only person that cares? I particularly love Hummer drivers. There is no other person on the face of this earth as gluttonous as a Hummer driver.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Don't let the memory fade

I'm concerned that the Gulf Coast and what these people have and are going through is going down the memory hole for a lot of Americans. Many people are still without basic necessities and families have been shipped two, three, and four times as Bush?Rove/Chertoff ignore capable crisis organizations and attempt to funnel recovery money to faith-based initiatives (read campaign contributors) like Catholic Charities that have no experience at disaster relief at this scale.

So much more, like rescinding the rule that reconstruction workers be paid the prevailing wage, so corporations can make more money and the actual residents in need of decent jobs don't. Yes it sounds like it would be cheaper for the Feds this way, but the language in the order doesn't say that corporations have to pass that savings back to the American taxpayer...and today, limiting the amount recoverable in lawsuits from Katrina. Anyway, enough venting, here is a website that is collecting oral histories from people that survived Katrina and what they went through. Let's not forget that this was a monumental failure of the agency that is charged in keeping us safe in the event of a terrorist attack, Homeland Security....and of course a failure of the incompetent people put in charge of FEMA.


In praise of volunteers

The plant kind. Of course the people kind are wonderful, giving of themselves selflessly and helping others in times of need. But here I'm refering to the plant kind. Volunteers are those little trees and shrubs and others that pop up, on their own, in unexpected places. I was puttering in the yard yesterday and was just amazed at the number of 'volunteers' that I saw. Silver Maples don't count. They are downright promiscuous in their production of offspring. A Silver Maple is a veritable Red Cross of tree volunteers. They sprout everywhere...flowerbeds, gutters, gravel driveways, cracks in cement, between bricks etc. I expect to see and pull those whenever I come across them. I'm talking about the unexpected volunteers. Sometimes I don't even know where they come from. For species that don't appear in our yard, I suspect that seeds are carried in by birds and other animals in their droppings or attached to their coats. A sassafras tree is growing in our wood lot, and there are no such trees anywhere near that I know of. A Redbud is growing in the middle of one of my flowerbeds. I will let him go until Spring, and will wither pot him up and sell him or move him to a somewhat more suitable location. We have one Redbud that covers itself with magenta blooms, prior to leaf-out every spring, and when the sun shines on it, it is breathtaking. Two Redbuds is even better. I notice very small cedar trees here and there, only about 4 or 5 inches high. We have several cedars that form a wind break to the rear of the yard, protecting our little house in the winter from the fierce winds that roar across the barren fields. The places that their progeny grow always suprises me though. I left two plastic pots outside over the first winter after we moved in. The next fall two adorably tiny cedar trees started growing in those pots...right in the very center. If one looks up serendipity in the dictionary, surely there is a picture of these two tiny volunteers growing in the neglected pots to illustrate the meaning. Mulberrys seem to grow anywhere and they are a little licentious in their spreading, although not near as bad as Silver Maples. I let more of them grow than I should, but the birds love them and they are an attractive tree. Occasionally a Tulip Poplar will pop up, but they always seem to do so in very tight cracks where I can't successfully dig them out to transplant, so I have to just yank them. I was pleased to see Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia, isn't that a great latin name?) growing in the wood lot when we first moved here. It is a respectful climber, never throttling it's host, a slow grower, valuable wildlife plant, and turns a beautiful crimson in the fall. It must have sensed my appreciation, because now I am finding it everywhere, and I must admit, my patience is wearing thin. I haven't yanked any yet, but it is getting like a houseguest that has overstayed it's welcome. I probably should be more diligent in discouraging these volunteers. The garden was pretty messy this year because I couldn't bear to pull any tomatoes or squash that came up on their own, and there were a lot of them. Small gourds grew with abandon, twining up and over whatever was in their path. I didn't get too many gourds though, because a transient groundhog with a fondness for squash moved in the end of July and ate most of them. Sunflowers too I can't bear to remove. They make it difficult to move about in there when they get to 7 or 8 feet tall, but then when you see them in the late summer covered with goldfinches which are hanging upside down, tugging at the newly ripe seed, I remember why I left those sunflowers keep growing and I am thankful for my volunteers.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Jeb's son

Why isn't Jeb Bush's son in Iraq? "Other priorities" I guess. Namely being drunk and disorderly in Austin, Texas. You have to wonder about Bush Family values. Jeb's daughter was a prescription forging junkie, his son is a drunk, Georgie's two girls are little party skanks that have no jobs yet, even though they graduated in 2004. How many pictures of them half naked at parties and bars circulated around the internet?

Remember when Rush Limbaugh called Chelsea Clinton the White House Dog? It was during the first term and I think she was 13 or 14 at the time. She didn't do anything to deserve that, just was in those awkward years. I wonder what good ole Rush has to say about the Bush progeny? Abolutely nothing.

Hurricanes and Wetlands

I make no secret of my disgust for the current administration. But the latest piece of information, suggesting that Rove et al are fishing for ammunition to pin the levee mishaps on environmentalists is particularly wretched. This is from a piece from National Review a few weeks ago, where the author tried to tie in environmental groups opposed to new/reinforced levee systems near the Atchafalaya River and the Mississippi, northwest of New Orleans. These improved and new levees would prevent the Atchafalaya River from "capturing" the Mississippi, resulting in a diversion of the mouth of the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya and depriving New Orleans of it's major source of commerce. But the levees also prevent the Mississippi and Atchafalaya from flooding and depositing their sediment loads into wetlands. A little wetlands lesson here.....they protect from flood damage. Wetland soils absorb three times the water that upland (or dry ground) soils do, and they also allow the waterways to flood gradually. The alternative is a levee system which forces a river to continue carrying it's sediment, preventing many small floods, adding more and more sediment to the river bottom, and resulting in Catastrophic Flooding. Remember the Midwest during the Clinton years?

Regardless, the levees systems the National Review guy spoke about had nothing to do with flooding in New Orleans. And I have never heard of an environmental group opposed to the levee system around New Orleans. It is an old city and it must be protected. No argument. What National Review guy and Rove et al conveniently overlook is the loss of wetlands (by Republican policies) that extend from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans. There used to be a swath of coastal wetlands that was over 90 miles wide. It is less than 30 miles wide today. Thanks to environmental policies pretty much written by lobbyists and the slash and burn approach of the oil industry, the wetland buffer that used to protect New Orleans just wasnt' there. And no, it didn't all happen during this Bush administration. The Clinton administration worked to build wetlands there, but this destruction dates back to pre-Reagan. They say that for every mile of wetlands, a hurricane is slowed by 1 mile per hour. I think a reduction in wind speed of 60 mph would have made a big difference to New Orleans, but you'll never see this addressed by this administration.

The cricket bus is coming

When I was little, I loved to sleep with the windows open. My parents house backed up to woods and a creek, so there were lots of night noises. Screech Owls and Great Horned Owls, and Red Fox, and tree frogs. But my favorite were the crickets. In the late spring, I would eagerly anticipate the arrival of crickets and would ask my mother every night when she tucked me in when the crickets were coming. She would tell me that the cricket bus was due any day. I would imagine this tiny little Greyhound bus loaded with crickets making it's way down the dirt road in the woods behind our house and how many stops that little bus would have to make to supply each person's yard with crickets, which was undoubtedly why it took so long. They would carry tiny litle suitcases with their glossy black hands as they made their way into the trees and shrubs of our yard. I read "A Cricket in Times Square" repeatedly as a child, so I imagined that they all also carried violins, for that was how they made their music. Their performances would start slowly at first, geting faster in mid-summer and then begin slowing down again as fall approached, until the cricket bus would arrive again in October and all of them would pack up and get back on for destinations unknown. I was thinking about this last night as I lay in bed listening to them, wondering how many nights more I had before it was time to close the windows against the cold. I noticed the crickets were starting to slow down. They must know the cricket bus is coming.

Increasing your vocabulary

When I read the Molly Ivins article I posted awhile back, there was a phrase in there that I really liked...."And that's where the mule throwed Russell" meaning a point at which something got screwed up. Did you ever see a word or phrase that you really liked and make a conscious effort to work it into your everyday speech? I would like to use that phrase, but I think it would seem contrived. Maybe only in a situation where nobody knows me. It's weird how you judge people by the words they use. At least I do. Not judge really, but when someone speaks an odd word or an antiquated saying that has all but fallen from use, it impresses me. That person moves up a few notches in my head because they seem smarter. I don't think I'm the only one like that. I once had a man declare his love for me after I used the word picayune in a sentence. I was describing to him the recent breakup with a boyfriend, saying that we descended into daily arguing over picayune things. He stared at me for a second, quiet, and said "Did you just use the word picayune?" Why yes, yes I did. Of course quirky words didn't keep him around long....he left me for a girl that repeatedly said "skullduggery", just kidding. Just saying that obviously words have power, but the words that you use also gently shape how people see you.


Sunday is my absolutely, positively favorite day of the week. All the cleaning, grocery shopping etc. gets done (hopefully) on Saturday and Sunday is 'me' day. I have developed a Sunday morning routine that I dearly love. Every Sunday morning I load the dogs in the car to go get the Sunday New York Times. I used to get home delivery, but the asshat neighbor stole it so many times that I just drive now. The dogs think it is some special treat, so I guess it works out okay. Then I come home and make a huge pot of coffee and begin to pull it apart. I take my time doing this. Pulling apart the Sunday NYT is like unwrapping a gift from an eccentric aunt. You never know what to expect. This Sunday's was particularly good. First I read the magazine (super thick yesterday with new features). Then Sunday Styles. Then Review and Opinion (I'm happy to see Frank Rich is back from vacation, I hope David Brooks to take a long one). I usually peruse Travel and then the Book Review. After adding anything of interest in the Book Review to my book list, I take a shower and do whatever else I need to do that day. The remaining sections waiting on the edge of the dining room table for the evening. I never read the Sports Section.

I had friends over yesterday. They are good friends that I used to see a lot, but because of changes in employment, don't see as often as I'd like. It was a really nice day, just relaxing and catching up and sharing a meal together. I need to make more time for people I care about. Everyone always seem so busy, but it really isn't that hard to set aside a few hours here and there to just be together. Not like it's New Years or anything, but that is my new resolution.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Laugh, cry, or drink heavily?

Bulbs etc.

Nothing will eat a daffodil. They are the safest bulb you can plant in terms of critter resistance. Daffodils are toxic and moles, voles, squirrels, deer etc. will give them a wide berth. My mother drank water that daffodils had been in accidentally once when I was a kid. She didn't even drink that much, quickly realizing that it tasted weird. Within an hour she was hallucinating and thinking that she might need to go to the hospital. Anyway, they last forever. For good early winter color you can't beat Winter Aconite or Helleborus. I've seen both blooming in early to mid-February. Winter Aconite is a very small bulb and I'm not sure about critter resistance. It grew at an old house I lived in at Marietta, so it was probably planted a very long time ago, but was still going strong.

Winter Aconite

Helleborus or Lenten Rose

Tulips are nice, sometimes get eaten, but they also rapidly decline and have to be replaced every few years if you want them to look good and not straggly. They also don't like to get wet, so don't plant them in areas that you will likely water all summer. Snowdrops and crocus, along with Grape hyacinth (Dog-tooth violets) are favorites of moles, voles, chipmunks and squirrels. Sometimes they get eaten but if squirrels get them, they rebury them other places and forget about them, so in the spring, its always a nice little suprise to see how the squirrels have edited the landscaping. To deter pests from medium to large bulbs, bury a piece of chickenwire over the bulbs when you plant them. So when the critters dig down, they are thwarted by the wire.

I would like to try Fritillaria for next spring, but I'm not sure where to put them. They are kind of formal looking and I think need their own space.

A word about soil and composting and sand for Edwin: I'm not sure how big your backyard is, but they make very small composters, so I'm sure that there could be something that would work. Bring home all those leaves, peels, coffee grounds ets, mix them up every so often and you'll have good compost by Spring. You can add eggshells, but I usually crumble mine up and put them out for the birds. It is a source of calcium for them. Clay soil is a pain and unless you want to spend days double-digging your entire back yard and adding ammendments, just make sure to buy things that tolerate poorly drained soils and make the hole you plant in about three times bigger than what you are planting. That way, the roots will be healthy and strong by the time they grow out and hit a wall of clay.

I would save your sand until next year. Plant tomatoes in pots and add the sand to the soil mixture. Tomatoes love sandy, loamy soil. I don't know much about Russian Comfrey. Just a quick web search revealed that it likes full sun and cool conditions, so maybe the heat has stunted it? Dunno.

Okay, on tap for this weekend, weeding, digging out silver maples that are growing everywhere, and ripping out the stuff in the garden that is over. We'll see how much I

Thursday, September 15, 2005

old pictures

Rurality has a good post today about old photographs. I love old photographs. I have boxes of old family pictures, those stiff, black and white pictures from the 1940s to the 1970s with the white border around them. I have of ton of pictures from before then too, a little more flimsy, but with a pretty scalloped edge. I can sit for hours looking at those pictures, scrutinizing everything. I especially love the ones of my great-grandmothers kitchen. I collect retro kitchen things....aprons, cannisters, dishware, tea towels, utensils, etc.....and that kitchen was full of great stuff. There is one photo of a birthday and the table is set with an entire collection of Fire King Jadeite dishes. I asked my mother once what happened to those dishes (probably worth a fortune now) and she said that Gran-nan got tired of dishes, and would climb up on a step ladder, empty out the cabinet, dropping the dishes onto the kitchen floor, laughing the whole time. That sucks but is not suprising.

There was a McCoy pottery kitchen sponge holder that sat on the windowsill above the sink. It was green and was a series of little Scotty Dogs, increasing in size from smallest to largest. Every now and then one comes up on Ebay, but I haven't purchased one yet. I would love to have one for my kitchen windowsill. There were other things in the kitchen I would love to have. On the door frame, between the kitchen and dining room, was a cast iron bottle opener. It was a bald man with, I think three eyes, and big buck teeth that stuck out (that opened the bottle). I was terrified of that bottle opener. Whenever I was there as a kid, Gran-nan would tell me to get two Cokes from the fridge (the 16 oz. glass bottle kind) but I could never open them cause of the scary bald-man bottle opener.

Some of the pictures have traveled overseas and back. There are many pictures, the scalloped edge kind, of my grandmother with my very young mother that were sent to my grandfather in Korea. There are notes on the back from her to him. And lots of times her calves are scribbled out or she tells him to pay no mind to her double chin in the picture. Was there ever a time when women weren't self-concious of their weight? It must predate Daguerre.

My favorite pictures are those in the yard. My Greatgrandmother and Greatgrandfather had a beautiful yard. Azaleas and dogwoods and dahlias and roses and hydrangeas...just beautiful. There is a great picture of four generations of women sitting in those kitschy metal chairs from the 40s, in a semicircle, completely surrounded by flowering trees and shrubs. My mom, my grandmother, my great grandmother, and my great, great grandmother, all leaning forward and smiling for the camera. Sometimes I drive past that house when I am close by. It isn't far from Harrisburg High School. The house hasn't been kept up, and the yard looks nothing like it did in the old days. But it still has the biggest yard in the area, and the grill on the front door is still there with my great grandmother's initial on it. The cement step up from the street is still there, poured some 60 years ago, with Sarah and Earl carved into it with a heart drawn around it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Something to chew on

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

When I grow up

I want to be Molly Ivins when I grow up.

Bulb Planting time

For years I have been meaning to plant this bulb. It is Narcissus poeticus, also called Pheasants's Eye daffodil. It is an heirloom bulb and is one of the later daffodils, but it smells awesome. It has a spicy smell and I don't think I've smelled one since I was a kid, but I can remeber it almost exactly. In past years, I've planted the usual King Alfred yellow daffodils and several kinds of tulips, hyacinths, and wind flower, but this year I really must get to planting these, cause I don't want to kick myself next spring (like I do every spring).

The perils of living in old houses

So the house I live in, well part of it anyway, was built in 1900. Then there was an addition in the 1940s and another one in the 1980s. It's the 1900 part that has us a little concerned. When you own an old home, you know that the simplest task that requires opening something up, like fixing plumbing or electrical work, will undoubtedly reveal some heretofore unknown problem of obscene scale with a heartstopping pricetag. This has happened to us more times than we care to think about. The combination of exposure to daylight or fresh air or something, causes the combination of cobwebs and ancient twine that were previously holding things together to crumble instantly. So the plumber/electrician whatever informs you that your formerly $200 job would now take three days and cost upwards of $1,000. Sometimes when I lay in bed at night I swear I can hear the house slowly disintegrating. Anyway, this past week, we had parts of the exterior of the house replaced. It is stucco. Old, crumbly stucco. I don't particularly like stucco. But the thought of the cost of ripping stucco off of a 2300 square foot, two-story house and replacing it with something else caused my husband to curl into a fetal position on the floor of the garage, so we chose not to. Instead we would re-stucco the bad parts. So Last Friday was the day they opened the side of the house up. Every time the phone rang at work, I worried that it was a contractor calling to confirm that the house had collapsed at the first hit of the sledgehammer. That didn't happen. But what did happen was that everything they found under the stucco was rotted. Able to be pulverized with slight hand pressure, like a clump of sugar. Fifty years of water damage they said. We did have water dripping from the ceiling into the dining room whenever there was a sideways rain, but 50 years? We were the only homeowners in 50 years to deal with the problem? People were setting out pots and buckets for 50 years? So, $4,000 later, the stucco is new again, in places, and we don't have to worry about water in the dining room. But other places still exist and I have seen what lies beneath, and I am afraid.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The positive side of PMS

Yes, I think there is one. Of course the cramps suck, and the headaches too....and then the moodiness, and occasionally I get insomnia....But every so often, PMS brings with it the insane urge to clean. To clean as you've never cleaned before....hands and feet moving as if independent of your body. Every single thing you lay your eyes on looks filthy. That was Saturday. I cleaned the whole house from top to, woodwork, floors, bathrooms, dusted, just wiped about everything in the house down. Washed shower curtains, rugs, repotted plants. And threw out so much crap. The PMS filter enables you to recognize things as clutter, things that ordinarily excape your attention....That 1/3 full bottle of cheap shampoo that you don't really like....OUT! Those magazines with the good recipes that you know damn well you'll never make....OUT! The piles of bulb catalogs that you may or may not order from....You won't....OUT! The aversion to clutter may be a result of how I was raised though. I did not grow up in clean house. Actually, it was pretty filthy and the amounts of clutter that were allowed to accumulate were pretty horrifying. And a really neat quirk I also harbor is that I must clean dishes as I cook because my mother would dirty every dish in the kitchen and leave them piled on the counter until there was no space. And of course after the meal, no one could deal with the mountain of dishes and food that were left in the kitchen, so it would sit there for two days. Even today, when I go to someone's house, and they cook, I have to do dishes while they are cooking. I cannot stand to see dishes accumulate.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I'd be funny if it wasn't so tragic

Thursday, September 08, 2005

random things

The thing that is making me the most sad about this tragedy is the pets. I know that helpless people have died, but the sight of an abandoned dog or someone being rescued and forced to leave their dog or kitty behind reduces me to tears every time I see it on TV. I keep seeing media chastising these people for not leaving their animals and I know that I could not either. I think I would probably stay behind and risk death rather than leave my pets. I just could not do it. While we were on vacation, we went to this one gallery that had work by Marjorie Weiss. Basic simple prints all involving dogs and water. As soon as I stood in front of them, I started crying because I knew that these pictures would hang in my house and that someday in the not too distant future, my dogs would be gone and these pictures would take me back to that week we spent in late August in 2005 and how much they loved it. How excited they would get to go swim. How freaked out they were just by the foam that collects on the shore, toally new to them. How they would leap way out into the water to try and reach me first. And how grateful they were. Significant other knew why I was crying and didn't say anything, but the lady that worked at the store must have thought I was seriously disturbed. Or maybe she just thought I had terrible allergies. We bought three of them and this was my favorite.

I won a blue ribbon for my Genovese Heirloom tomatoes at the Etown fair. And a three dollar premium to boot. Woohoo. For all I know, no one else entered the category, so I won by default, but maybe not. There won't be any stopping me next year. Significant other works tonight so tonight will be Pesto night. (He wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole).

No title needed

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

about the name

Just in case anyone was wondering.... Edge effect refers to an ecological concept that basically says that edges are always the most diverse and fecund places. Like where forests meet fields or where freshwater meets saltwater (estuary) or where marsh meets water. So no, I don't think I'm edgy or anything like that. It's just a bio-nerd word.

The harvest

The peaches were of course ripe the day we left on vacation. The morning we were to leave, I spent two hours picking peaches, cutting them and putting them in freezer bags. I got enough for several pies and enough to make several other peach dishes. I actually made a peach crisp on Sunday. Easy and really good. I didn't feel like fooling with a pastry crust like in cobbler, and this worked out really well. I picked 15 pumpkins Monday and washed them with a bleach solution. They will cure for 10 days on the cement patio out back and then will be ready to use. Long Island Cheese did the best. Definitely a keeper for next year. Musquee de Provence did okay. The Cinderella pumpkin (Rouge de Vintemps?) didn't do very well at all. I only got one and it looks like crap. I bought mums and pansies on Tuesday and have everything put out except the pumpkins. I like fall, but it always depresses me. Winter is just far too long here.

I never made the pesto, so maybe tonight. I still have tons of tomatoes. Many rotted while we were away but they are still coming fast and furious. I made a great tomato salad on Sunday too. Tomatoes, balsamic, olive oil, sea salt, basil, kalamata olives and a few good garlicky croutons. Threw it in a bowl, and even though I am not a big tomato fan, it was really good and was gone in two days. There were tons on sunflowers. I'm not sure if I should cut the heads and use them for decoration and then let the birds eat them this winter or leave them standing and let the birds have them now. I picked a few more cucumbers and need to make one more jar of pickles. Oh, and I got an honorable mention ribbon for the jam I entered at the Etown fair. My texture was a little too lumpy to place 1st or 2nd but they said it tasted really good. Not sure how I did on the tomatoes. Will keep you posted.

Feeling Guilty

So the whole week leading up to vacation I watched Katrina, and I hoped several times that it wouldn't ruin our vacation, that it would strike somewhere else. How selfish. I was glued to the television every night....MSNBC for two hours of so. Round about Tuesday night, I started to have the sickening feeling that color had something to do with fact that no rescue was coming. That little kids that happened to have dark skin were still standing on rooftops with signs that siad "help us". Occasionally, I flipped over to Fox. And then I knew that it definitely had something to do with color. I actually heard Bill O'Reilly say that "some of 'these people' stayed behind on purpose so they could steal things". White people with shopping carts in Walmart were 'getting what their families need' and black people with shopping carts were 'looters'. And the week wore on and I became more and more embarassed and ashamed and just sad that this could happen in our country.

Where to begin

So vacation was fun. It was hot and I guess was summer's last gasp, as least for us. We drove away from summer and came back to fall. One week a year just isn't enough. The dogs had a great time, walks every morning, swimming several times a day....and they seemed to reaaalllllyyyy enjoy the air conditioning, too much. Used to be, as soon as we got into a rental cottage, we turned off the AC and opened all the doors and windows. Nothing better in my mind than to have an ocean breeze whipping through the house and make everything sticky. But alas, the screens were being replaced so we couldn't open most of the windows. For two days I felt slightly claustrophobic, but the dogs were in heaven (we don't have AC at home, not even a window unit). On Tuesday or Wednesday the temp. went up to 93 or so with a heat index of near 100. The dogs didn't even want to leave the house to go swimming. They stood just inside the door and looked at each other, as I tried to beckon them outside. We went kayaking every day and saw lots of cool wildlife....deer, racoons, a snake, some terrapins, osprey, great egrets, great blue herons, skimmers. Too bad most of that stuff will be displaced after the construction next door of a 10-bedroom house with a pool.

Late in the week, my husband and I decided that we didn't think we would come here anymore. The level of excitement that we used to feel going on vacation just wasn't what it used to be, and the level of change that occurs from year to year is just too much and never for the better. What is it about the human race that leads people to just want to consume everything? Maybe we will try and go back to Ocracoke or maybe we will try and find something along the eastern shore of Virginia. Who knows. But watching something die a slow death from over-development and an overwhelming onslaught of obnoxious tourists is just too depressing. Yes, I know I'm a tourist too, but we aren't loud, we don't expect unreasonable accomodations, we respect the locals, and we actually enjoy seeing wildlife instead of calling someone to have it removed.