Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve


It's not snowing yet, but it's supposed to snow off and on through-out today and tonight. It's sure cold enough! So we'll hopefully have new snow on Christmas Day. Although there is plenty out there now for a good snowman or snowball fight.

Once again, in the midst of the darkest time of the year, we have turned the corner heading towards summer. I think it must be psychological, but I can almost tell the days are fractionally longer already.

My aunt and uncle's old farmhouse burned down on Sunday afternoon. They got out safely but weren't able to save anything. It was an old place, early 20th C., and I'm sure the wood was tinder-dry. This is the aunt and uncle that let me stay with them when I first returned from England and didn't have a job yet. The farm was a good place to be at such a difficult time in my life. I really liked that old house. It seemed to go on forever, always more rooms around a corner or through a door that didn't look like it went anywhere. Much as I liked it, I'm sure my aunt and her extended family love it far more. How hard it must be to have lost everything. Not only the house and its contents, but all the memories of growing up there, raising children there.

The farm is around 10 acres, at least. I used to know but I've forgotten. They have 10 grown children and are surrounded by family. One of their older sons has his house just 500 yards away on the property, so my aunt and uncle are probably staying there. I'm sure there's plenty of people able to give them immediate help, and hopefully the insurance will allow them to re-build. Still it's such a helpless feeling, wanting to help, but not knowing how.

If you pray, please pray for them. It's a hard thing to have happen, especially this time of year.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Bit More Snow


Well, it did snow a bit more overnight, but even more fell between 8:30 - 11:00 am. My sister says they have about 2 inches where she lives (20 miles east and slightly north), which sounds like a bit more than us. So I'm waiting a bit longer before I head over to my sister's house for a day of cookie-baking. Hubby went out earlier and says people were sliding and fish-tailing all over the place, getting used to snowy roads. Having lived a while in Indiana, driving to work in snow on a regular basis, I usually do ok. I'm not happy about having a car with rear-wheel drive, but it's got that electronic road/wheel control thing I can turn on, which seems to help a little bit. I'll be happier when I get the next company car this coming July. It has front-wheel drive.

It's getting towards noon and the clouds are breaking up to the south. So hopefully the snow will get slushy and be not quite as slippery when I leave.

Sis and I are going to make our family's traditional date-walnut-spice cut-outs, and at least mix the dough for the kourabeides. Hopefully we'll also have time to bake and decorate some of the cut-outs so I'll have them for Monday night's dance party.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Snow At Last!


Well, after all the hype from the weather folks, our "arctic blast" has arrived. As you can see from the photo, it has not exactly lived up to expectations. At least not here in the valley. Ah well. One can always hope for more snow as the season goes on. At least the mountains are getting a good layer.

It's pretty cold outside, certainly below freezing, and still clouded over. So we could have more snow overnight. Hope so!

It's going to be a busy week getting ready for our annual Solstice party next weekend. We still haven't put up our tree. I haven't done any baking yet. The Christmas cards aren't written. I haven't mailed any of the long-distance presents. And there's plenty of cleaning to do, probably after work during the week (sigh). We're hoping for a good crowd, including most of our musician friends. There may even be spontaneous English and Contra dancing.

Monday night is the last Scottish Country dance class of the year, so we're having a party. People dress a little Christmas-y and bring finger food treats. We'll dance some of the dances we've learned, eat, and have fun.

Then on Tuesday eight of us are dancing for a local American Legion hall Christmas dinner. It was a last-minute request, but my dancers came through. I hope the group will enjoy it. We'll do two dances, talk a bit about Scottish Country dancing, and put a great kilt on an unsuspecting victim.

Now there's snow in the local mountains, I'm looking forward to going snowshoeing a couple times during my week off between Christmas and New Year. We might try going up to McCall. There are good snowshoe trails around and on the lake. You get a totally different perspective of the town and surrounding mountains while walking out on the frozen lake. And when we get tired there are places we can get hot chocolate. I also want to get up to Banner Ridge again. The trails there aren't crowded and the views are nice.

One interesting thing I did today was go to an Obama house party. This is the very base of PEBO's grassroots organizing effort. So far there's 12 of us, all Democrats languishing in the 3rd reddest state of the union, wanting to do something more concrete than wait and see what happens. I admit I'm a bit skeptical, but I'm willing to give it a try. Right now we're going to work on establishing our creds as a group by donating to the local foodbank once a month. The group member who takes the food in will introduce our group to that organization and that will start getting our name around.

We made a list of issues important to us that are also things people on all sides are concerned about. Like the economy, transportation, health care, the environment, etc. Some time early in the new year we're hoping to give a presentation on mass transit to a local mayor at one of his citizen forums. For my part, if I do this, it has to be more than a bunch of isolated Dems venting to each other. I want us to actually accomplish things. So I'll give it a try and see how things go.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday!


I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

The last day of November has arrived and one of my favorite times of year has begun. I love snow, crisp winter days, mountains, evergreens, and singing Christmas music.

As the oldest child growing up, I remember a lot about how our family Christmas traditions developed over the years. My parents grew up in families of German ancestry. When I was little my father's parents still spoke German at home, and went to church services in German. As newlyweds my parents moved from the Midwest to California, far away from their large extended families. So I think a lot of what we did was taken from my parents' memories of Christmas.

Our celebration of Christmas Eve in particular was different from most of my friends when I was young. We kids always participated in the Childrens' Service at our church in the late afternoons. Usually singing or reciting, or I'd be roped into playing the flute for hymns. After the service we'd go home and get ready for our favorite part of Christmas. Mom made a cold supper of hors d'oeuvres, including cold meats, cheese, crackers, shrimp cocktails, mandarin oranges, raw veggies with dip, herring in cream sauce, smoked oysters, pumpernickel bread, and olives. Dad would make his specialty of broiled bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. As we got older, putting together this special most-favorite meal of the year became a well-practiced ritual we all learned to help with.

After dinner we'd take our drinks and a tray of assorted homemade cookies, fudge, and fruitcake into the living room to sit around the Christmas tree. Our relatives out in the Midwest sent boxes of gifts to us every year. I think rather than have those overshadowed by Santa's presents on Christmas morning, my parents started the tradition of opening the relatives' gifts on Christmas Eve.

Dad played Santa, handing out the gifts one by one. He'd borrow a big reel-to-reel tape recorder from school and each of us would open a gift in turn, saying what it was and thanking the relative who gave it. Later the tape was mailed to the relatives. As technology progressed, it became a Super-8 movie, then a video cassette, and so on. All to share the joy with those far-away aunts, uncles and grandparents who'd been kind enough to mail us presents. Probably a lot easier for Mom than getting us to write thank-yous! We children loved this ritual. We thought it made Christmas last much longer. Who could complain about two days of opening presents! I think we came to like the night before more than Christmas Day.

About 11pm we'd all get wrapped up in our coats again and go to the Candlelight Carol service at church. It made for a long day, but it probably helped us sleep in later the next morning! 7:00 am instead of 6:00!

One thing I've added to my holiday preparations is making a wreath. That's was my project today. This time I used a plain grapevine wreath from the craft store, rather than a wire frame. I cut various evergreens and other things from around the garden to decorate it. This year is juniper and rose hips, with a string of battery-powered LED lights and a red cardinal. I think it turned out pretty nice. I have some ideas for adding different things, but I didn't manage to get the extra flower arranging supplies in time. Next year.

In a couple weeks my sister and I are going to have a cookie-making day. It's the day before the last Scottish dance class of the year, lucky for me. We'll make Kourabeides and frosted Datenut-spice cut-outs. The Kourabeides take 45 minutes in the oven then more time to roll in powdered sugar, so we'll just make a double batch of dough and take it home to do on our own. The cut-outs really need at least two people, especially when it comes to frosting them. I'll also make fudge, another pumpkin pie from scratch, and maybe some other cookies on another day. I bought the Fine Cooking "Cookies" magazine today and some of those recipes look pretty good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to All


Hope your holiday weekend is all you want it to be.

Hubby's oldest daughter and grandchild are coming to our house for T-day. My sister and her daughter are also coming. So it's going to be a lively day with two toddlers running around. We'll be having turkey for the third time in two months. Good thing we like it!

I'm scrambling to finish up things for work before the four day weekend. That's always fun (not). Then there's shopping and cleaning for the guests arriving tomorrow. I'm hoping to go see a movie with my sister on Saturday, and do a bit of gardening. The big project is to make a wreath. I've got the grapevine base, I just need to get the greenery attached and make it look pretty. This is a bit later than I usually do it, so I hope I can still find some reasonable berries and rose hips out there! We've had a lot of frost and fog this week. But no snow.

We did have some snow fall last Saturday night but of course it didn't stick. At least it gave some moisture.

Happy holiday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Frost


A leaf out in the back yard this morning. There was a lot of frost. Had to park out on the driveway when I got home last night, and then forgot to put my car in the car port. Came out this morning to completely iced-up windows. So I've now had the first window scrape of the season. Brrr!

We're looking forward this weekend to having dinner with my parents and sister at her house on Friday. Then on Saturday is the Thistle & Ghillies annual St. Andrews dinner, dance and ceilidh. I think hubby is doing a ceilidh act this year. I haven't thought of anything. I'll be busy enough the rest of the evening anyway.

It's going to be very busy work-wise until the 26th. I need to finish most of the work I have going by then. Lots of interviews and typing!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hambo and Turkey

Another busy weekend. I guess that's going to be what it's like now the holidays are close.

Last night hubby and I went to the monthly Contra dance. There was a Hambo dance workshop beforehand, so we did that too. It was fun. I think I picked it up again fairly easily, though it's been at least 15 years since I first learned it. The women's part, once you get the hang of the turning step and find the right timing, goes pretty well. I'm not sure I could reliably do the man's part, though it's nearly the same except for the timing. I'd have to work on that a bit.

The contra dance was fun too. The callers chose more advanced dances that were really fun, with Contra-corners, lots of hays, and different set orientations. They had a new (to us) band over from Idaho Falls, Bandage a Trois. One of them is Dave Seelander, who I gathered is a much-admired accordion player. They played some great tunes - mostly Scandinavian - so the music had a Russian and Klezmer flavor to it. Really lively.

After the dance there was a jam session. We mostly listened. Then I started to fall asleep (it was 1:00 am after all), so we went home. We needed to get enough rest for our early family Thanksgiving dinner today.

My parents arrived in town on Monday. They're staying with my sister, but today we're all getting together at our house for turkey dinner. I've made pumpkin (Kabocha squash actually) pie from scratch, and Ken is roasting the turkey. He found a 22lb one at the store, so we're hoping there will be enough leftovers that Victoria can take some home with her. We're also doing stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Brenda and the folks are bringing salad, vegetables, bread and cake. There should be plenty of food!

They should be here any time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

44th President of the United States

President Barack Obama.

Finally the election is over. God bless us all. I'm very hopeful we've made the right decision.

If you haven't seen it, you might look at the blog post I wrote on January 21, 2008, before Obama was very well known here in Idaho, the reddest of the red states. Although I'm skeptical of most politicians, I have some hope that some of the "wishes" in that post may come true.

I only hope our new president can get us all involved to help do what needs to be done. It's up to all of us.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blessed All Saints Day / Samhain


On this day that celebrates the end of the harvest, we continued storing away garden produce. During the week hubby cut the last of the grapes, mashed, then let them sit a few days. Today he strained the juice and put it in a vat to begin the wine-making process. There's not a lot - perhaps a gallon or so. But it'll be a good way to learn the method. We're hoping for more grapes next year.

Tomorrow I want to dig up the gladiolus bulbs, and dig out the black raspberry. It didn't produce any fruit worth speaking of this year, even though I managed to prune it properly. It set a few berries, but when I tried some they were dry and mostly seed. I waited to see if they would get riper but they just dried up and disappeared. So out it comes! I may plant another red raspberry in spring, or just wait to see if the one already there produces enough canes to fill the space. That might be easiest. Hard to imagine having too many raspberries!

I made chili this evening using some of the peppers I roasted. Only a minor ingredient, but it was still fun to use those rather than opening a can. The freezer is full of bags of frozen garden produce, including roasted peppers, roasted beets, pesto, tomato sauce, raspberries and green beans. We really need to put some of it out in the big freezer.

Next weekend my Aikido dojo is hosts Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei for a three-day seminar. I wanted to go to the Scottish Country Dance weekend at Asilomar, CA, this weekend, but couldn't afford to do both. Since I'm supposedly testing for 3rd kyu sometime in the next few months, the Aikido weekend made more sense (cheaper as well). So this evening all my dancing friends are there at Asilomar Retreat Center, dancing away at the Ball, after walking on the beach this afternoon. *sigh*

The pictures show our oak tree. The top one is today, the second one is October 20th. What a difference 10 days and some wind has made! It's been in the mid 60's all week, though we had some rain yesterday and today. I hope we'll have some real winter weather soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Finished Coldframe

We finished the cold frame this weekend. My sweet pea seeds have arrived, so I'll be planting those in a week or so. I got three old fashioned types; Black Knight (maroon), King Edward VII (bright red), and Cupani's Original (purple & blue - a lot like Matucana). I'm still considering whether I want to put a layer of bubblewrap inside the coldframe or not. Just have to see how things go. The sweet peas are my test case for seedlings. If they don't survive the coldest part of the winter, I can always plant more in January. That should give them enough time to form a good root system before I plant them out in May.

Otherwise, I'll be putting my potted holly bush in there, and maybe a few other things - like the gladiolus bulbs I need to dig up soon :).

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Have Voted, Have You?

Well, hubby and I got our voting done yesterday at the County Elections office. Got the sticker and everything. Nice to have that done with. Now I can ignore more of the ads and media reports. I'll still read some of them - I've subscribed to email alerts from the Washington Post and Slate Magazine. And Pollster.com can be addictive, even though I know polls are not always a good predictor of the result.

But in all my internet crawling to read about the issues and politics, I did find an interesting web-site about the Single-Payer system of health care:
http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single_payer_resources.php
It does a pretty good job of explaining how it could work, including a fairly clear description of what socialized health care is, and isn't. Having lived in England for six years, I am somewhat familiar with the "socialized medicine" model - and the Single-Payer system proposed on this website is not that.

Anyway, I'm happy to have the voting thing over with. Now I can start counting the days until the political ads go away. As for how the voting goes on Nov 4th - well, it should be an interesting day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Cold Frame!


Ken and I built most of a cold frame yesterday. We figured the lumber wrong, so ran out before we could get the last door made. But that won't take long once we get another couple boards. The things that look like orange buttons are roofing nails. We had a bucket of them left from when the roof was done, and they seemed perfect for tacking down the plastic sheeting. I've never used a cold frame made with plastic before, so we'll have to see how it holds up, and I don't know how well it will keep out the cold. So this winter will be a test.

I've ordered some sweet pea seeds to grow through the winter. I've done that before and had good results, but that was in England. It gets hotter here in summer, so by the time Spring-planted sweet peas get to blooming, they don't like the weather. I hope by starting out with over-wintered plants I can get flowers during the cooler part of summer, late May or June. We'll see.
I'm also wondering how pots of bulbs will do in there. Last time I tried to plant a pot of tulips in fall, the pots got frozen and the bulbs were destroyed. I might need to get bubble wrap if I try that. One more layer of insulation to wrap around the pot so the bulbs don't get frozen.

We bought some wild bird seed this weekend, so I'm hoping we'll get some interesting avian visitors soon. It will take them a while to find the feeder, as we haven't had seed in it for a long time. Partly because the cat figured out how to hide out of view below it and leap up to get birds who land on the feeder. I've actually seen him do this successfully.

You can see the perennials in my front beds hanging on in the cold. It's been chilly lately, with only light frosts. I think some of the plants actually like this and use the time to build up again for the winter. It will be interesting to try the "Chelsea Chop" on some of them next Spring and see how that works.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Nyckel Harpe in My Living Room


What a whirlwind week it's been. Our friend (who is of Norwegian descent) managed to get the Norwegian folk group, Vestafor, to come to Boise. They were here for three days. And what a packed three days it was.

On Wednesday we had them at our house for a Norwegian music workshop. We learned about a few basics of Norwegian folk music, like cross tunings, rhythms, and regional variations. We also got to hear and see some of the instruments; nyckel harpe, button accordion and hardanger fiddle.

As a relatively geographically-isolated country, Norway has a long, uninterrupted history of folk music and dance. It feels and sounds very alien to the more central European styles we're used to. One difference Toby pointed out is that while in most traditions the dancers tailor the music to the dance, in Norwegian culture the fiddler is in control. Time signature, tunes and length are all a matter of the fiddler's taste. Many tunes are put together from two-bar building blocks and then variations are added. Many dances are done in couples. The dancers listen and vary their dance figures to fit what they hear. So it is rare to hear the tunes played exactly the same way from one time to the next, and the same for the dances.

The members of Vestafor, Toby, Ginny and Mikkel, not only play the music, they also know many of the folk dances that go with the music. On Thursday there was a dance workshop. We tried a bunch of different dances, some simple, and some so much more complicated we only could touch on the very basics. I managed to remember at least two of the easy mixers that I plan to teach my SCD class. I'd like to try more but one limitation is choosing the correct music - and I just don't know enough to do that.

Last night there was a concert and dance. Vestafor did a wide variety of different regional tunes and varied their instruments as needed, including willow flute and mouth harp. The second half was the dance. Most of the audience got up to try things. Those of us who'd gone to the workshop on Thursday got to review what we'd learned and more. It's energetic dancing, but lots of fun. We're all looking forward to having them back next year.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Winter Is Icumen In


Wow, what a difference in the weather since last weekend. It was rainy, but we hadn't had any frost yet. Over the last week we've had at least three nights below 32F. Evidently parts of Boise got snow during the week but we didn't. We're not at the edge of the Snake River ravine, but we're on the next "shelf" north of it. Sometimes that seems to make it cooler here, and sometimes I wonder if it's just my imagination :). The storms that blow in from the west and southwest either pass over us without doing anything, or they hit our part of the area harder than further east and north. My tomatoes are gone, as are the beans and (wah) the orange cosmos. I'm glad I cut a few more before they were blackened.

The peppers are struggling, but I've been covering them with a sheet every night, and so far they're making it. There are still at least six peppers that could get a bit riper. This afternoon I roasted a bunch, some red and some green. The greens were smaller ones that fruited late. So they were at the top of the plant and their stems were hit with the cold in spite of the sheet. I figured it was better to take them now, instead of letting them go bad. Most of them roasted up fine, so that was nice. I have five portions of roasted and peeled peppers in the freezer now.

The cool thing is that the lettuces and arugula are just fine. In fact, some of the fancy mustard and cabbage leaves are coming back. So we have plenty of greens. I still haven't pulled up the parsnips, but there's no rush. I think you can leave them in the ground until you need them.

The other funny thing was hubby heard egg-laying noises on Wednesday afternoon, so he went out to check on our hens. He had a look in the smaller coop, which they usually don't go into. Sure enough there was one hen sitting on a new egg. Then he found a dozen more, all green ones from the Arucana hens. Hard to say how long those had been there. We've been assuming for months that they were eating their eggs as soon as they laid them. Probably some of them still are, but evidently the two Arucanas aren't! So we have a dozen eggs. We've been cracking them one by one into a small bowl - just in case! So far, so good. Eggs last a surprisingly long time.

We're having a nice quiet weekend, but the week is going to be busy. On Wednesday a Norwegian fiddle group, Vestafor, are giving a hardanger fiddle workshop at our house. It will be fascinating, even if I am pretty much a lapsed fiddler. On Friday they're doing a concert in Nampa that we'll go to.

So lots of tidying and cleaning to do if strangers are coming here. Better get busy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Snow Already??!


This is Tachy on the day of See Spot Walk, wearing his Humane Society bandanna. We had a picture taken in the booth as well, by the Idaho Statesman photographer. He looked great, but I look about 70! Not a nice photo of me.

Tonight is a freeze watch, and we're advised to cover any vegetables we don't want ruined by frost. I'll pick what I can of the raspberries and cover the peppers. There's plenty of them half-ripe that would benefit from more time on the plants. The other stuff will just have to make it or not. I hope the orange cosmos is ok. I'm really enjoying them.

Frost is good news for the parsnips, as they're supposed to taste better after going through a freeze. I guess we'll see!

Although a freeze before the end of October is pretty typical here, the other weather warning is snow! By the weekend the snow level is supposed to drop to 3500 feet, with some rain and snow mix in the valleys. So it probably won't stick, but still! I think the earliest snow I've seen is a dusting on Halloween morning the first year I lived here.

So looks like I'll be out shopping for horticultural fleece this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

FY '08 is Over!


Yippee! About bloody time!

What is it about Federal agencies? They wait until the last three months of the year to use the rest of their budgets, and then panic. Afraid that if they don't spend-spend-spend, they'll get less money next year. Geez.

Suddenly their lack of planning becomes our emergency. So we contractors get inundated with too much work, all with tight deadlines. Most of my overtime happens during the last quarter of the year. You know, end of summer, people taking vacations or leaving for college, gardens and weeds in full production mode, weather hot and dry. Just when I'd like to take things easy for a while. Figures.

Anyway, it's all over now except for the clean-up. All the little things I haven't been able to get finished because some other work had a higher priority.

At least the weather has cooled off. The days are getting shorter and the afternoons just don't heat up like they used to. I'm still getting lots of raspberries, but the tomatoes are nearly finished. Happily, with the cooler weather the arugula has started coming back. And so have my delphinium and some of the other perennials. The orange cosmos is in bloom too. Makes a fun color combination, the dark blue and bright orange. The camera flash makes it look a bit funny, but it was worse without it.

Tachy and I are participating in See Spot Walk this coming weekend. It's a fundraising walk for the local Humane Society. I still feel bad about leaving my cat, DC, with my aunt and uncle in Indiana. He never took to them and disappeared during the year I was in Korea. So I've decided to do this walk whenever I get the chance. We're not always in town that weekend. Hopefully it won't rain TOO hard. We're supposed to get another Pacific storm coming through on Saturday.

Anyway, I'm getting Tachy groomed in a new way for the walk, and I may try to find some kind of fun bandanna or hat for him to wear. I'll probably bring an umbrella as well :-\. I'll take pictures and put them on flickr.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lots of Rain

Whew. Feels like I got a lot done today, although I doubt anyone could tell from looking at the house!

We just had all of our average September rainfall in 48 hours! Friday night was incredible. I haven't seen it rain that hard here since I moved to Idaho. Beautiful lightning display on Friday night as well. I heard on the news that it's been 59 days since our last rain.

It rained most of Saturday, though not as hard. So I didn't get out to the garden until Sunday morning. Just as a note to self for future reference - a lot of rain falling on nearly-ripe raspberries is not ideal. They looked positively water-logged! So I picked everything I could and let them dry a bit. These won't freeze as well as the others, but since I have eight zip-lock bags already in the freezer, that's ok. Oddly enough the strawberries have started producing again, though not a huge amount. It's nice to have a few to put in our granola in the morning.

There were also a few beans and limas to pick, and some of the Marconi peppers were ready. One was nearly a foot long and a lovely dark red. It's a shame so many of the others got sunburned. It seems to stunt their development a lot, although the rest is still edible. Because the ground is so soaked and pepper plants don't have deep roots, I had to prop them up with sticks. So I lightened their loads of peppers as much as I could. It's always very tempting to pick them too soon, before they've had time to develop decently thick walls. But the big one turned out to be much thicker than any I've picked previously. Now I just hope we still get enough heat and sun to get the rest of them red - or at least partly red.

This afternoon I finally tried roasting peppers. I'd never done it before. It works really well, as long as you resign yourself to the fact that you're not going to get every bit of skin off. A bit fiddly, getting the charred skins off, but they turned out great, especially that big one. Now I've done it once, I'm hoping the rest will get ripe so I can do more. I put some pieces in olive oil w/ garlic and basil to marinate in the fridge. Then I divided up the rest and put them in bags for freezing. I also roasted some root veggies for dinner tonight.

I really should be planning my lesson for dance class tomorrow night. Better get busy.

Arrrrrghh!

I could survive for 1 minute, 19 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Not Much to Say


Tired. Busy. Here's another photo from our trip...

Paradise Point beach, north of Port Orford, OR.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Trip to the Coast, Part 1


We got back yesterday from our week on the northern California and southern Oregon coast. We had a general idea of places we wanted to go, but aside from that we just made our decisions each day and let things happen.

After an overnight visit with hubby's father in Yreka, CA, we went to the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods. We camped that night in the redwoods, which is not something you can do at many redwood groves further south. Most of them are so small that space for campsites can't be spared, and so much foot traffic compacts the ground around the trees. Not good for the trees, and it kills off the undergrowth as well.

So it was a rare treat to actually camp in a redwood grove. I wish now that we'd stayed a second night. The Jedidiah Smith Redwoods Park is big, and there are lots of older trees. You can hike or drive for miles gasping at one huge tree after another, marching off into the distance.

The next day we moved on to Gold Bluffs Beach, a beach campground in the Prairie Creek redwoods park. It's a bit of a drive on a dirt road to get there, but worth it. We found a decent site behind the dunes. It was very windy. We had to weigh down the tarp under the tent with stones and make sure the tent was well-staked. The beach is amazing, it seemed to stretch on forever. The waves are huge there - nothing to slow them down between Hawaii and the coast. Landward is a prehistoric jungle of redwood forest. Isolated and wild. It was cold with the constant wind, so we didn't swim, but we did walk for a long ways up and down the beach. It was a cold night for me, in spite of a blanket over our sleeping bags. But it was great to hear the waves in the near distance whenever I woke up.

Fog rolled in that night, which got everything surprisingly wet. We packed up and drove two miles up the coast to Fern Canyon. It's a beautiful deep ravine in the redwoods, worn 30-40 feet deep by water action. Now there's just a little stream, so you can walk up three or four miles into the ravine. The walls are covered with five different kinds of fern and other plants. Very picturesque.

After our hike, we drove to Eureka. We spent the afternoon walking around the old town and the marina, and had dinner at Lost Coast Brew Pub. Hubby had a great dinner of sauteed oysters. I had a gorgonzola linguine. It was very nice, but I might have enjoyed the oysters more. On the other hand, the Lost Coast Apricot Hefeweise was amazing! Wonderful apricot aroma, but not sweet.

The next morning we drove up to Arcata to see Humboldt State University. Hubby's daughter is thinking about going there. So we picked up some info for her. Saw an Obama campaign office in town, which isn't too surprizing, considering. Then on to Trinidad, where we walked up the Trinidad rock for some great views up and down the coast. Trinidad is a very pretty little community on a small south-facing cove. Somewhere nice to retire to, it looks like.

On to Port Orford, OR, that day. We were lucky enough to get the last room at the Seacrest Motel, just south of town, overlooking the harbor and beach. Port Orford is pretty small town to live in, far away from everything, but a great place to visit. Amazingly, I saw an Obama campaign office there too! We remembered eating at the Port & Starboard restaurant last time, so we went there again. Hubby had another great oyster dinner with sauteed veggies and garlic mashed potatoes. I ordered a pesto-cream linguine with scallops. Sounded good on the menu, but when it arrived it was a huge pile of mint-green sauce and noodles, with six oysters buried in it. Tasted ok but the color was not attractive, and it had waaaay too much sauce. Way.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tomatoestomatoestomatoes


I have over 40 tomatoes sitting on the kitchen counter, some riper than others. The Purple Calabash are finally starting to get ripe, but it's hard to tell if they are or not. These are three that looked like they were close. I'm torn between leaving them on the vine as long as possible and taking off the riper ones so the other will get ripe.



We've been having tomato sandwiches for a few weeks now, but we just can't keep up with the flood. So this morning I cut up about a dozen of the ripest ones for sauce. It's been simmering for a few hours now. I'm going to freeze it in quart bags for later. It'll be nice to have some of our own homegrown pasta sauce this Fall.


This is one of the Brandy Boys. A few of them have turned out this way. I'm not sure why. I wonder if it's because this is the Big Boy/Brandywine hybrid, or the weather was cold when the fruit was just forming.


The Fall Gold raspberries are really starting to ripen now. I'm looking forward to next year when I have another red raspberry plant in there instead of the Black Munger. I've frozen a lot of them this summer, but with another plant I might get enough that I can do some baking with them. Seems like there are never quite enough at one time to do that with.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cool Nights


It's hot and sunny outside right now, but it's been cool enough these past few nights to sleep under all the covers, instead of just the sheet and a cotton blanket. Next thing you know I'll be wearing long pajamas and we'll need to close the french doors.

The tomatoes are going nuts, there are more beans than we can eat, and the raspberries are wonderful. I freeze about half of what I pick each morning so I can use them in fruit smoothies or other things later in the year. I bought some frozen chunks of mango, so I've been making mango-banana-raspberry-buttermilk smoothies for breakfast sometimes. Mmmm! Last night we made tomato sauce from the tomatoes that were getting a bit too old to eat. We've been having tomato sandwiches all week.


As you can see, we have a lot of tomatoes sitting around in various stages of ripeness. The big pinky-red ones are Brandy Boy. The light tan areas on the shoulders of a few of them is sunburn. The smaller orangey ones are Gregori's Altai, supposedly an earlier variety. The cool Spring we had this year really messed my tomato timing up. I picked the first Purple Calabash today, but I don't think it's quite ripe. They really are a purplish-red color. It'll be interesting to see if they taste as good as the reviews claim. I'll probably make more sauce and blanch a lot of beans tonight for freezing. We tried canning tomatoes last year but four of our seven jars didn't seal, so this is plan B.

The hard part of this time of year is the weeds. The morning glory is going nuts all over everything. Today hubby and I did a cosmetic clear-away. I hope to get a more detailed weeding job done next weekend. The cedar mulch over the "cottage garden" area has slowed the weeds down, but it certainly hasn't stopped them. The area outside our kitchen window looks more like a jungle than a tended garden. The Knautia had just fallen over and covered all the plants around it, so today I cut it back. I'm thinking seriously of trying the "Chelsea Chop" next May, to see if that slows the mid and late summer perennials down a bit. The Knautia got too tall and leggy for its space.

Only one more week to go before we hit the road for the coast. I'm really looking forward to it. Just hope we can find someone to water the veggie garden while we're gone.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fall Around the Corner


The days are getting shorter. Thank goodness, because that means the evenings are cooling off sooner. Although August usually has more hot days, I think July is worse because there's soooo much sun, it stays hot longer into the evenings.

On the other hand, August is hard enough to get through. It got up to 103F yesterday. And of course I was out there doing fieldwork, walking around in the blistering sun. Ugh. Then last night we had a storm system blow through. Didn't get much rain, but it brought the temperature today down to 86F. Just as well my haircut appointment was today. If it had been yesterday, I would've had her just shave it all off! As it is, today I just asked her to cut off about 2 inches and re-do the layers.

It was a hot weekend. We went to the Farmers Market on Saturday. The local iris society was there selling iris rhizomes. I found a new tall one, yellow with orange highlights. It should look great with all the dark purple ones.

Saturday night was the monthly contra-dance. Hubby's band played, joined by a fiddle and guitar duo we know from Pocatello. They all did a great job. There seemed to be lots of new faces dancing this time, mostly younger folks, which is good. It was really hot and sticky in that hall by the break. I tried to dance as many as I could until halfway through. After that I think I only did every other dance, it was so hot. I think a lot of people left then. During the first half hubby debuted his ukulele playing for the waltz. They did a song. With just guitar, voice and bass, hubby felt they needed more rhythm, so he used the uke. I thought it sounded good!

Afterwards we all went out for beer and nachos. We sat outside at a local pub. Good thing because I think we were pretty noisy. I gather I was lucky to not get any mosquito bites that evening, even though I already have FIVE on my left foot from camping last weekend. Those were driving me crazy until today, especially at night. Why do mosquito bites seem to itch more at night? I've been putting CalaGel on them every morning, and that has really helped.

I've noticed the sun is burning my vegetables. The Marconi peppers are worst off. I finally put some netting on them for a sunshade. The raspberries are getting it too, but only the berries at the top of the canes. So most of them are ok. The tomatoes are mostly shaded by their leaves, but I have picked one or two that look like they've been bleached by the sun. We have, as predicted, far too many. So I think we'll be having lots of spaghetti and salad with tomatoes this month.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Poodle Voyageur

This is my toy poodle, Tachy, who continually surprises me with how not like a small dog he can be sometimes. He loves canoeing. He doesn't bark at people in other boats, or the wildlife, he'll just quietly watch with apparent great interest. When he gets tired he'll take a break and nap under my seat. People who pass us on the water often exclaim at our canine "adventurer", and the kids think it's great we have a dog in the canoe with us.


This past weekend we went canoeing in the Meanders, part of the Payette River that winds gracefully down to Payette Lake. I hope to put some of my photos up on flickr this week. If you're curious, you can search Google for the satellite picture of the Payette River meanders just north of McCall, ID.

We camped on Saturday night at the Northwest Passage campground, part of Ponderosa State Park near McCall, about 5,000 feet above sea level. Evidently this used to be a much more basic campground, but it has recently re-opened with picnic tables, sand tent pads enclosed with wood barriers, a potable water supply and pit toilets. We managed to find a campsite next to the river, even if it was about 10 feet above water level. This meant we had to manhandle our 17 foot canoe down a steep sandy bank to the river. We had to disembark about 100 yards further up, at a flatter beach, since we couldn't manage to get the canoe back up that steep bank. It's made to be portaged by one person, but that doesn't mean it's super-light! So poor hubby was the one who got to carry it around.

We spent a wonderfully relaxing weekend paddling for miles up and down the Meanders, spotting wildlife and taking lots of photos. That's one of the best things about digital cameras. You're no longer afraid to take a lot of pics, which increases the odds that some of them will be pretty darn good. We saw at least three ospreys and their nest along the river. We also saw a bald eagle, who showed great interest in a mother Merganser and her seven nearly-grown chicks, as well as a pine marten, a young four-point stag grazing in one of the oxbow ponds, and lots of chipmunks. Tachy does bark at chipmunks, I must admit. You could swear they were taunting him on purpose.

One of my favorite parts about camping is sleeping in the tent. I love chilly nights in my warm sleeping bag. The worst part is driving back down in the late afternoon, when the valley heat is at its hottest, after a few days in the cool mountains. Ah well - in just over 2 weeks we'll be on the coast, walking the beach at Port Orford.

I came home to find tons more raspberries were ripe, and my tomatoes are finally starting to turn red! The tomato glut is just around the corner!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Weeds!


Here's the latest mini bouquet from the garden. The nicotiana really lasts as a cut flower. I love it. The others have been blooming, with small breaks, all summer. The purple scabious has just been heroic! Hasn't been out of flowers since May!

More gladiolus are opening. I have a lime green one, which is cool. There's also two more reds in different shades, and a peach/cream one. I'll probably take one of them with me to the dojo tonight. Whichever I think looks best by this evening.

I have to make an appointment to get the dog groomed. I've been saving money by doing it myself, and I'm getting better at it, but there are some things I just can't bring myself to do. Like pull the hair out of his ears and clear the anal gland (ugh). Plus I'm not that great at clipping his feet and the private areas. The groomer at Zamzows is pretty good, so I'm going to get him in there next week. She'll probably scold me a bit, but hey, he isn't really that bad. I do it every two weeks, so he doesn't have very many mats on his legs - that's the other hard thing to keep up with. Keep the fur on the legs from getting matted. Especially in Idaho the lands of Aggressive Weeds!

It's really amazing to see photos of other areas of the country where people garden. All those lovely gardens near the east coast, or even the midwest and the northwest. Beautiful flowers, good soil, lovely climate for growing things.

Then you look at the Intermountain West. Anywhere you get near desert, you get super-aggressive weeds. Any area that's regularly watered is very quickly covered in perennial weeds that are nearly impossible to get rid of. A bulldozer and sterile top soil might do it for a while, but the birds and wind would soon bring in new colonizers and they'd romp away again.

I just can't keep up. I try, but there is no real victory. We're going to spray the gravel paths again pretty soon, but it's just a temporary fix. We did it last year and this year they're all back again just as strong. Thing is, hubby and I really aren't into using all the poisons that so many people here use. We have lots of birds come through, as well as butterflies, dragonflies, native bees, and other small wildlife. I'd rather have them. We've had a good crop of baby quail this year. They're just about the cutest birds ever. We have one hummingbird who's been getting pretty brave with the flowers in my pots on the deck. More than once I've seen him just four feet away through the kitchen window, sipping at the geraniums and fuschia. Once I was out looking at the gladiolus, standing just four or five feet away from them, and he flew up, glanced at me, then took a few sips, as if to say I'm not scared of you - see! :-).

Well, we're looking forward to getting out in the canoe this weekend. It'll be great to be up in the cooler mountain air for a bit.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Lammas


The picture is my veg garden on July 24. Quite a difference from the picture I posted back in May. The next picture shows my gladiolus. I'm thrilled with the bi-color one. It just opened this morning. I'm eagerly anticipating seeing the others open. Who knows what fun colors I ended up with.

Happy Lughnasadh/Lammas day. I was going to mark the beginning of harvest by steaming the first green beans for dinner. But I had a late work interview, so I didn't get to eat a hot meal. I had a tuna fish sandwich before I left for the interview.

It's been one of those weeks. I was working at the local Air Force base this week doing interviews. That's a 160 mile round trip. On Tuesday as I was walking back to my car from one of the on-base restaurants I tripped over a section of sidewalk that sticks up about 2 inches from the rest. I *know* that sidewalk. I've stumbled over that uneven bit before. This time I hit a toe against it and fell down, hard, onto both knees and one hand. Wore a hole in my good work trousers and really bruised up both knees. It really hurt, but at least the scrapes didn't bleed. I felt shaky and somewhat nauseated for the rest of the day. That was lunchtime, so I still had to get through the afternoon before I went home.

Seems dumb now that I felt sick, but there ya' go. I'd been planning to go to Aikido that evening, but my knees were all puffy and sore. No way I could kneel or fall on them. So I stayed home. Today they started turning purple and green. Very pretty showing under shorts (not).

At least the work week is over now. I can sleep in and do some gardening tomorrow. I'm worried about my tomatoes. The leaves on two or three plants have gone all curly. I've been reading up on it, and I think it's our clay soil. Evidently curly leaves can be from too much or not enough watering. It could also be the leaf curl virus, but the plants don't show the other symptoms, so I don't think it's that. It's most likely too much water. The plants are close enough together that the soil doesn't dry out underneath them very quickly. So I'm cutting back on water to see if that helps. I also bought some Dr. Earth vegetable feed. You mix it with water. It's really more of a soil builder than a fertilizer, which is good.

This is all good lessons for next year. I thought I'd left plenty of space between my tomato plants, but now I see I haven't. So, one more thing to improve on next time. In this picture you can see the green nicotiana in bloom, the beans and peppers, and the tomatoes surrounded by marigolds.

The raspberries are doing great. I've been getting handfuls and double handfuls nearly every day, and there are lots more coming along. Even the Autumn Gold is starting to produce. The only bad thing about my raspberry patch is the black raspberry. I do not recommend those. It requires special pruning because the berries only come on year-old wood. Took me a while to figure that out. I finally pruned it correctly last fall and this year I actually got flowers. But for whatever reason, the berries are really puny and dry. And not many of them! Hardly worth the effort of pruning and watering the dumb thing all season. Plus it sends out an explosion of long, super-thorny new shoots everywhere that I keep having to prune off. I'm digging it out at the end of the season so I can plant another red one instead. I don't have enough space to leave something that isn't producing.

We're hoping to get out to Payette Lake with the canoe one of these weekends coming up. We haven't done that for a while. It'll be nice to get away, even if it's just a day trip.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dwarf Iris in Bloom!


I was walking back from the veg garden yesterday and saw these. I hadn't even noticed there was a bud on any of the little iris and here they were. In July! I'm not sure what this one is called. I have the names of all the dwarf iris mapped out somewhere, but I don't feel like digging it out. It's kinda cool to see it has a blue beard. One of the other ones is light yellow with a blue beard. I've been most curious to see that. I didn't think I was going to get any flowers on them at all this year, so we'll just have to see if any more of them flower.

I put some new pictures of Silver City up on my flickr.com website last night. I was kind of annoyed to realize partway through our day there that my camera was set on 'soft focus', so a lot of the pictures of buildings are all blurry.

Today I worked on weeding part of the gravel path between the front garden flower beds. I also trimmed back some of the juniper and wild rose along the drive so I don't have to scrape the rose thorns against my car when I come in. It looks nicer, but there's still tons of weeding to do. I keep wishing we could get a bulldozer to come scrape all the topsoil off and start again.

Now I just have to groom and wash the dog, vacuum the living room, clean the bathroom and tidy up our bedroom. Nothing like a day off, eh?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mid-summer Bouquet


These are the flowers I cut this morning. The echinacea, agastache and helenium are new, the scabious and knautia are still blooming. My sweet peas are blooming, but not as thickly as I used to get them in the UK. Just too hot here I think.












This is one side of the garden. You can see flower spikes on the gladiolus. Then there are the peppers and beans, the tomatoes, and the raspberries. The tomatoes are really full of fruit. Two of the plants will barely stay upright, even with cages. I keep cutting back new growth on the early ones, hoping that will get the tomatoes on them to start turning red. I should have ripe tomatoes in a few weeks, I hope. Next year I need sturdier supports and I'll really have to stay on top of pruning them. It's a learning experience.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flime Ties


The summer is just screeching past. This is my hair. I haven’t had it cut since early May – no time! Maybe next week I can get an appointment. I’m happy with the way it’s layered to encourage more of the natural wave, but it’s longer than I want it to be, especially with the hot weather.

Yesterday we had a series of thunderstorms blow through and drop a good amount of rain. Yea! Fun to watch the lightning flashes at night too. A small tornado crossed the Magic Valley (around Twin Falls) area yesterday, but there's so much landscape and so few people, they had trouble getting spotters out there to confirm if it actually touched down or not.

We had high winds, and sometimes it seemed to me there was some rotational movement in it, but no twisters, thank goodness. Our carport would be gone for sure if we had that kind of high wind.

Work is keeping us all very busy in our area. The National Intelligence Directive (NID) comes into force at the beginning of October. It's bringing some changes in how we investigators do our jobs. We now have a much tighter deadline for most kinds of investigations, and because of it there are new rules for how work is assigned. Previously we had some time flexibility that allowed work assignments to be zoned geographically to reduce windshield time for the investigators that have to drive around collecting interviews and records.

I live about 25 miles away from the rest of my team. Previously I could usually count on my work being mostly on the west side of our team's territory. Others in my team who live farther east didn't have to drive to my side of the valley very often.

Now we're all going to get work assigned based on the dates, no matter where it is geographically. So everyone will be criss-crossing our territory, from Burns, OR, to Twin Falls, ID, to Duck Valley, to Sun Valley. More driving means more time spent to collect the same amount of information as before. In fact we anticipate we'll experience a drop in our production numbers because of it. The folks in Montana are going to have even more problems, as their distances are bigger than ours!

More job stress. Hopefully I can deal with the changes and keep my numbers up.

I’m supposed to be going to Aikido at least twice a week to prepare for my 3rd kyu test, but I haven’t been able to as often as I hoped, usually because I have a late interview or something to type to meet a deadline. So my tentative August test date will probably be put off.

At least dance classes have been going well. Our attendance dropped a bit from people going on vacations and stuff, but not as much as last year. Our last class of the summer is on Monday. Then we’ll have a break until September.

The garden is catching up after our cool Spring. The raspberries are producing more, and I’m hoping the beans will begin coming soon. I’ve only had five so far. The arugula has gotten away from me as usual. We just can’t eat it fast enough. I’ve given 5-6 bags away and still there’s more. The tomatoes are all still green, but pretty soon I’ll be drowning in those as well. And thank goodness both of the new asparagus plants have sent up shoots at last. I’d begun to think they’d died after all. So I now have four functioning asparagus crowns. I may have lost two of the originals. We’ll see.

I’m worried about the rhubarb. I might need to move it to a place that gets shade in the afternoons. No matter how much water I give it, it’s still wilting in the heat.

We have a dance demo coming up this weekend, so we’re all hoping the heat isn’t in triple digits on Saturday!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Silver City camping


Hubby and I went on an overnight camping trip up to Silver City this weekend. To get there you cross the Snake and head south into the Owyhee Mountains, for about 50 miles, most of it Up!

Silver City was one of the most populated towns in Idaho in the 1800's, due to the silver mines. It's technically a ghost town now, except that....people live there. Some of the buildings are in ruins, certainly. But others are being renovated, and others are obviously lived-in. The road going up there is still mostly un-paved. It's amazing to think of driving a horse-drawn wagon full of silver ore down that road. And yet they did it 1,000's of times evidently. The nearest train depot was down in the valley.

It was hot at home, but cooler at 6,000 feet. The sun was just as fierce though. Hubby got sunburned. I did a little, but at least I'd put on sunscreen. We hiked around the town a bit, then got hungry and realized we'd brought all our sandwich fixings, but forgot the bread! Fortunately the local cafe was willing to sell us half a loaf so we could eat dinner later too!

We found a nice camping spot near the pass you go over to get there, New York Summit. It was on a rise that gave us views in every direction. The Owyhees are very rocky. There are pine trees, but at 6-7,000 feet, it's right at the limits of the sagebrush, so you get a mix of juniper, pines, sagebrush, and this year, lots and lots of wildflowers. I'd never seen so many different ones.

The rocks reminded me of the Santa Monica mountains and the mountains around Seoul. If you used to watch *MASH*, you'll know what I mean. Rounded boulders of granite sticking out like exposed bones. On one ridge we could see a line of jagged brown rocks like dragon teeth.

We had a restful night in our tent, and the next morning we hiked up to an interesting out-cropping near the pass. I've always liked clambering around on big rocks.
After our hike, we packed up and drove home. For just a 99-mile round trip, it was a complete change of scenery. We'll have to go again and camp elsewhere.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sparkling!


Well so far the weekend has been MUCH nicer than the week that preceded it. On Monday I had an incredible toothache. I've never had one before. It was like someone pounding a dagger up through my tooth into my cheekbone. It was sensitive to cold AND hot, so I couldn't eat or drink without pain, and sometimes it even hurt when I talked because the cool air would hit it when I breathed in. Argh!!

To top it off, our washing machine was broken, and the hot weather meant dirty clothes were piling up faster than usual.

I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday. It was originally for a cleaning, but I couldn't stand the thought of the hygienist putting metal instruments on my bad tooth. The dentist came in and checked a few things. He said the pulp inside my crowned rear molar was dead or dying, which meant I needed a root canal. Fun. I'd never had one of those either.

At least I was able to make an appointment for Thursday, two days later. By drinking liquids through a straw and only chewing on one side of my mouth, I managed to get through the next few days. It was nice I still had a few pain killers from my surgery in April. Those helped at night.

On Thursday the guys delivered our new washing machine before noon! Surprising but very convenient. They had to work pretty hard to get the new one down the stairs into our basement, and then haul the old one up. Whew!

The dentist had me take a Valium one hour before the appointment. He prefers that over giving people laughing gas - I hate that stuff anyway. I'd never taken Valium before though. By the time we got to the dentist office, I felt very relaxed. Mentally still ok, but my body was wobbly.

The nice thing about it is you lose your sense of time passing, so the two and a half hours sort of floated by. Just as well. The initial drilling through the metal crown was NOT pleasant. It felt like those big jack-hammers they use to break up sidewalks. My whole face felt the vibration, and my jaw is still sore. After that it wasn't so bad, and by the time they were done I felt nearly normal. Except for the right side of my jaw and tongue being completely numb. I couldn't chew anything because I couldn't tell if I was chewing my tongue, so I made a fruit and chocolate ice cream smoothie for dinner. Which I didn't have to drink through a straw!

My tongue and face stayed numb well into the night. Inconvenient but not a bad thing, as I found out the next morning. When I woke up ALL my teeth ached, as well as my jaw, and it hurt to open my mouth wide or chew. Thank goodness for Vitamin I.

But even so, Friday the 4th really was a much better day. No more severe toothache and I'd had a good sleep. So I was able to get some house cleaning done and do six loads of laundry! What a luxury it is to have electric washing machines. How did we ever manage before! And this new one really does use less water, takes less time to fill, and I don't have to dry things as long. All the clothes I usually hang dry take less time too. So far I haven't had trouble with unbalanced loads either. So I'm pretty happy.

Aside from all that, we had a nice holiday. We barbecued chicken, steamed some sweet corn, and had watermelon for dessert. Then we watched fireworks from our front yard. We live on a northeast-facing hill, so we can see most of the fireworks displays in Boise. Of course they're really *tiny* from that distance, but it's still fun. We also set up our digital camera on a tripod and had a great time with sparklers on long exposures. Hence the picture :-). My step-son managed to move fast enough to get most of his name done during the exposure time, but I didn't. It was fun anyway.

Today I did some gardening and we went to Goodwood for dinner. It was much cooler yesterday and today than earlier in the week. Only about 88F today, and cloudy, so not too bad to be outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be hotter. I do like three-day weekends.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Three-day Weekend!


This is a little bouquet I made from flowers in the garden, sitting on the corner of my desk. Since I have to work in here, it's nice to be able to appreciate the flowers outside. I'm particularly happy with the delphinium. It's a wonderful sapphire blue that looks amazing with the sunlight shining through it.

I have a root canal this afternoon, so I'm glad to have three days off afterwards. It's supposed to be hot, but I'll probably be sleeping most of the afternoon, so I won't notice so much. I just hope it's not so blistering over the weekend that we can't get out somewhere.

We're supposed to get the new washing machine today, which is something else to look forward to. We're hoping it arrives in the morning, as hubby has to drive me to my dentist appt at 2pm.

Happy 4th everyone!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hot

It's over 100F today, and forecast to be the same tomorrow. We might 'cool down' to the low-mid 90s by Tuesday. Hopefully with a thunderstorm, but chances are low. It looks today as if there are t-storms developing over both the Boise Mtns to our north and the Owyhees to the south, but those probably won't make it out over the valley, unfortunately. At least, under normal conditions those storms wouldn't reach us. The La Nina effect has changed how our weather behaves this year, so it's hard to say. Anyway, it's darn hot. It's good for my peppers and tomatoes, but not so pleasant for me. Still, the house hasn't heated up quite enough yet to make us turn on the AC. We'll avoid doing that as long as we can. There's a point we reach during July and August where it doesn't cool down enough at night to cool the house, so we end up using the AC.

Our big news this week is the washing machine has gone kaput. It started leaking oil into the wash drum and ruined three loads of laundry before we figured out where the oil stains were coming from. So today we went out to price new machines, thinking we might get it repaired but wanting to compare that cost to the price of a new one.

We ended up just buying a new one. It's a front-load, which I'm not sure I'll like. I had one in the UK and it was a pain. It was smaller than this one, so you couldn't put much into it. It took two loads to do the amount of clothes I was used to doing in one load in the US. But, this one will hopefully be better. I'm happy we can afford to buy one.

The new one is at least bigger than the one I had over there, and through asking questions I found out the drum's suspension is probably stronger. I hope so. It seems much easier to unbalance a front load machine, which is the problem I had before.

The new machine will use far less water, and thus less electricity. We're on a well, so our water has no cost, but the electricity to pump it does. And since the clothes will be less wet, they should take less time in the dryer as well. It will be interesting to see if and how much savings we get from it. Especially since the electricity company here just applied to raise their rates 10%.

It's been a busy few weeks. Hubby was away at a violin-making course for a week, then gone for 12 hours every day for the next week because of Weiser National Fiddle Contest. He sets up shop there for the week. It's like Christmas for our retail sales. People come from all over the country. We were a bit worried the economy would make folks spend less money at Weiser, but in fact he did pretty well. Sold three good-quality instruments and lots of other stuff.

Even so, it's amazing to hear economists on NPR talking about how things really aren't as bad as consumers think they are. Those guys have never had to depend on their own small business sales for a living. Our observation is more people are driving shorter distances, making fewer trips, eating out less often, and cutting back on spending that seems unnecessary. That includes musical instruments and instrument repair, understandably.

We've seen a lot more big SUVs and 4-door trucks parked in front yards with For Sale signs on them in the past 3-4 months. I saw my first Smart Car on the road (as opposed to just sitting in a car dealer's lot) a few weeks ago. Here in Idaho, large SUVs and trucks easily out-number cars, and studded tires get used until April. I would NOT want to drive something that small here. Sure, I want a smaller car with good gas mileage, but something that small isn't safe in this environment. So, we haven't quite reached the tipping point yet for this area, but there are indications that things are about to change.

Which is why we're hoping to avoid buying a new car for a few more years. I'm very curious to see what new things come out on the market by 2010.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer is Here


This is just a placeholder for the post I hope to write this evening. Here's the front garden yesterday, some things starting to go over, and new plants coming into bloom. The camera tends to overexpose things, which is a pain.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Who Are You?


I've gotten worse and worse about keeping up with emails to friends since starting a blog. The recent, and sudden, death of Tim Russert reminds me once again that there's nothing wrong with telling people how you feel once and a while. After all, you never know.

What's been going on in your life? Email and say hi, or try the little questionnaire below. Copy from below, erase my answers, put yours in their place, then post it in your journal or blog, or send me an email. Please elaborate on the questions that would benefit from elaboration.

1. First Name: Monica

2. Age: somewhere north of 49 :)

3. Location: Southwest Idaho

4. Occupation: Background Investigator

5. Partner? Ken

6. Kids: three step-children who really aren’t children anymore.

7. Brothers/Sisters: A younger brother and sister (if mid-40’s can be considered ‘young’ :)

8. Pets: My toy poodle, Tachyon, and Jasper, my dear kitty left behind in the UK.

9. List the 3-5 biggest things going on in your life:
1. Learning how to be a true partner to my husband.
2. Still learning how to do my job better. Keeping professional distance is the most recent challenge.
3. Learning to be an effective Scottish Country Dance teacher, so I can take my Full Certificate exam in 2010. While keeping a collaborative relationship with my two co-teachers.
4. Keeping the weeds from over-running this year's gardening efforts. And enjoying the plants as they come into bloom, after watching them grow for a few years.

10) Where and for what did you go to school for?
California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA, BA in Theater.
Cal State Northridge, Secondary Teaching Credential in English.
And here I am, doing something completely different, but the skills are still useful.

11) Parents?
I’m extremely lucky that both my parents are still around, in their mid-70’s, still active and reasonably healthy. I only hope I can do as well.

12) Who are some of your closest friends?
My husband. I’m very lucky we enjoy being together so much, hanging out, laughing, hiking, dancing, cooking, gardening, beach walking, canoeing, discussing politics, music, teaching, home improvement, you name it. He’s good at the things I’m not, and occasionally I actually feel a tiny bit smarter than he is.
Cheri, who is wacky, funny, and seems sooo blond, but is also smart, good at math, generous, and more kind-hearted that she lets on.
Diane, who sometimes reminds me of my younger self, but is braver and smarter than I ever was.
My long-time best friend, Teri P, who knows me almost as well as my family – and still likes me!
Tine, who flew across the US to come to my wedding and ended up being an unofficial bridesmaid.
And my sister, Brenda, whose determination and courage humble me.

Doing things

Rules:
1) Copy this quote into your journal/blog.
2) Bold any one you've done.
3) Italicize any one you've not done, but have been trained to do.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." -Robert A. Heinlein

Got this from my friend, Diane, who got it elsewhere. Kinda fun.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bird Brains


Well, my net caught one of the strawberry thieves this morning. I went out to check on the chickens and the veg garden. And there was a robin tangled in the net. So determined to reach my strawberries that it had tried to sneak under one edge. I managed to get it disentangled and it flew off. I was glad to see it didn't seem injured. In the picture you can see the net in the background. That's my dog, Tachy, in front, left.

Then, walking over to the chicken enclosure, what do I see but four of our hens *outside* their fence. It was very windy last night. Windy enough to wake me up at about 5am because the oak tree branches were scraping the roof. The hens roost in the oak tree outside our bedroom. It's huge, and some of the branches overhang their enclosure. Occasionally they fly down on the other side of the fence. Which gives them access to a big weedy field full of bugs, but keeps them away from their water and their food. So I carefully herded them back inside, and they went straight to the food. While they pecked, I looked for the fifth hen. Didn't see her inside the coop. So I walked all around our nearly-three acres and up and down the road in front of the house. No hen. Gone.

Occasionally one of them goes walkabout and comes back, but usually it's just on our property. Sometimes they find an out-of-the-way spot under the shrubs to lay an egg and then hang out there for a while. We find them eventually, or they come back because they're hungry.

So I went out to check this afternoon and we still only had four hens. At this point I'm thinking a local fox or badger managed to catch a really chewy meal last night. If the wind blew her out of the oak tree she might not have been able to get back up. Hard to say. We'll probably never know.