Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cedaring the Barrels, Part Two

Save the best to the last.  It's definitely a plark to put a bungie-cord belt around a big-tummied rain barrel, and then slide in its fancy new outfit.  It seems less work to create the top edge up, down and all over the place than to attempt to have it even and level.  Some constraints still apply: too great a variance in the board heights is not pleasing to the eye.
By proclamation of a passing neighbor,
"That is really pretty.  It looks beautiful!"

The remaining finish work after arranging the staves is the application of the barrel straps.  It was a month-long search last summer for the best material.  None of the lumber/big-box stores could help us with anything other than narrow plastic-type stuff used for strapping lumber.  Strong, yes, but it would deteriorate in the sunlight (why am I worried about that?).  Fastening the ends together would also be a problem.

Then one wildly adventuresome worker at our near-by lumber yard suggested galvanized steel strap.  And my engineer husband* showed me how a hose clamp could be used to fasten it round the barrel.
Hose clamp cut and positioned
Wiping my hands on the front of my aproned, carpenter-styled, bib overalls as the last strap tightened securely was the most satisfying of the Things I get to do today.  All the public barrels are now handsomely covered.

*Engineer husband has also designed an "anatomical pressure-relief valve."  To see a pink picture of it you'll have to email, and I send it to you direct.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cedaring the Barrels, Part One

Cedaring: v., transitive.  The act or process of putting cedar "staves" around the rain barrels. Creating the look of a wooden barrel by using cedar boards that have been shaped so they will conform somewhat to the roundness of the circumference of a large plastic-material barrel.

Very public.  Not subtle.
Rain barrels are on every corner of my house.  Five of them--we have extra corners because our house is not an exact rectangle.  Previous blogs have given the reasoning behind this strange ritual of saving rain when our last nine months have provided more moisture from the sky than can possibly be absorbed by the earth.  Logic says we are saving it for a (non) rainy day.  We'll, no doubt, have two or three of them this summer when we have a strong urge to turn on the outside faucet to water something.  Rain barrels to the ready.

Purpose aside, rain barrels au natural are not pretty.  The scratch-at-your-eyes bright blue does not blend.  Not in the slightest.  Last summer's installation all around the house was followed by a fancying-up of the barrel by the back door.  I put cedar around it.  Suddenly it was handsome, attractive and good looking.

Removing "Diaper" scattered the sawdust a bit.  It was
easily 6" deep inside the metal supports.
Things I get to do today says now is the time to finish the most public barrels that remain naked blue.  One day was spent shaping the staves--3 1/8" wide and an 8.5 degree slant on the edges. (Blog of 9/20/11 "Diapers for My Table Saw," shows the dust diaper I made last fall for the table saw.)  Shaping the cedar for two barrels created a mountain of sawdust.  The diaper did an excellent job of keeping it off the rest of the workshop which is really more garage, storage, and work-out gym.

I was all ready to slap those babies around the barrel, when I remembered that they needed a coat of waterproofing.  If you ever embark on any such project, here's a tip valued to save several hours.  Use a paint pad to spread the solution.  My paint "tray" was a recycled lettuce box.  My work surface was set on a little slant so the solution stayed at one end of the tray and could be worked into the paint pad easily.
Home-made paint tray.  So easy to "clean" up.

Tune in tomorrow when the actual cedaring begins.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Now You See Them, Now You Don't

Can't blame the birds really.  The cherries certainly look like the best fruit around.  I wondered if they were ripe enough.  Well, the birds spent no time in pondering that question.  They just dove right in,  big beaks and empty bellies.  Just minutes after this picture was taken, the cherries were gone.

Here's the full story.  The birds took a peck or two.  I knew they'd be back from more, so I hustled in and ate all the ones with peck holes in them.  We had a little race, the birds and I.  My besting them was front and center of the Things I get to do today.  The birds tested the ripeness.  I finished off whatever they said was ready.  There were six cherries on this branch.  That's this year's harvest.  Next year I'll have bird netting or a cat draped in the crotch of the tree.

Lapins.  Irresistible, indeed!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Heaven on Earth

Heavenly gold 

It happened again this evening.  About half an hour before sunset, the clouds in the western sky parted while the brilliance of the sun enflamed their front edge and underbelly.  Beneath the dark upper canopy the earth glowed warm and golden, a reflection of the fire overhead.

We've had unsettled weather the last six weeks, actually longer, I think.  An elderly neighbor, grouchy with the pain of illness and old-age, told me certainly yesterday that we would have no summer this year at all.  He meant it, but I kidded him back into a smile with, "Oh, Tony, it's only June.  We'll have at least one sunny day before the snow flies and you know it."

Catching this special blessing of gold from heaven bathing the land, the houses, the trees will conclude the Things I get to do today.   May we all rest well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Furry Little Critter

Heavily armored with elegant silver and gold

This splendid little fellow was hanging out on the tip of a mallow leaf today.  He/she (I honestly have not a clue) reminds me of an ancient warrior, in some sort of armor but with a shaggy bear-skin cape over the shoulders.  I wish I knew what this handsome critter was--something from the bee or wasp family I suspect. 

THINGS I GET TO DO TODAY:  admire this amazing fellow and welcome it to my garden

Monday, June 25, 2012

Called String Beans

Beans headed up the strings

I know why--'cause these pole beans, you gotta put up string for!  What I want to know is do they always wind themselves up counter clockwise?

On a mission

It's been nearly 30 years since I planted bush beans.  I wasn't any shorter in those days, and to pick bush beans you have to bend over.  I was 8 months pregnant at the time.  A firm resolution was established to ALWAYS plant pole beans.  I love picking things close to where my hands and arms are.

Stringing for the beans was first of the Things I get to do today one recent morning, and I marveled at the beans eagerness to get going up and counter clockwise.  Pea hooks seem to prefer that direction as well.  And the hops.  And the Scarlet Runners.  What do you see in your garden?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Party

It's Karen's birthday, and we had a party!  She lives on the East Coast, and we are on the West. Speaker phones are perfect.  We had her on the phone in the middle of the table while we sang the usual birthday song and ate dinner. Hard to give her a birthday hug through the phone, but it was lovely to have her voice joining us in our celebration.

Birthday Party!

Our dessert in her honor was Angel Food Cake drizzled with fresh Raspberry Puree and a side of Mexican Strawberry Chocolate Ice Cream*.  Besides being grateful for these lovely Things I get to do today in her behalf, the excuse to make this ice cream was most welcome. Thank you, Karen! May you enjoy this coming year to the fullest.

*Mexican Strawberry Chocolate Ice Cream

2 Cups whipping cream divided.
Strawberry Puree mixing with cream and sugar and cinnamon
3/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Dash of salt

Heat one cup of the cream with the sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Bring to a boil. Cool completely. Add the remaining cup of cream. Stir in

2 Cups pureed fresh or frozen strawberries
2 Tablespoon of white rum

Chill well before freezing.
Freeze in a 2 quart ice cream maker.  Just before the ice cream is firm enough, drizzle in

2 Ounces of melted dark chocolate.  The churning of the ice cream will cause the chocolate to form thin chards through out.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing

Before the nitrogen fertilizer.

They say the best defense is a good offense.  Why do "they" always have all the answers?  I spent days offensing offensively with my best offense.  In real terms, I dug up the whole front bed that cuddled the horsetail.   Then squeezed a few chicken amendments into it along with lots of ammonium sulfate.

One day after application

See the results of too much of a good thing.

Roots of the not-preferred plant were dug out.
 Area received a heavy dose of nitrogen fertilizer.
It will be easy to take care of any growth that springs up.

I'm thrilled and my heart sings through the Things I get to do today.  The digging, the sifting for threads of roots, the redoing of my iris bed and the area around my rose--it's all just play, because I'm using sweetness and goodness to outwit and outpower something that I prefer not to have. Simple as that.

Friday, June 22, 2012

All I Know About Hyssop

Flower is about 2" tall

It isn't much.  Back in my childhood, we were drilled with Old Testament stories.  I learned that when the Children of Israel were in Egypt  and preparing to depart from their slavery, they used hyssop as a brush to paint lamb's blood on the lintel so the Destroying Angel would spare their first born.  That's my total knowledge bank/library on hyssop.

The top flower drops a suggestion of itself down
the stalk at each leaf intersection.

 But last year when the herb garden was thought up, camphor hyssop called to me.  And you're right; it was one of those herbs whose seeds look like dust.  Now the hyssop stands six feet tall, looks like mint and has tasty blossoms.  

A crowd of camphor hyssop

Things I get to do today take me by the hyssop compound frequently, so I pinch a fluffily flower and munch it on my way.  Minty, fluffy, with a gently sweet finish.  I'm learning.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chicken Beetles

They got my potatoes!  Beetles have been eating great gobs of the leaves leaving only the spine and the stalk. They made a swath two-plants wide through the middle of the potato patch.  No other vines were affected.  The selectiveness puzzled me.

Damage from Chicken Beetles
Being observant is always one of the Things I get to do today.  So I observed. This "infestation" occurred suddenly after allowing the chickens to roam about in part of their "gated community" where the berry vines and the potatoes flourish. When the potatoes vines were small and tender, no chickens were allowed.  I did reason that once the plants were twice as tall as the shortest chicken, the vines would be safe.

Who?  Me?
Closer observation:  1) open gate to berries and potatoes, 2) chickens run in to browse, 3) hens wander, scratch and peck about in a poultry fashion, 4) Katy Perry Chicken goes straight to the center of the spindly potatoes, 5) Katy Perry Chicken plucks vigorously at the naked vines, 6) potatoes vines must not be poisonous to chickens, 7) Chicken "beetles" are harmful to potatoes.

Conclusion:  Katy Perry Chicken is not allowed visiting privileges in that special corner until I've protected the plants from Chicken Beetles.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sound of Strawberries

Hide in the bushes and make noise like a carrot.  You do remember the old punch line to "How do you catch a rabbit," don't you?  Why that came to mind as I tousled the tops of strawberry plants, finding red, ripe berries, I'll never know.

Ever notice that strawberries have little pockets for cream and sugar built right in?  
Nearly everyone's day starts with some form of breakfast.  All the Things I get to do today are not powered by just a cup of tea.  Our first meal includes a fruit, and in the summer we are so fortunate to have a variety of fresh berries from our garden May through August when the fruit trees come into their generous gifts.

The strawberries talk to me as they're plucked from their stems.  Some say nothing at all.  Others make a little snap as the stem breaks free from the plant.  But the one that caught my ear the other day and again this morning is the unique snap/pop combination that happens when the stem releases from the calyx at the top of the berry.  You know that sound!  If you've ever picked strawberries, it's the sound that neutralizes the stiff back and the pinching knee.  It's the sound that explodes with flavor on your tongue.  It's the sound that tastes like "mmm-m-m-m."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Lie and The Truth

"Tiffany" Rose whose fragrance is beyond the beauty
of the flower itself.  This is for the "blog world."

We bloggers lie.  Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help your garden spade?  Well. . .ah, sure, a-huh.  Yep.  But with our camera's we show only what we want the world to see--of ourselves and of our gardens.  There's nothing right or wrong about this; there's just more than what meets the eye of the reader.
Here's the real picture.  My lovely rose bush surrounded
by invasive "horsetail"

While the Things I get to do today take me to abject despair and then from this dark place back to hope again, I thought I would air the dirty laundry, show you what's in the closet, but really just add a picture of part of my front yard.

Where is that lovely rose now?  Hint--top left.
 This is my view without the editing help of the camera.
Since life is just an experiment--that word has been included two or three times a week lately--my despair over the horsetail that is taking over my front yard has moved from the depths back to a place of hope. One of the on-line sources commented that none of the weed killers on the market (and I won't use them anyway) will really stop horsetail, but that it thrives in poor soil. Nitrogen rich soil is toxic to it.  I brightened immediately as I heard my mother caution me about using chicken "litter" in the garden,  "Be careful.  It will burn the plants!"  Wow! So I could pull/dig the horsetail and seriously amend the soil with chicken poo and eventually stop the horsetail.
Gravel path green with newly sprouted horsetail.
It was all clean last week.

A vision of my pull up the bushy, tufted weed and then immediately holding a chicken over the spot and squeezing it until the soil was "amended" plopped into my mind.

Wish me well with this experiment.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Clear Eyes for Clary Sage

Drooping beginnings of the clary sage blossoms

My herb garden last year was the beginning of an experiment. I bought what the catalog called seeds.  In truth eight of the ten packets that came in the mail had a tiny envelope the size of two postage stamps side by side that had a  little "dust" in the bottom.  That fine powder was the exploding mechanism the various herbs used for propagation.  Oh, my!

Pinkish white flower stalks

The powders were sprinkled on moist earth, misted frequently and even included as car passengers for a brief trip to the central part of our state--they needed infant-nursery attention at that stage of their growth.  Left home they would have died.

Elegant shapes dance and at some point
will make "dust"

As I contemplate what Things I get to do today in the yard,  I'm stunned by the distance between "dust" and this spectacular flowering plant nearly four feet tall.  Never underestimate small things, not short people, nor little children, nor tiny seeds.  Stand back with respect and prepare to be amazed.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mum Turns 91

Happy Birthday, Mother.

She's going strong.  It's the Norwegian blood ever at slight odds with the Swedish blood that keeps things moving and provides the fuel for her life.  A cane or walker mixed in may slow her down, but she is no less determined to get things done.

So today, we are flying up to Spokane to celebrate her day.  Perhaps the best of all the Things I get to do today is give her a birthday hug.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Dusty Springs" Up and Running

They knew it was finally ready.  As if on cue the girls lined up and hopped in.   These chicks have already spent hours/days flup-flupping in the cool earth of the vacant chicken tractor.
Confirming that the Dusty Springs Bath House is now officially in operation is checked off the Things I get to do today.

"Nice place, Katy.  Shall we take a roll?"

About a month ago you all gave me suggestions for a name, something to clearly define the space, the use and the dignity of this establishment.  I took some time today to help the girls vote on the name and then get it up on the wall.

Katy darting to avoid the paparazzi.

As I stand, camera in hand, in front of the Dusty Springs, Katy Perry Chicken, Nina Simone Chicken, and Nora Jones Hen (the golden girls followed from a distance), hiked right over to check out the ambiance of the newly named luxury chicken accommodations.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Wide-Eyed, Yellow-Eyed Grass

This sweetie is 1/2" across

She's definitely a morning "person" like me. But then she's not really awake for her day until the sun has shown on her for half an hour or so.  If it's cloudy, she may just decide to sleep through.  Checking her wake up time is the first of cheery Things I get to do today.  Her day is brief--by three o'clock in the afternoon her eyes are shut in sleep.

A happy clump straddles the fence of the hen pen.

I fell in love with this simplest of sweet little flower grasses a number of years ago and bought a couple of plants.  They live a season and self-sow for little starts all around that are easy to control.

There's a blue-eyed grass I hear tell. Maybe it's a night "person,"  waking at five in the afternoon and glowing on into the moon light, adding a fresh sparkle to the cool of the dark.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Gaggle of Swifts

Completed wood project of three swifts for winding yarn
I'm pretty sure they come in flocks. But if this group of swifts were ever again to be together, it would for sure be more of a gaggle. Tomorrow they all fly out to their respective new homes here and there about the country to live with friends of mine. That's where the gaggle comes in. We are a talkative bunch who know well enough when to be still, but that event does not arise often.  So when we are together, gabble and gaggle we do.

Giving wings to these swifts is my friend-related item of Things I get to do today.  It's taken awhile to cause these "birds" to come into being from a 1"x6"x 8' piece of maple lumber.  I've learned and loved the process.  It all started with an idea.  Any idea held firmly long enough will come into being one way or another.  The thought took wings and landed, finally, fully-formed, in my hands.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Happily Homemade

My smallest Honey Berry Bush*

If you cook it too long, it gets too thick--as in turns to hard-stage candy.  I've not made cooked jam before, but my 1 3/4 cup yield from these honey berry bushes said it was time to start.  And I cooked it a little too long.  No problem.  I added a bit of water, and the most delicious of Things I get to do today is frequently remove my little jar of jam from the fridge and stir it.  The delicious part is that the spoon or fork must then be licked well. With 10 oz. being the total jam for this year from my new babies, not one drop of this is wasted.

Funny, lumpy, blue and sweetly tart

I followed the recipe in Joy of Cooking which is so perfect for the beginning jam maker who is wildly eager with even the smallest container of berries.  The sugar is added in proportion to the amount of berries. Some recipes would say to start with 4 to 6 cups of berries.  Well, that puts my jam into next summer, and I just won't wait that long.

Lick, lick, lick,lick!  WOW!
Time to turn off the heat.

The end results in flavor are over the top--tart, sweet, exploding with exciting hints of all sorts of the best fruits--the extreme opposite of bland.

I'm thinking (hoping) that the cute little pink points on the stem
by each leaf will be next year's place to bloom and fruit!

*I found these plants at One Green World (

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Herbal Experiment

Variety pack oregano 

I'm out of Oregano.  Many of my favorite dishes find this herb in the ingredients, so I really miss it.  Before I could put it on the list to remind me of the Things I get to do today while shopping for groceries, I smacked my palm to my forehead and said, "Well, du-u-u-h." There's a huge patch of oregano growing in my herb garden.

Scissors in hand, I marched out the front door to the space where oregano is shouldering out all nearby plants. Whack, whack and I had a fistful for the food dryer.

A few days later, the dried leaves were ground and ready to fill my spice container. But the smell was not familiar, dead-center, oregano.  I'd planted a "variety" seed packet in this space, and the "exotic" results I now had left me unsure.

But miracles are always in the wind.  Scruffling around in the freezer this morning, I happened upon my bulk jar of oregano and was able to top off the kitchen container.  Maybe if I eat more of this stuff my memory will serve me better and I won't need to do herbal experiments on myself.  Miracles are always. . . .

Monday, June 11, 2012

What Did You Do?

Good will and the will to do good--not just talking about it,
 but actually doing something.

You knew I've been away.  The blog I planned to write on Saturday but didn't said: What did you do to spread joy and love and peace to a mother, maybe even your own, while I was gone?

That was your homework.  As a good teacher I know that asking for you to turn in your assignment is part of the Things I get to do today.

Your turn.  I want to hear from you.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sweet William

Sweet William for Uncle Bill

He never had much. Didn't start out with anything in a poor family. Early exposure to smoke, soot and cinders from the lead smelter up wind took the edge off his portion of the family brains--everyone else was extra smart.  His mother called him "dumb Bill."

A year ago on June 11 we held his memorial service.  He lived to be 87. What everyone knew for sure about Uncle Bill was that he was kind, considerate, polite and sweet.  We sent home Sweet William seeds with folks who attended so they could be reminded of this gentle man every spring.

Mine are blooming now, and one of the Things I get to do today is share a bit of their loveliness with this note to honor Uncle Bill.  May he rest in peace.