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.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pesto with Everything


One of the musicians in the band my husband plays in, The Bru, is an organic farmer in his day job, supplying organic salad and herbs to restaurants in the area. This man plays bagpipes, guitar, various sizes of tin whistle, harmonica, and electric bass, all well. I have no idea where he finds time to practice them all, being a farmer. Seems like most of our friends are either musicians or dancers. Guess that's not too surprising, considering how we spend most of our spare time. Anyway, hubby was over there for rehearsal last week, and came home with a big bag of basil. It was just past its sell-by date, but still perfectly use-able.

Not-very-coincidentally, last weekend we decided we didn't want to go through the summer without being able to make pesto. So we headed out on a hunt for small kitchen appliances. Found a food processor, small, simple operation, and on sale! Then I saw a blender, glass jar, 600 watt motor, in a retro-style beehive shape with one toggle switch for Pulse, Off, and On. Fruit and buttermilk smoothies, chocolate malts...Mmm! We are set for summer goodies.

We had pasta with pesto sauce for dinner twice this week, then again last night. Hubby left today for a week-long violin-making course. He'll be gone for his birthday, but home just in time for Father's Day. So last night I made dinner to celebrate. Steamed yellow squash, Butanese red rice, and orange roughy fillets, pan-fried in olive oil, then topped with our homemade organic basil pesto sauce and grated Parmesan. MMmmmmmm! Then after dinner, he made more pesto sauce, so I'll have some to use while he's gone. It's not that fun cooking for myself, but the pesto will help.

I also have a big bag of rhubarb from one of my work colleagues. He recently moved to a house in an established neighborhood with a 15-yr-old rhubarb plant in the back garden. We had lunch the other day and afterwards I drove over to his house so he could cut some rhubarb for me. This plant is huge! You could use the leaves for fan dancing. I could easily picture it as part of the jungle undergrowth while dinosaurs grazed nearby. I left with a grocery bag full of giant sticks of rhubarb, some more than two feet long and as big around as my wrist!

I used 6 cups of it, cut up, to make stewed rhubarb, and I still have at least that much left uncooked. I'm thinking of trying a variation on zucchini bread, using rhubarb. I'd make a cobbler, but I'd never be able to eat it all before it went stale.

It's only early June and already I'm having to deal with vegetable gluts. Heaven only knows how I'll manage with the tomato and arugula gluts still to come! But the one glut I won't be having is strawberries. I have five established strawberry plants that have been flowering for weeks, and I have yet to see any fruit. I didn't pay much attention at first, since I was busy getting the rest of the garden going. Then one afternoon this week as I walked out to the veg garden, about 400 yards away from the house, I saw quail running for cover from my veg garden. Upon closer inspection, I saw lots of pecked-over remains of strawberries still attached to the plants.

Now baby quail are probably the cutest baby birds ever, tied for first place with ducklings - but this does not excuse strawberry stealing. So today I put a net over my berry plants and weighed down the edges. Hopefully I'll start seeing actual ripe berries sometime soon! I'll be netting the raspberries next. The blackbirds and starlings like those. I only hope the quail don't like beans as well!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Veggie Progress


Happy June! So far there are no green shoots on all the asparagus but one. Don't know why. But I'll keep at it and see what next year brings. I do know that asparagus are a time investment.

The arugula seeds I planted on May 24th have already come up. We will NOT run short of arugula this summer. I may be giving it away! Nothing in the parsnip or cosmos rows yet, but there are tiny lettuce seedlings showing. All 24 of the glads have sent up leaves. It'll be very interesting to see what colors they are. I saw a beautiful one at the store last week. Dark red with white edges. I doubt I have that one in this bunch, but it's something to look for in future.

We've had a good amount of rain the past two weeks, though not enough to keep the garden going. That's alright, it's good for our general region. We're only at about 50% of normal so far this year.