Hi there! Welcome to my very miscellaneous blog. Here, I write about everything from mis-used words to gardening, to bad habits in society to going places and seeing things! Enjoy my ramblings.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Has Sprung--A Leak!

Here we are, a week into Spring, and Old Man Winter is putting in a return engagement!  How rude!  Just when the garden is sprouting and thoughts turn to getting out-of-doors more often, it starts raining again.  March, conventional wisdom says, "Comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb."  Things are topsy-turvy this year:  I think the weather gods got it backwards.  March is leaving in lion mode.

This puts a damper on thoughts of dusting off the old bicycle and rollerblades, and makes me just want to reach for my warm blankie and snuggle time with the cats.  It slows down my notions of getting back to exercise by any definition.  This entire blog post is inspired by a piece written by a fellow blogger-friend of mine, Molly Campbell.  You can hop over to her blog, and read her post that was the inspiration for this piece HERE.

As I've aged, (albeit not gracefully--as one pundit put it--"I'm fighting it every inch of the way"), I've gotten more sedentary.  It all began with a bum knee.  I used to be very active, and hated nothing more than sitting around doing nothing. Activity was my middle name.  Not that I was ever a fan of exercise for its own sake or in its own name, mind you.  No, for me, exercise had to be incidental to having fun.  I like to play, and play at active things that 'oh, by the way, are exercise.'

Hence, at the age of 45, I asked for and got rollerblades for my birthday.  I loved skating!  I was so much fun, and I was in the best shape of my life in those days.  17 years and a gimpy knee later, those days seem a distant memory.  (And no, the injured knee had nothing at all to do with the skating--it was caused by a completely unrelated incident aboard a boat we used to own.)

Something on the order of 9 years after the fact of the injury, I finally managed to qualify for county medical care, and had the thing inspected.  The verdict:  a torn meniscus, coupled with arthritis settling in.  The treatment:  a few weeks of physical therapy exercises to get my range of motion back.  I managed that much, but the prescribed exercises actually ended up causing me to have more chronic pain in spite of the improved range of motion.  So, I stopped doing them.  "No pain, no gain" applies only in the absence of an injury.

I still take karate classes for self-defense twice a week.  That is exercise while having fun...right up my alley.  The karate moves are all adapatble for any ability.  A lot of it is mental preparation, and learning to use the opponent's own momentum against them.   Plus, on the days I have to use my cane due to knee pain, I am very confident, having learned some excellent techniques for turning a cane into a weapon. 

But I digress.  In the midst of the analysis of my knee, I raised the issue to my doctor that I'd been having some chest tightness issues, and she sent me for a whole battery of tests:  treadmill stress test; echocardiogram, ekg, the whole nine yards.  Report?  Clean bill of health.  Heart in good shape.  Physical sensations probably from anxiety and stress. Oh, yeah, there's been plenty of stress in the current economy!

So, I am cleared to exercise.  But I dont' do it.  Why not?  Well, because it makes me feel crappy, not good!  When I workout to the point of getting my heart-rate up to the recommended level, I feel  scary-lightheaded, out of breath to the point of 'it hurts to breathe,'  that chest tightness comes back... and I feel weakend to the extent of 'gotta sit down and rest, before I fall down,'  ...where is the incentive to continue?  If I feel like I'm having a freaking heart attack when I exercise, why is that good for me? Why would I want to continue?  All the exercise gurus tout the idea that exercise engergizes you, make you feel good, like you can take on the world.  Oh yeah?  How can I tell?

I used to feel a bit tired, but good, after skating 9 miles...and we used to do it 2 or 3 times a week! That was then.  Now, after pushing myself through running in place, 40 sit-ups and forcing out 50 push ups (a very recent break-through!) during karate class 'warm ups,' I need a water break, and it is very hard to get myself back into mental readiness for class. 

 But, there it is.  I still like to be active, I just find myself less and less able to be so.   So, If you don't mind, I'll skip the exercise, forego 'spinning' classes, avoid the gym like the plague, and just go play. 

Seen any good climbing trees around, anyone?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Garden Progress Report

WE HAVE CORN!!  Yay!  After much waiting and watering and watching and hoping, the corn has finally sprouted!  We now have shoots about half an inch to an inch tall.  Yippee!   In the first photo, at left, it still looks like barren dirt and sand, but in the medium-close-up, you can see a sprout or two. 

Finally, in the extreme close-up shot below, you can see that it is quite well sprouted, and on its' way! 

What's up with the eggplant, though?  Supposed to germinate in 10-20 days--it's been more than that, and still all I have in the pots is naked potting soil!  Grump, grump!

Radishes are growing nicely..although, once they popped through, and grew to a certain size, the growth rate seems to have slowed considerably..at least in the leaf structure.

I think it is about time to sow the second round,  in order to have continuous crops.  This is going to be a wonderful summer season with all kinds of fresh goodies to eat!  I think I may also add some carrots to the mix! 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Field Trip

Today, instead of doing garden work, or indeed, any work, I took a day off, and went to visit my daughter and granddaughters.  (Ooops...by the time I got this posted, the trip was 'yesterday.'  Heh, heh.)

We took a trip of about 20 minutes from her house to visit the Hilmar Cheese Factory, in Hilmar, CA.  I have an entire photo set posted on my Flickr page HERE . but within this blog I'll post a couple of teasers.  ;-)

Now,  I'll tell you a few things about the place.  Hilmar is in the Central Valley of California, and it does get hot in the summer.  The surrounding area is largely dairy farms, making it the perfect site for a cheese-making plant.

This place is huge!  As we approached on August road from the south side, there were a good dozen city-blocks (I'm guessing) or more of storage silos, buildings, pipe works and equipment.  At the west end was a long line of milk tanker trucks waiting their turn to enter the gate and deliver their loads.

From the parking lot, the main building visible is the visitor center, which houses a small part of the cheese-making operation, a retail store with gourmet sauces and spreads, wines, and a few souvenir knick-knacks to keep kids happy.

The other end of the visitor center includes a huge deli-cafe with a wonderful variety of scrumptious sandwiches available, an enormous array of their own cheeses, plus some selected gourmet cheeses from other makers.  The cafe section has many tables at which to enjoy your meal, then you can top it off with an ice cream cone or a fresh iced latte.

(You can also choose to eat al fresco at patio tables; that is, depending which way the breeze is blowing, and if you don't mind the--uhh--"aroma" of the surrounding dairy farms wafting across your nose as you eat).

Upstairs is a display about the process of cheese-making, complete with  a  life-size cow model, hooked up to a real milking machine.  There is a recirculating fluid running through the model and machine to illustrate the process. 

Most of the exhibits are oriented toward children, as the place is popular with school field-trip groups.  At the far end of this floor are three large viewing windows, through which you can look down into one small room of the operation.

Also on the second floor is space for banquets and receptions, as Hilmar Cheese also does catering.  But don't look for Hilmar Cheese in your local grocery.  You won't find it.  Well, you might, but not under that label.  Hilmar Cheese is a mass-market wholesaler of cheeses, and their customers package the cheese under their own labels.  So, you may have had Hilmar Cheese before without even knowing it.  ;-)  The only place you can purchase their own label is here, at the factory.

Outside again, head north in the parking lot, and you come to a small grassy area, cross a footbridge and approach a large waterfall tumbling from overhead across the front of a stone grotto into which you can walk, right behind the waterfall.  On a hot summer day, that grotto is a wonderful temporary escape from the heat of the day.   Most people and kids love this.  My not-quite-2-year-old granddaughter was scared of the waterfall.  It is on the noisy side--although for me, it is a noise I love.

Continuing north and west, behind and on the opposite side of the waterfall and grotto are picnic areas.  Across from that, to the west, is more of the plant.  It is so large, it would not fit into one shot on the camera.  I took plenty of photos all around, which I had failed to do on my prior visit about 3 years back.

At that point, it was time to head back and collect the elder granddaughter from school.  She was not at all upset at having missed out on the trip, as mom brought her some goodies, and she had also been promised a trip of her own in the near future.  She, too, has been there before on several occasions, so it is not as if she was truly 'cheated.'

Click here for a  Map  of the location, and you can visit their website at: http://www.hilmarcheese.com

It's a fun and (shhh!!!  don't tell the kids!!) educational idea for a day trip this summer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is There Yet Hope?

The radishes progress apace:

And the lemon tree is awash in blossoms:

Next--the title bit--Is there yet hope?  Is this a teensy onion sprout I see?  (You'll probably have to click to enlarge to really see what I'm pointing at....)

And finally, this last shot is not of the vegetable gardens, but one that I've somehow missed ever seeing before today:

"So that's why they call it an 'asparagus fern'!!"  She exclaimed, as the cartoon light bulb went on above her head....

Cheers...more to come...stay tuned!

Thursday, March 18th

Today brings beautiful weather, and some frustrations.  No photos, as there is nothing new to see.  There are a few more radishes popping up, but nothing else has sprouted, still.

Worse, while watering the corn and onions, the water started opening a hole, and draining downwards.  OH, NO!!!  A gopher hole!!!!  And we put the garden where it is as we have not seen any gopher activity in that area!!

I hope the little varmint has not eaten the seeds!  I would really prefer not to have to start all over again.  If I do, it will be a lot more prep work, and will cost money, too, as my remaining option will be to create raised planting beds with hardware cloth (like chicken wire, but much finer mesh) lining the entire bottom insides of the boxes!! 

Arrrgghhh!  I do not want to have to 'go there.'  Wish me luck!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday--Lookee Here!

Today is the beginning of the vegetable bounty!  Upon going outdoors this morning, we discovered that overnight, our very first seedling appeared!  Woo Hoo!  This teeny tiny trooper is a radish.  I kind of thought they would be the first to show up, as they are pretty quick growers, and can be used in salads even from the first thinnings. 

Here is a photo:

And look at this--what showed up in the photo that we did not see with our unaided eyes or through the camera's viewscreen--a second tinty sprout!  (arrow)

You can click the photo to enlarge it; simply click your browser's 'back' button to return here.

We are officially on our way to eating the freshest vegetables around!  My mouth is watering already, and oh, my...my brain is running amok with thoughts of planting still more types!  Problem is, would I/we have the time and energy to care for a very much larger garden?  Ironically, space is a problem.  Here we are on nearly 1/2 an acre of land (well, a bit less, when you subtract the buildings); nonetheless, a large lot, and the majority of it plagued by robo-gophers.  No, there will be no other garden areas--we are not planting these veggies to offer free meals to gophers!

But, we are off and running!  Look for more updates as the other crops break the surface!

UPDATE:  One hour after initial publication of this blog, hubby came in & noted there are now FOUR additional radish sprouts!  Wow!  Perhaps I should take my lawn chair out and sit and watch them pop up!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday for weeding

Today, I got the area all weeded.  Nice to have such soft, sandy soil:  the weeds come out easily, the rakes and weeding-claws work with very little effort.

The down side:  watering, watering, watering, as the soil is very porous, and the water drains through quickly.

However, With the weeds all gone, it will be easy to keep up with the stray that poke their heads up.  The thing about weeds that is nice is this:  they belong to a class of plants that do not care to be transplanted.  So, disturb and uproot them, and you can leave them lie--they will not grow back.  The trick is, you must fully uproot them, getting all of the root out of the soil.  If you just break off the tops and leave the roots, that does not count.  It amounts to a pruning and the weeds 'like' it, and will rebound quickly.

Aesthetically, you probably want to take them out, and dispose of them either in a compost pile or in your city's green-waste pickup, if you have such a thing.  We are lucky, there--the city picks up the green waste, they do the work of composting it--and it gets used in the parks.  Green trending all around.  I must admit, however, that while I'm all for ecological consciousness, I am getting a bit weary of  "green" as the latest buzz-word...... ... so, to rebel, today's post is done in purple!  Hee hee hee!!


P.S.  If you please, visit my Etsy friend's blog by clicking HERE .  Her daughter is facing very serious surgery, and mom would like to have her receive a flood of postcards while she is in the hospital.  Read both the Thur. 3/11 and Fri. 3/12 posts for full details. (Friday's is an abbreviated nutshell, not the whole story.
Thank you so much.  I know it would mean so much to her.  She is NOT asking for money or anything else..only the postcards.
Please also pass the word, but please reference this post, so folks will know it is genuine, and can cite a reference point. Thanks!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another Day in the Vegetable Patch

Well, Folks...

    It seems I got impatient waiting for things to sprout.  We just happened to be at the "hardware" store (OSH--has a lot more than just hardware!), getting something entirely unrelated to gardening, and wouldn't you know, they had tomato plants out front.  Hmmm.  Must be a trap!  LOL  Hubby suggested I should get some, since I like them, even though he does not.  At the prices they've been in the stores, I agreed.

    That was bad enough, but then we made the mistake of looking around at the other set plants.  Oh, dear!  I ended up with basil, parsely, two types of tomato plants, yellow bell peppers and lemon cucumbers!  Oh, I knew it!  The tomato plants were a trap!


Left, tomato plants set out: 1 "Sweet 100" and 1 "Early Girl"
Right, tomato cages in place.

Left photo, leftmost plant is yellow bell pepper, right-hand plant is lemon cucumber

Right photo, the herbs, 2 left pots are curly parsely, the right pot is sweet basil. 

I decided to 'containerize' the herbs, as I've had some herbs before, and my experience is that in the ground, they want to go wild and take over the world.  I had both mint and rosemary behave that way, so these are being curtailed, just in case. 
As you can see, by the time I got things planted, I was starting to lose the light, and had to snap my pictures quickly. That's why the herb pots look such a mess..had not had the chance to rinse down the outsides yet.

Can't wait on the basil and parsely...yummmmy...fresh pesto!!

The bell peppers and lemon cukes are an experiment.  Have no idea how they will grow or behave.  Time will tell.

But now, I actually have green things growing to take care of..it will make the waiting on the others seem less tedious.  Tomorrow, it is supposed to be 70 degrees...perfect weather for getting out there and taking care of the remainder of the weeds.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Foot-Tapping Thursday...

Well, well, well.  Yes, "deep" subject, I know!  Had to water the veggie garden today, because even though it rained recently, our soil is very sandy, and water drains through very fast.  In the middle of the hot season, I would not be surprised at having to water twice a day!

There are no sprouts peeking out yet, and I am tapping my foot impatiently.  The radishes and green onions promised "germination in 2-4 days" on the seed packets.  I'm waiting....it has been over 2 days!  LOL  The corn says not for 14 days...ok, that's 2 weeks...so It has a ways to go before I start looking for little green things poking up from the soil.

My main challenge with the initial sprouts will be to make sure to distinguish between vegetable sprouts and weed spouts.  Don't want to accidentally pull out any keepers!

Since there is nothing new to show, and I have no photos, that's it for today's post.  Short and sweet.  Just journaling to stay abreast of the topic. 


Monday, March 8, 2010

A Break From the Garden for "A Commentary on Eating Out"

     Today, it rained, so there was no work in the veggie garden.  Nonetheless, today's blog does deal with food. ;-)    

     From time to time I watch some of these “chef shows” on TV—Chef Gordon Ramsey comes to mind off hand—I do not mean to pick on him, per se--only that he is the most recent I happened to see in a recent episode of the show, “Kitchen Nightmares.”

     For those who have not seen the show, a brief synopsis: he will come to a restaurant that is struggling, identify the problems, work with the owner for a week, and usually turn the place around. This often includes a physical spruce up for improved ambiance.

     Ambiance. Hmmm… well, if the place is clean and pleasant, well-lit enough to see the menu and what I’m eating, that’s fine by me. You cannot eat ambiance, and dim, dark, candlelit caves that require a flashlight to read the menu raise my suspicions as to what they’re trying to hide. I’ve eaten at one place, at least, that was 4-star cuisine with coffee-shop and blue jeans ambiance. The food was great; the décor was irrelevant. But that is not the main point of this article.

     While Chef Ramsey is right on the money with many of the things he spots as problems in the establishments he’s been called in to help, I have a major problem at the finishing end, with most of the food presentation and portions (this applies to many, many ‘high-end’ restaurants, particularly those sporting so-called ‘nouveau cuisine’). If I am spending good money to go out to enjoy a wonderful dinner at a nice restaurant, I expect to be fed. Not only do I want the food to be tasty and of high quality, I want enough to eat!

     If I were to be served one of those artsy-fartsy dishes of 2 or 3 decorative lumps of food presented on a largely empty plate with a backdrop of drizzled sauce, I’d send it back! Who do they think they are serving--anorexic mice??!! When I anticipate a lovely, celebratory meal, I am careful not to eat anything at all within the 4 to 5 hours prior, so that I will be sufficiently hungry to fully appreciate the chef’s efforts. I  also avoid dulling my taste buds or appetite with alcohol, expecting instead to savor a nice wine with the meal.

     I don’t mind spending a good price for quality, but I do not want to get ripped off, either: I want enough to eat. I came for a meal, not an appetizer-teaser.  I do not want to leave the restaurant still hungry so I have to go home and fix a sandwich. How anti-climactic would that be? And, no, I’m no advocate of burger-joint style “super-size/pig size” portions, either. I just want enough to eat to feel nicely satisfied.

     As for that fancy presentation, can’t they find a halfway point between “artful presentation” and “just slopped onto the plate?” Just good food that looks tasty, please. If it’s artwork I want to see, I’ll visit a museum.

     Bon appétit!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back to the Garden

Today brought very pleasant weather, and it was time to make it officially planting day!  There was still some prep work to do, but it went fairly quickly, and in short order, I discovered that it was too warm in the sun for a sweatshirt.  What a contrast to the last few weeks!

Supplies at the ready?  Check!

Ready, set, TILL!

The official start of Spring is just around the corner, and my mouth is watering for the fresh veggies to come.  Some of them, however, won't be had for some time.  Corn is much slower than anything else we've chosen to plant, and I don't think we'll be enjoying that until well into the summer.  No matter.  All the crops are being planted in 2-week offsets, so there will be fresh coming up until mid-Fall.

The corn, we found, by reading the seed packets, does not get planted as we had originally planned, in a single row against the house.  Rather, it is supposed to be in a square block of plants, 3 seeds to a spot, to be thinned later to a pair of plants.  These plants are to be allowed to grow together for both support and better pollination, and improved pollination is presumably also the reason for planting in the square format.

There--the corn is in the ground, and the position of each set of 3 seeds marked by a flag. Not to worry about the footprints--that is the walkway between rows.  ;-)

The eggplant is also a new crop for us to try, and again, we were surprised to learn by way of research in the Sunset Western Garden Book that it is quite a sizeable plant.  Since the required planting pattern for the corn had edged out the space we had originally planned for the eggplant, we decided to allow the corn its space, and move the eggplant to containers. 

This is the first--I actually planted 2 pots of eggplant.  You will see them in the final photo.

Next up were the radishes, quick growers, and I also opted for the plant pot method for them.  We were surprised to find what we did not notice at the time of purchase:  we have a packet with a mix of radish varieties.  Should prove interesting, as we've never before had any but the 'standard' round red ones about the size of cherry tomatoes or smaller.

This area is too shaded.  It was only potted here, next to the water faucet.  It has been moved out next to the eggplant pots up against my studio.

Finally, I put in the green onions.  They went up past the corn, and in the front row, rather than against the house.  They, too, are fairly quick growers, and the second succession of plantings can be moved, in case I decide to put in more corn later.  We'll have to play it by ear--or eye--or maybe mouth! ;-)

Naturally, nothing is showing up yet, and it looks like the same bare-dirt photos as the last article, with just a few sticks added.  But those sticks are road maps...and just you wait...before long, there will be pix of seedlings to show off!

So, here is the final layout, requiring shots from two angles:

The orange flag between the plant pots is marked 'eggplant' and has an arrow indicating the pots on either side.  The brown pot holds the radishes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Lighter Side of the Dark Side.

Alrighty, then!  For those of you who know me as the wise-ass and comic, this line of thinking will come as no surprise.  For those of you who do not know me as well, you may be somewhat shocked, or possibly even offended by todays's thoughts.  Not to fear--it's all in fun.

As I sit here on my birthday, at the 'milestone' age of 62 years aboard this Spaceship Earth, the time has come to reflect on various aspects of life.  Gee--now I can apply for Social Security...or not...research needs to be done to determine whether or not I'll do myself a disservice by not waiting until I'm 65.  That investigation is a work in progress.

Many jokes are made around the subject of dying.  I remember George Burns' comment of, "I don't believe in dying--that's been done."  It cracked me up, and he did live a good, long life.  But I was so bummed that he did not, in fact, make it to his 100th birthday.  The celebration party was all planned and in the works.  It was going to be a star-studded worldwide affair, held in London.  As I recall, he passed away just a few months shy of the party.  How unfair!  He was cheated!

Geneaology has been a hobby of mine for a long time.  In learning our roots, it places us in time alongside various historical events, making the study of history much more intriguing than just dry facts in a boring text book.  When we can say, "My great-great grandfather was there ..."  the history comes alive!  In the pursuit of that study, however, and particularly since the ill-timed departure of George Burns, I have noticed a fairly large number of folks dying right on or very near their birthdays.

I object!  I have decicded that I must need to be immortal.  Dying on or near your birthday celebration is just wrong on so many levels.  "Not fair" is just one of them.  Likewise with passing from this plane on or near any major holiday, the birthday of a child or other close relative, or an anniversary.

Given that these events are usually pretty scattered throughout the calendar year, well, dying is just plain inconvenient--at best--at any time of year.  Simply put, there are no good times to die.  Goodness--relatives may have just gone out to buy gifts, and then the person up and dies, and what becomes of the gifts?  They are kept in a drawer as a sad reminder...that happened to me:  I had a special Christmas card picked out for my Dad, and it was put away in a drawer for a year...(I'd found it after the holidays, and had put it away for the following year).  He did not live to see the holidays that year, and I came across the card much later.  I was at once sad and angry.

 However, as Benjamin Franklin put it, ".... in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. "  Or, as my husband puts it, "The funny thing about life is, you don't get out of it alive."

I cry 'foul!'  Just when you are old enough to have gathered the wisdom you need to make a go of things, know what you would do differently given the infamous wishful-thinking line of, "...if I had it all to do over again, knowing what I know now..."..  that is when your body craps out on you, and will not cooperate with your plans...and not many years later,you bid your final farewell.

Perhaps, though, we do get 'another chance.'  The immortal nature of humankind is in the legacy we leave, and, as some believe, maybe we do 'go around again' and get another chance to get it right.  It's a worthy belief, and as valid as any, since none can be scientifically proven. 

It is also not so good, really, that we do not and cannot know the time and manner of our passing.  That knowledge would make planning how to spend our lives so much easier. What to study; what to avoid; how to do the most good; and when to start the early distribution of our life holdings, so the surviving relatives don't get stuck with the onerous task during their greiving process.  It could all be pre-arranged very tidily.

Well.. someone ought to make a law!  We are pretty good at making laws about all sorts of unreasonable things in this country--such as one town making a law that it was illegal for pigeons to fly over their city--why stop at death?  Let's make it illegal to die on your birthday, anniversary, child's birthday, parent's birthday, major holiday, or prior to one's parents!   That should fix the problem!  Yeah!

Let me put on my 'legalese' hat here, and see how that would look.

"Section I.  The party of the first part, hereinafter known as the pre-decedent, shall not by any means, whether natural or contrived, depart this world on, or near their own natal anniversay, nor on that of any blood relative of a first or second generational relationship to the pre-decedent.  Neither shall said pre-decdent depart this plane on or near any major holiday, whether of civic or religious significance, by any means whether natural or contrived."
"Section II.  The pre-decedent, shall, by all means at his or her disposal, attempt to ascertain and schedule their passing at a time not in confilct with any stipulation in Section I. "
"Section III.  At all times, the pre-decedent must pre-arrange, at the time of purchase, for the reasonable and fair distribution of all real goods among his or her surviving relatives, as defined in Section I.  Any goods which will themselves wear out or be fully used to within a reasonable expectation of their designed length of existence shall be summarily excluded from this requirement."
"Section IV.  Upon the death of the pre-decedent, forthwith known as the decedent, if it is decided in a court of probate law that any of these provisions have been violated by the decedent during his or her tenure on the planet, they shall be placed in cryogenic suspension storage until such time as they can be revived and stand trial for their violations."

There!  That should about do it!  And now, I'm going to go enjoy my birthday by not dying!