Monday, August 18, 2008

Hazel on Deck

First let me say that Michael Phelps is amazing, and Usain Bolt, also amazing, has me really confused. Is he the fastest man alive even though he's super tall, and had a late start, and slowed down at the end, slapped his chest, waved his arms in the air, and had one of his shoes untied? Wha? Could someone please explain to me? Is it 'roids? Do you think it's 'roids?


An anonymous commenter on a previous entry turned out to be right about the tomatoes. We just needed to give them some time.

They started to show the faintest hint of redness about four days ago and yesterday we ate the first one. It was possibly slightly underripe, but not noticeably so, and altogether delicious. We enjoyed it with pesto and mozzarella. I am telling you. If I could only eat one dish for the rest of my life, home-grown tomatoes with pesto and mozzarella would be it.* There may be more ripe ones today; several of them look pretty red. There are 30 tomatoes on the vines in total, so we're going to have to think about how to use them. Maybe we could do something different with each tomato. Here are some ideas to start off with:

1. Sliced with pesto and mozzarella. CHECK! One down, 29 to go.
2. Tomato sandwich. Oh yeah. Actually, that doesn't sound so great. But maybe it will be surprisingly good.
3. Salsa! We've got a bunch of ripe serranos so perhaps we'll do that soon. And when I say "we", I mean Stanley.
4. Tomato omelette.
5. Stuffed baked tomatoes. With like crabmeat or some crap like that.
6. One thing I've never done in my life is pick a tomato off the vine and eat it like it's an apple. So tomato #6 is going to get a big surprise.
7. On a salad, cut in wedges. I think I might also put a hardboiled egg on this salad. Also cut in wedges.
8. Sliced up and salted or maybe with some balsamic vinegar.
9. Fried green tomatoes!! Never had that before. I have seen the movie. I was supposed to like it, but didn't.

Does anything else occur to you, tomato-wise? I need at least 21 more tomato plans. Please leave a comment.

Remember the fern experiment I started back in June? If you don't, here's the entry where I describe it.

And here are the final results:

They never looked as good as when I first transplanted them. The first fronds died, but others continued to grow and take their place, but they never really took off and propagated, and eventually the only things left were the little nondescript weeds that I only added to keep the ferns company (the weeds did pretty well), and then there was a big rainstorm, and the ground got soft, and the plant stand fell over, and I left it there for a few days, and then took a picture of it, and blogged about it. The end.

Note the bricks at the bottom of the photo. Every other weekend or so, I lay down about 30 more bricks, to make a walkway from the side of the house to the middle of the backyard where it will meet up with another, already-existing brick path. I wish it were the only thing on my to-do list because even though I sweat a lot, and shoveling dirt and lifting bricks makes my back ache, I kind of enjoy it.

We're in the process of building various things onto the deck. This sketch (sorry it's kind of hard to see; clicking on it definitely helps) shows the basic plan, give or take a few details. For example, I just guessed at the number and size of the posts, and we probably won't put finial topper things on the railing posts. Too fussy.

This weekend, Stanley built the bench on the right side of the sketch. Here it is just after he attached the frame. I was so excited I had to sit on it immediately. At this point it was not very comfortable but I was still pretty happy about it.

Here it is, completed.

Isn't it marvelous? It's the appropriate height for dining so we can pull the table over for extra seating. Or we can pull chairs up to it and use it as a footrest or coffee table. It's also ideal for naps. It's going to get stained along with the rest of the deck, and the deck box, sometime this Fall (what color??? Oh, no....).

The sketch calls for another, smaller bench on the other side of the stairs for some sort of symmetry, but it's not really necessary, and this one was kind of a pain to build, so if a stab at symmetry is the only reason to put a bench on the other side, it's not worth it. A long, rectangular wood planter, or three square ones in a row, from Home Depot or Menard's will do just fine to keep the drunks from falling off the deck.

Other plans include copious use of lattice. Lattice, lattice, lattice. Can't wait to get my hands on some lattice.

*Allow me to backtrack, if I may, on eternal meal choices. When and if I have to choose, I might decide on something else, such as tacos from the taco trailer in Gerber, CA, if that's still around. It seems like one could get sick of pesto under extreme circumstances.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Church Party!

After we landed in Denver last Thursday, as we waited for the bus that would take us to the lightrail that would take us to the hotel, I checked my phone and had a message from a lady from church. All I could make out over the sound of idling bus engines was:

"from church"
"my place"

I immediately planned on going. Maybe it was the fact that it was on a Wednesday? I don't know. So that's where we went tonight. A church party. The hostess' house was in a nearby charming neighborhood, and the house was adorable, sort of a gingerbread house embraced by ivy. It was a lovely evening and people were sitting out on a deck on the side of the house, and everyone was very welcoming. But as I sat down I smelled dog excrement. Here is my thought process upon smelling that smell and doing the meet-and-greet.

"Oh that's a shame, otherwise the ambiance is great."
"Kind makes me lose my appetite."
"I wonder if everyone else can smell it."
"Where's Stanley?"
"Oh, he's dragging his shoes around on the grass."

The hostess was so nice about it and actually took Stanley's shoes and cleaned them up for him. She felt really bad that her dog, Moses*, had ruined Stanley's entrance. Moses didn't seem phased. He just wanted to mount Sinai, the other dog. I'm just kidding. There was no other dog.

After that fiasco faded into the recent past, we enjoyed the party. It was just like every other party except that the topic of religion came up a little more often. Okay, a LOT more often. I guess it would be kind of weird if it didn't. I found it refreshing to talk about religion at a party. Usually one is compelled to skirt the issue at social events, to avoid offending or igniting the theists, the atheists, or both. But I think we found a church full of people who want to believe but defy anyone to prevent them from questioning and exploring their faith.

So, it was a terrific evening.

When I googled images on the theme "church party", I got some pretty lame pictures, in addition to this blow-up church. Enjoy.

*Name not changed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Montana Painting

Hey. We went to Colorado this past weekend for Stanley's cousin's wedding. It was great to see and re-meet all the aunts and uncles and cousins and 2nd cousins. There are a lot of Spupspes and it's tough to keep track of them, especially the smallest ones. I was happy to get a chance to talk with several Spupspes that I hadn't so much as shared two words with before, even though they all came to our wedding. I guess I was busy getting married at the time.

You may or may not remember this painting that hangs over our mantel.

It was painted by "Grandma Theo", who was Stanley's great grandmother or great great aunt; Stanley is not sure which. It depicts a ranch in Montana that used to belong to Stanley's family. Apparently Grandma Theo had attempted to paint the house and/or barn but couldn't get it to look right, so painted over it with hills and foliage. She was also apparently not proud of it. I suspect this because she actually wrote on the back of the painting, "I am not at all proud of this picture - should not let it go, but as I am too old now to do much more, and Phil* (Stanley's father) likes it so am going easy." She also signed it and wrote "painted when I was 93 years old".

So check out this painting, also by Grandma Theo, that we saw at Stanley's Aunt's house. We hadn't brought a camera, so Stanley's cousin was kind enough to e-mail us a photo.

I think the trees in the foreground are the same trees that we have in the lower right of our painting, but I'm not really sure. It's interesting to compare the two paintings and try to get a sense of things.

Stanley's cousin mentioned that Lewis and Clark described the mountain in the background on their famous journey, and that it was called Square Butte. I used Google Earth, which is awesome, to fly over the area and I think I figured out where the ranch would have been, but the river seems to be dried up and there are no trees in the area that I can see. It looks like cropland mostly.

I'm getting over a flu. At least I hope I am. I'm weak and tired and stuffy. I took a nap today. That was nice.

* Name changed.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fruits and a New Bird

Hello! My wallet never turned up, but my identity is on its way through the mail in various envelopes.

Here's the birdbath of which I spoke in the last entry.

No birds so far, that I've seen. I guess it's a little scary-looking. I may transition it to a fruit feeder for butterflies, and probably ants as well. That reminds me to tell you that I ended up throwing out my hummingbird feeder because I couldn't keep the ants off of it; it had an ant moat but that always dried up faster than I could refill it, so the ants took it over, and many of them managed to get up inside it and drown. It was impossible to clean so I decided to forget about the hummingbirds until next Spring, and I'll do it right, e.g., get the feeder out there early, make it truly ant proof, and get some bright flowers such as fuchsia to encourage them to stop by. Come to think of it; screw the feeder, I'll just focus on getting flowers that they like. That will take care of the ant issue, and apparently they like flowers better anyway.

I like talking to you because you let me ramble on forever and you never interrupt.

What else can I tell about a progress report on the garden. We have lots and lots of green tomatoes.

We haven't had the slightest hint of any ripening. Apparently that usually happens in August up here, so maybe we've just got to wait a bit, but some of them have been fully formed for a couple of months and yet they're not red. I've read both that they need lots of warmth and sun to ripen, and that they need coolness and shade. So that's a quandary. If any of them start to rot, then we'll start picking them, ripe or not, and try to ripen them indoors. I can't remember how that's done but I read it on the Internets.

Serrano peppers! With a daylily in the background. I'm not a big fan of the daylilies. They need a moderate amount of water, or else the foliage starts to look like crap, and the blossoms last for about one day, then dry up and look ugly, so you have to keep pulling the dead blooms off, and at any given time only one blossom in 10 square feet is blooming. Also, I don't really like the look of lilies. Too self-conscious.

American goldfinch!

So pretty. The female has a duller yellow back and no black on her head. We've been getting a lot of them lately. Apparently they have a later nesting season than most birds, so maybe that has something to do with it. It could also be because after I cleaned up the natural disaster of mixed seed, I switched to one type of seed, sunflower. Now there are a lot fewer birds, but I think it's because the sparrows and finches that by far outnumbered any other types preferred some other kind of seed, perhaps millet. So now the birds that do come by tend to be blue jays, cardinals, or goldfinches, or some kind of woodpecker guy which I'm too lazy to look up on Or squirrels. Grrrr. But at least the seed is getting eaten, rather than flung around willy-nilly and turning into goo.

I discovered that a lot of people say birdfeeders aren't good for the environment. This is disappointing. This Wall Street Journal article from 2002 explains that it's an unnatural food source so it tends to increase the numbers of certain species artificially, thus increasing competition for birds that don't stop by the feeders. It also encourages birds to be closer to humans, which isn't good for them. Plus it spreads disease and increases window collisions. And it turns out that Americans spend $2.6 billion per year on birdseed. Yes, $2.6 billion.