When I began this blog, I was intending to write about my garden, but so far this summer I haven’t been out in the garden much! First there was lots of rain, then swarms of mosquitoes, and now we have high heat advisories. It is so hot and humid outside that EJ said his glasses immediately fogged up when he went outside last night. We have been spending a lot of time inside with the air conditioning.
EJ worked for hours yesterday to install the new water heater after the old one died. About 9 p.m. or so, he said he needed to buy a part at the hardware store. I could see that he was very tired and his back was hurting, so I suggested he quit for the night and finish up today. This morning he drove to the store for his part, and then spent several hours finishing up the water heater. We will have to wait for a while for the water to heat up, but the water heater is installed!
Usually I would have gone to the store with EJ (we enjoy driving and talking and being with each other), but I stayed home in case the repairmen came to fix our modem. After we got the new modem yesterday, our Internet worked for several hours but at 5:30 pm or so, we lost our connection again. After EJ left this morning, I called our telephone/cable company, and the woman said that there were internet problems in our village and the guys were working on it. They had the problem fixed by early afternoon. YAY! It is very difficult to not be able to do research or connect to friends on-line.
I did get outside in the garden for a little bit. A few years ago, I made a brick path through my garden and EJ’s garden. It looks kind of nice, although it’s sort of a bother pulling out the weeds that grow between the bricks. We don’t like to use chemicals so I pull the weeds out by hand. If I had to do it over, I probably would not have put in bricks, but would have just mowed a grass path. I decided to keep the bricks through my garden, which are more public and can be seen by passers-by, but to take out the bricks in EJ’s gardens. His garden has less need for brick paths and it’s a chore trying to keep all the bricks weed-free. Today, I began pulling up the bricks in his garden. I pulled up a about a dozen bricks before I got so hot that I went back inside. But, hey, at least I did something in the garden.
Instead of working in the garden, JJ and I worked to get him pre-registered for his classes at the community college. New Student Registration begins on Friday, but students can figure out and input their classes before then. I think when registration opens, JJ can just click a button and register his preferred classes rather than input them all that day. We struggled to figure out how to input JJ’s preferred classes on the website–this is all very new to us and we don’t really know what we are doing. Finally our frustration grew great enough that JJ called to ask the college how to do it. He said he felt really dumb asking for help, but I said that the college is used to helping students, and it’s better to ask for help then to miss out on classes because we didn’t know how to do it. Once the person at the college explained how to do it, it was very easy. The hardest part after that was choosing classes that wouldn’t conflict with each other. There is no guarantee that JJ will get these classes, but I really hope he can. His classes are not too early in the day and not too late in the day. I would worry about him driving home after dark in the winter.
JJ said he is nervous, but I think he’s also excited about attending college this autumn.
Yesterday morning I was waiting for the coffee machine to finishing making the coffee, anticipating the first sip of my first cup of coffee for the day…The coffee machine finished, I pulled out the coffee pot to pour the coffee into my cup…and suddenly the pot cracked and a chunk of glass fell off the pot. I have been known to accidentally break coffee pots, but this time it was not my fault. The glass much have just gotten weak or something. Desperate for coffee, EJ made some coffee in the old percolator that he uses sometimes when we go camping. The coffee wasn’t as tasty but was better than nothing. Today he made coffee by putting a glass measuring cup in the machine and then holding open the doohicky that stops the flow when you take the pot out of the machine before it’s finished making. Later, we stopped at the store at our local gas station and bought a cup of coffee.
We would have gone to the to the thrift store yesterday for a used coffee machine, but we didn’t have time because we attended the New Student Orientation at the community college JJ is attending this fall. We haven’t bought a new coffee machine from a store in years. We always buy coffee machines from thrift stores or yard sales for a couple of dollars. We were planning to go to the thrift store this morning, but a lot of little things went wrong and we didn’t have time.
For the last week or so, our Internet has disconnected and reconnected frequently. Usually we just turn off and on the modem and it’s ok. This morning I wasn’t able to get on-line at all. I used the Internet Troubleshooting feature and was told that it was something to do with my modem. So, since it was time to pay our cable bill anyway, I drove the two blocks to our telephone company (it’s too hot to walk) and told them about our Internet problems. Our telephone company is also our Internet provider. We have one of the few privately-owned telephone companies in the country, which I think is interesting. Anyway, I was given a new modem. Yay! We’ve had our old modem for probably about 15 years. When I called the ISP tech support for an Internet problem a couple years ago, the guy didn’t even recognize our type of modem. The new modem at first didn’t seem to work, so I called support, and eventually it began working. Yay! The Internet provides our education, news, entertainment, and, most importantly, our connections to other people, and it’s very difficult to be without.
I went to wash my hair this morning, and the water remained cold. I told EJ and he said he needed to relight the pilot on the water heater. I accompanied him to the basement (a scary place filled with cobwebs and spiders) because he wanted to show me how to do it in case I ever needed to do it. He couldn’t get it re-lit. He said the water heater needed to be replaced. I was envisioning having to spend $$$ on a new water heater and was relieved that he had already bought a new one a while back. I didn’t want to have to spend $$$ because we are working hard to become debt-free. EJ took a vacation day off so he could install the new water heater.
Having the water heater go is kind of an inconvenience (I can’t wash my hair, or wash my hands, or do the dishes…), but it is actually a tremendous blessing. As EJ was unhooking the old water heater, he noticed that there was a hole where the exhaust pipe had rusted through. It could have killed us.
We found out about JJ’s financial aid this morning. It is less than we had hoped. Bummer. Now we are calculating how we can find the extra money we will need above the financial aid money, the money JJ has saved, and the cost of his classes.
I am very thankful for the dead water heater. And I’m glad we finally got a new modem. And we are managing (temporarily) without a coffee machine. And I think we can find the money for JJ’s classes. And the two days EJ has taken off this week has kept him out of the factory on these dangerously hot days–a blessing because it’s always 20-30 degrees hotter in the factory than it is outside.
The problems are just a lot of little ones, and all in all life is pretty good.
We used to have two box fans, but over the winter I accidentally put one of them too close to the woodstove and it melted. We use a fan in the winter to help distribute the heat of the woodstove through the rest of the house, but it’s not supposed to be placed so close that the fan is melted.
We could have gone to the store and bought another fan, but we like to buy things cheaply at yard sales and thrift shops whenever we can. Who would pay $20 or $30 for a fan when with a little patience he could buy one for a dollar or two? We have been visiting sales and thrift shops, but haven’t found any fans. Then yesterday EJ visited his friend and returned home with an old vintage box fan that his friend had gotten from a yard sale. His friend offered to give it to EJ, but EJ insisted on buying it for a couple of dollars. When he came through the door, EJ said, “Here, take this fan for me,” so I took it and almost dropped it. It is made out of steel and is VERY heavy. I like it. It’s unique. And lugging it around from room to room will have the extra benefit of lifting weights.
Speaking of fans and melting: There are heat advisories for us this week. Going outside is like walking into an oven. Bleagh. I am beginning to long for autumn.
I got ready to go to bed at 11 p.m. last night. I was having trouble staying awake. I was really tired because I hadn’t slept well the night before. Then EJ informed me that there were reports that the Northern Lights were strong and might reach down into our area starting at about midnight. So, of course, I had to make myself stay up for another hour in hopes of seeing them. I have only seen the Northern Lights a couple of times in my life, and they are BEAUTIFUL, so EJ has orders that HE MUST WAKE ME UP if he see Northern Lights or learns that there is a possibility we might see them. We went outside a couple of times near midnight. We didn’t see any though. We live north enough to keep alive the hope that we might see them, but a little too far south to actually see them. And at the rare times when the Northern Light do reach down to us, it’s often too cloudy to see them. But we keep hoping, especially in the last year or so when the solar activity has been very strong. Even though we didn’t see any Northern Lights, it was pleasant to go outside at night and look at the stars with my dear husband.
Our son graduated from school this year (we homeschooled), and now he’s headed off to the community college this autumn in a city that is about 30 miles from us, give or take a few miles. EJ, JJ, and I took off this morning for the New Student Orientation at the school. The Orientation explains to new students what is expected of them at the college and such things as financial aid.
EJ took the day off because we are down to one car right now, and he is the only one who knows the way to the college. I am severely directionally challenged–I can get lost ANYWHERE–and JJ is an inexperienced driver and doesn’t know the area where the school is located. There is no direct way from our house to the community college, but the route involves something like six or seven confusing turns. To help JJ learn the way, we have been making him drive the route with us whenever possible. Hopefully, by the time the semester starts, he will be able to find the school on his own.
At first I thought we were supposed to just drop JJ off at the school, but then I read in the college info that parents were encouraged to attend the New Student Orientation, so we sat in on the session. I’m glad we did. It was actually kind of interesting. After the program, we met with an advisor who answered our questions and helped JJ decide what classes to take. He is getting kind of excited about school. It’s hard to believe our little boy is getting ready to leave the nest!
Today we did laundry.
When we first moved into our house, the washer and dryer were in the unfinished basement. I had to constantly run down to the basement through our unheated very-cold-in-the-winter back porch to do laundry. So when we redid our downstairs bathroom, we rearranged things and were able to make a space for a stackable washer/dryer. It has been very nice. However, last year the washer part died. Stackable washer/dryers are quite expensive to replace so each week we have been taking clothes to the laundromat, which is about two blocks away.
EJ always comes along to help me. He loads and unloads the baskets of clothes, I load the clothes in the washer, I put the laundry soap in, he puts the coins in, and then we sit down and talk and/or read while we wait for the washers to run through their cycles. Sometimes we walk a couple of buildings down to the local diner and have a cup of coffee or a delicious breakfast.
When the clothes are washed, we return home to dry our clothes. In the winter or on rainy days, we dry the clothes in the dryer, which still works. In the summer, I hang the clothes on the clothesline in the back yard. When we hang the clothes on the clothesline, EJ always takes the baskets of wet clothes right to the back yard, while I take my purse and the detergent into the house, grab the clothespins, and go out to hang the clothes. We have a system and work well together.
Our yard is quite small, so we have to use space wisely. We wanted to hang clothes on a clothesline, but we didn’t want a clothesline to take away valuable garden space. We also didn’t want to have to duck under the clothesline whenever we needed to walk through the yard. So a few years ago, we bought a retractable clothesline. When I need to dry my clothes, I pull out the clothesline. When I am finished, we retract the clothesline. It works great!
It’s very pleasant to hang up clothes, especially in the cooler mornings. We don’t always get to the laundromat early because EJ works second shift and sleeps in later. Today we got to the laundromat later than usual, so it was early afternoon and actually quite hot when I hung up the clothes. I used to love summers, but now I prefer the crisp coolness of autumn. I really don’t know if summers are getting hotter and more humid or if I am just becoming less tolerant to heat, but as I hung the clothes on the clothesline, sweat poured off me. I was almost tempted to say, “Forget this!” and take the clothes into the house to dry, but I courageously persevered until the end.
I let my dog, Danny, join me while I hung clothes out. He is very loyal to me and loves to be with me. He is a funny dog because he believes that if he goes out the back door, he will have to go into his pen. If he wants to go to his pen, he willingly goes through the back door, but if he doesn’t want to go out into the pen, he will refuse to go to the back door. He will just stand there in the middle of the kitchen looking at me and wagging his tail, but not taking another step no matter how much I call him. He never has a problem going through the front door because we go through the front door when I take him for walks, which he loves, or when he joins us outside just for fun. To him, back door equals his pen, and front door equals very enjoyable experiences. I cannot convince him otherwise. Today, when we got home from the laundromat, I brought in the detergent and was going to grab the clothespins on my way through the back door to the back yard. I asked Danny if he wanted to join me. He leaped up eagerly until he saw that I was going to the back door. Then he stopped. Nope, not going through the back door. So I grabbed the clothespins from the back porch, and went to the front door. Danny eagerly accompanied me through the front door and the longer way around to the back yard. Silly dog.
Danny was also very, very hot outside. His fur is thick, but he gets very depressed when his hair is cut, so we don’t do it. Instead, we take care to not take him out when it’s too hot, and we turn on the AC if he looks too hot, and we turn the fan on him if necessary. Out in the yard today, Danny dug a shallow hole to get to the cooler dirt underneath. When he did this a couple of times, I called out to EJ that I thought Danny was too hot and needed to go inside. EJ called to Danny, and Danny stood up, but he refused to go into the house because he wanted to stay with me even if he was very hot. So I ended up calling him into the house and then went back out to finish hanging up the clothes. Then I also went into the house where the AC was cooling the rooms, and poured a glass of ice tea.
I haven’t had much to write about in the last few days. Rain was forecast every day for the last couple of weeks–some days it rained and some days we just got stormy clouds. Every day was hot and humid. Every day the mosquitoes swarmed me when I tried to go outside. Every day.
But the weather has changed and it is now sunny. The mosquitoes seem to not be quite so bad. Any improvement is an improvement.
This morning I was busy making beautiful challah bread and potato salad, but EJ and I took the time to drive to the next town to pick up some ear mite medicine for the pets. On the way to the store we passed the Farmer’s Market that is set up every Friday in the hospital parking lot, and we decided to stop at it after we went to the store. I have only been to the Farmer’s Market once before. For a long time I didn’t know it was there, and I usually can’t make it anyway because my Friday mornings are busy.
But today we stopped in. I didn’t know we would stop at the Farmer’s Market or I would have brought my camera and taken pictures. Oh, well, next time.
We mostly wanted to buy local honey. Usually we drive to the larger city about 30 miles away because we have had trouble locating raw honey any closer, but a vendor at the Farmer’s Market sold honey. We also found farm fresh eggs there for about half the price of organic eggs in the store. AND we bought some real local maple syrup. Yum! I think we will have to make an effort to stop in at the Farmer’s Market every Friday.
The people who sold us the honey and eggs made me laugh. They were an old man and his even older father, and a woman. I thought the old man and his old father looked the same age, and only knew they were father and son because EJ told me on the way home. I guess a person reaches an age where he catches up to his parent’s age? Anyway, the old son kept trying to convince a customer that she absolutely needed to buy onions, describing how absolutely delicious they were. So she bought it. Then he told her that she need to buy some wonderful tasty cucumbers. She bought one. I laughed that she was going to end up buying everything he sold if she wasn’t careful. She good naturally agreed, leaving with onions, cucumbers, beets, and I don’t know what else. Then the guy turned his attention on us, but we just laughed and bought the honey and eggs–and nothing else–and went on to the next vendor.
Another vendor sold flowers and herb plants. I am already growing most of the herbs she sold, but I did find a Bay plant, which I do not have, so we bought it, since we (especially EJ) enjoy using bay leaves in food. The lady selling it told us that it is a wonderful plant. It will grow big, but needs to be brought inside during the winter…like the herb Rosemary. I did not know that I was supposed to bring Rosemary in the house in the winter, and didn’t understand why mine died every winter. So now I know. I figure that I got a real deal in buying the Bay plant because not only did I get the new plant, but I also got new knowledge.
We had fun.
After the Farmer’s Market, we stopped at a few yard sales on the way home. We love yard sales. We didn’t buy anything today though.
Usually it is my son’s job to mow the lawn, but he had to work today and if the lawn wasn’t mowed today, it would have to wait until Tuesday. I didn’t want to wait until Tuesday so I mowed the lawn. I don’t mind mowing the lawn, and with all our garden areas we don’t have much to mow anyway. I got hot and sweaty and tired mowing the lawn though because I accidentally ran over a string near the garage and had to turn the mower on its side and get it unwound from the blade. Then I had trouble starting the mower. I kept pulling and pulling the start cord (or whatever it’s called) but the mower wouldn’t start. So I let it sit for a while and went inside to cool off in front of the fan and drink cold tea. Then I came back out and tried to start the mower again. I repeated this several times, exhausting myself with pulling that stupid cord. A couple of times I got the mower started, but it died after a few seconds. Stupid mower. Then I thought, “Hmmmm, it acts like it’s out of gas.” Sure enough, it was. Duh. I filled it, then pulled and pulled the cord and got the mower going, and it stayed going, and I was able to finish the lawn. The lawn looks really nice, but I am exhausted.
I wonder how many calories I burned pulling that stupid start cord? I mean, there ought to be some benefit to all that effort, don’t you think?
The vines on my house grow really fast. I noticed vines beginning to creep up my kitchen window. I saw them at the bottom of the window, and then a week or two later they were at the top of the window. It’s spooky how fast they grow. Sometimes I feel as if I am living in a horror movie in which the plants take over and destroy everything in their path.
However, one thing I really, really love about the vines is the sparrows. They like to roost in the vines, and when I come near that part of the house, a hundred or more fly out. They just keep flying out and flying out. Sometimes at night we can look out an upstairs window and see them sleeping. It’s pretty cool.
This evening I took a video of the sparrows flying out of the vines.
Yesterday we ate the Ground Beef Wellington I had made the day before. As he ate it, my husband kept saying “Oh, wow, this is good…This is DELICIOUS…Oh, wow.” I must say that it was really very good. I will be making it again.
One thing I really liked about the Ground Beef Wellington is that one of the ingredients in the recipe is fennel. I have grown bronze fennel in my garden for a couple of years. It is very pretty–all bronze and delicate and feathery. It tastes like licorice. Yum. But other than breaking off a piece now and then and eating it, I have never really known what to do with it. None of my regular recipes called for fennel. So it was fun to finally have a reason to use it.
Another plant in my garden that I think is fun is borage. Borage has pretty flowers that can be eaten. Yes, you can eat the flowers. I think they taste sort of like cucumber. They are nice to put in salads for a pretty and unusual touch. I have read that you can freeze them in ice cube trays for pretty ice cubes, although I have never tried it.
Yesterday my son and I went shopping for a couple of things, and on the way home he wanted to buy some fireworks for Independence Day tomorrow–the little sparklers and noisemakers, not the big stuff–so we stopped at a roadside stand outside of town. We have gone there many times over the years. The guy is nice and always charges less than the stores. On top of that, he also usually gives us a deal. Like yesterday he asked JJ if he knew the total of what he had chosen and when JJ replied “Ten dollars,” the guy asked JJ for only five dollars. JJ protested that he was willing to pay the full ten dollars, but the man insisted on only five. We set off a few tonight, just for fun. We plan to set off most of them tomorrow night. After JJ had lit a few smoke bombs and those little snake things, we hurried inside because the mosquitoes were so bad. Those horrible mosquitoes. They are my enemy.
Yesterday I made the mosquito trap that I have been reading about on the Internet. There are different variations of the recipe, but basically you take a 2 liter soda bottle, cut off the top right below where it starts to narrow for the top, invert and place it inside the lower half. You mix 1/4 cup of brown sugar (some recipes say regular sugar) with a cup of hot water. When it has cooled, you pour it in the bottom half of the bottle. Add a teaspoon of yeast. There is no need to mix. It creates carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes. The solution has to be replaced every two weeks. I made it and placed the trap in the garden. The next day I checked it. There were a variety of dead bugs in it, but I couldn’t tell if any of them were mosquitoes. There certainly weren’t as many as in the picture. I am a bit disappointed. I was imagining mosquito traps all over the yard luring millions of mosquitoes to their deaths…
I decided I will have to try Plan B. I read that you can make a mosquito repellent by boiling rosemary, putting the rosemary water in a spray bottle, and spraying it on your body. Apparently mosquitoes hate rosemary. I, on the other hand, love rosemary and grow it in my herb garden. I use fresh rosemary in recipes in the summer and I dry rosemary in my dehydrators to use in the winter. I figure that it’s worth trying to repel mosquitoes with the herb.
However, just in case the mosquito trap and the rosemary doesn’t work, my husband and son just left to go to the store to buy Independence Day supplies, such as citronella oil and mosquito spray. We have not yet given up the battle against the mosquito horde. We will not be hostages in our home…
It rained every day last week, and the forecast is saying that it is going to rain every day this week so there isn’t a lot being done in the garden this week. Outside projects will have to wait.
I spent a lot of time in the kitchen yesterday. I feel as if I am getting in a rut with meals, and nothing sounds appealing, so I found some new recipes at Allrecipes.com to try. Browsing through the recipes, I found Ground Beef Wellington and decided to make it. Since my husband prefers homemade over prepackaged foods, I did not use the refrigerated crescent rolls the recipe called for. Instead, I found a recipe to make homemade crescent rolls. The rolls required raising, so since it was getting late and everyone was getting hungry, I quickly found a recipe for Ground Beef Yorkshire and interrupted my crescent rolls and Ground Beef Wellington to make it. My family really liked it, so I will make it again. After we ate, I finished up the Beef Wellington. It looks good but none of us were hungry after eating our fill of Ground Beef Yorkshire. We will eat the Beef Wellington today.
Last spring we bought some horseradish root for the first time. After I used it for our Passover meal, I completely forgot it in the refrigerator. I found it a couple of weeks ago, and noticed that it was growing. So I found a pot in the garage, filled it with dirt, and planted the root. It has been growing nicely. I do not know anything about growing horseradish, I do not know when or how to harvest it. I will learn.
Since the horseradish root seemed to take off, my husband and I decided to buy a ginger root and see if we can get it to grow. In the last year I have bought ginger root several times and dried it and ground it. I also buy cinnamon sticks and cloves and grind them myself using an electric coffee grinder we got at a yard sale a couple years ago. Grinding my own spices is cheaper than buying them in the little jars in the spice aisle at the grocery store and it’s kind of fun. Anyway, I have never tried to grow ginger. I think it will be interesting and fun–and economical–to see if we can get it to grow. I found another plant pot in the garage yesterday, filled it with dirt, and planted the ginger. I put it on the front porch next to the horseradish.
I can see our cherry trees from the living room window and I have been watching the cherries get ripe. I wanted my husband to pick the cherries since he seems less bothered by mosquitoes, but his back has been hurting him greatly this week. So yesterday after I had cooked and cleaned and planted ginger root, I got on my hoodie, put the hood up, and went out and picked the cherries. I was swarmed by the mosquitoes, but I persevered until all the ripe cherries were picked. I am very courageous and determined. After I had retreated to the safety of the house, somewhat worse for wear, I pitted the cherries. Soon I will make some sort of delicious cherry dessert.
I wanted to research and make some mosquito traps and repellents yesterday, but I was tired after working in the kitchen all day so I put up my feet and relaxed instead.
More of our cherries our getting ripe. Yesterday I put on a hoodie with the hood up and went out to pick them. I persevered as long as I could, but the mosquito hoard soon drove me back inside. I was only able to harvest a few cherries.
Later I took my dog for a walk. Many times when I walk Danny, I think of the Dr. Seuss book, And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street:
When I leave home to walk to school
Dad always says to me,
“Marco, keep your eyelids up
and see what you can see…”
But when I tell him where I’ve been
And what I think I’ve seen,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“Your eyesight’s much too keen.”
“Stop telling such outlandish tales
Stop turning minnows into whales.”
Now, what can I say
when I get home today?
Only, unlike the little boy in the story, I find that what I see is often strange or interesting enough that I don’t have to make up wild stories. Sometimes I see beautiful clouds or flowers. Sometimes I see an interesting bug. One time I saw a huge praying mantis at the side of the street. I called my son on the cellphone and asked him if he wanted to come see it, and he drove the car over, and we stood there remarking on the hugeness of its size. And sometimes I see people doing interesting things.
Yesterday as Danny and I walked, I saw someone mowing his (or her?) lawn, which isn’t remarkable in itself. However, this person was dressed in white coveralls with a white hood covering his head. The hood was a towel-like covering like you see on shepherds in nativity scenes. The person was so covered from head to foot that only his face was visible. I had my camera with me–because I never know what I will see–and I took pictures. They didn’t come out very well because I was trying not to be too obvious about taking the picture, and the person’s lawn mowing route kept taking him out of my sight. I suspect that the person was dressed like this to protect him from the vicious horde of mosquitoes as he mowed his lawn. Either that or he is actually an alien living among us and can’t go outside without a special life suit. Or maybe…
We have had so much rain this week that yesterday a lot of people were mowing their lawns in the break between yet another round of storms. When I got home, I told my son that it would be a VERY good idea to mow our lawn also. It was sort of a race against time because as he mowed, the sky was darkening with a storm. The sky got very black and threatening. Despite the dark skies, the storm went past us with only a few rumbles of thunder, but we did get some beautiful clouds.
In fact, the clouds were so beautiful that later my son and I went for a drive to photograph storm clouds. Whenever we found clear places with unhindered views along less-traveled roads, we stopped, got out, and admired the scene while I took pictures. This is one of my favorite pictures from yesterday:
The mosquitoes are still very, very bad. As soon as I step outside, a horde of mosquitoes engulf me. It makes it difficult to enjoy going out for more than a quick dash. I feel like a hostage. We have had storms every day this week, and I’m sure that the soggy conditions are responsible for this plague. EJ and I are researching different natural repellents to see if any of them work. If nothing else, it will be an interesting experiment–real life testing and everything to see what repels and what doesn’t.
One thing I’d like to do is put up some bat houses. I used to hate bats, thinking they were ugly and scary–the stuff of nightmares. However, bats are one of the critters that I have grown quite fond of as I have learned more about them. I especially like that bats eat tons of mosquitoes. For that alone, they will have my undying gratitude. I am concerned that bat colonies are sickening and dying throughout the world. EJ, JJ, and I always pause in delight when we see a bat swooping and darting over our heads. Last year a bat got in our house, and we carefully caught it and released it outside.
I walked my dog Danny yesterday, but I tried to stay away from the long grass so he wouldn’t stir up the mosquitoes. The clouds were gorgeous. I took pictures. Later, as storms popped up, the clouds grew darker so I dashed outside and took some more pictures. I think clouds are beautiful works of abstract art.
I love storms. I love observing radar on weather sites on the Internet, which lets me track storms coming our way. I think I could have easily been a meteorologist (or archaeologist or psychologist) if I didn’t already have the life that I love. The only thing that I would like better than the life that I have would be a Hobbit house with a Secret Garden. The house would have a beautiful library inside, with floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases with dark, rich wood and comfy couches and chairs, with a reading nook under a window. And one of the bookcases would hide a secret room with a wardrobe in it that led to magical worlds….but short of that, I like the life I have.
We are expecting storms all week. Last night we got some dramatic storms, and when they began, my son begged, “Let’s go storm chasing!” EJ, our son, and I all love storms and pause to watch them when we can. So JJ and I drove around a bit, and admired the clouds and occasional flashes of lightning. JJ drove and told me that my job was to take pictures of the weather, but I had fun taking pictures of him, and hearing him exclaim, “NOT ME! You are SUPPOSED to take pictures of the storm!” The really dramatic storms didn’t begin until a few hours later, but we had fun.
I saw on radar this morning that more storms are coming our way across Lake Michigan, so I took my dog, Danny, out for his walk this morning before they arrive. Danny and I love our daily walks together. I love walking in the morning best, but often don’t find the time to walk until afternoon. This morning was perfect. It was just the right coolness, and the day was so new and fresh and beautiful.
The only thing that marred our wonderful morning walk is the mosquitoes. The rain has brought them out and they are awful! Whenever poor Danny stopped for any reason, clouds of mosquitoes landed on him, making him look like Charlie Brown’s friend, Pigpen:
They surrounded me too, and I was constantly shaking my head or slapping myself as they buzzed around and landed on me. I have itchy mosquito welts all over me–on my face, neck, arms. It was a macabre dance to a buzzing beat: Buzz, shake, slap, hop….
Why is it that when it’s beautiful, and warm, and perfect for a walk or working in the garden, the mosquitoes must come in? It’s impossible to enjoy a walk or a garden when you have to constantly slap mosquitoes. I hate mosquitoes. They have absolutely no benefit that I can see except to suck blood. The only thing worse than mosquitoes are ticks, which bury their heads in your flesh as they drink your blood, and can’t be easily brushed off or killed with a swat.
This morning, not long after I took today’s Daily Robin photograph, I looked out the window and saw a baby Robin on the edge of the nest. I grabbed my camera and went out on the front porch to watch. I received the thrilling experience of watching a baby Robin take his first peek at the world…his first steps…and his first flight. I was able to take pictures and capture it on video.
First, here is a slideshow of pictures of what I saw:
Here is a video I took of the baby Robin’s first look at the world.
This is the baby’s first flight. I was so thrilled that I actually captured it on video! I thought at first he was caught in the fence, but he eventually managed to fly off.
Now the nest is empty. I am going to go out later and empty the basket and then wait to see if any other birds build a nest in it.
What an awesome, thrilling experience. My son asked me if I was sad that the babies have flown off. I answered no–because it is what they are supposed to do. It is all part of the seasons of life. It is why I rescued the babies in the first place–to give them the opportunity to grow up and fly off. There would be something wrong if they did not mature, gain independence, leave their nest, and start their own families.
This experience brings up thoughts of my son, who has just graduated from high school. He is my fledgling, and is on the edge of his nest, looking out at the world, getting ready to fly off and live his own life. I am convinced of the rightness of the seasons and changes of life.
I am also pondering how often things that start out as tragedies end up being enriching, thrilling experiences.
I think gardens are excellent places to think tidbits of thought. I thought that today I’d share the tidbits of thought that I thought while I went about my day and my garden. I am cleverly calling them “thought-bits.”
Early this morning, EJ looked out our big living room window, the place where the baby robins fell when I unintentionally pulled down their nest, and he exclaimed, “There’s a baby Robin on the ground below the window!” I had read (after I pulled down the nest) that Robins typically lay 3 to 7 eggs, and I had wondered if there had been more than the two I had found and rescued, but I hadn’t been able to find any more babies. But then, it’s not easy to search when angry Robin parents are screeching and swooping, and I have discovered that baby Robins press their bodies low and stay very still when strangers approach. I put on EJ’s straw hat, a sweatshirt, and gloves for protection against angry, screeching Robin parents, and went out to search for baby number 3. I couldn’t find it, and think it must be hiding in the tangle of ground cover. The dead leaves and old bird nests are the very color of baby Robins, so I could have uncovered the bird and never seen it. It will probably be ok in the tangled ground cover, and apparently Papa and Mama Robin have been caring for the two in the hanging basket and this one on the ground. My respect for Robins has risen high as has their position on my list of birds I love, like geese. EJ, our son, and I love geese and always pause to watch them when they fly overhead. We always pause for wondrous sights, like geese flying or delicate spiderwebs.
We’ve always had a lot of cats. In the early years we let them go outside and since I didn’t want to lure birds to their deaths, this is the first time we’ve ever put up bird houses. It’s all a new experience for me. Everyone quotes cute little sayings about gardens and birdhouses, but they don’t warn strongly enough about the life and death drama that also exists in the garden. It sort of reminds me of the scene in the movie, Knight and Day, in which June is upset because Roy didn’t warn her that she was heading into danger when she inexplicably lost–and then regained–her seat on the plane. Roy said he DID warn her: “I said, “Sometimes things happen for a reason,” She replied emotionally,”That’s not a warning, Roy! That’s like a… a… a needlepoint expression or a bumper sticker! Next time try, ‘June, if you get on this plane, you will &%^@# DIE!’”
“If you put birdhouses and feeders up, YOU WILL BE A WITNESS TO EMOTIONAL LIFE AND DEATH DRAMA!”
I am not sure I am ready for the drama of the garden. I was sad when the sparrows kicked the house wrens out of the birdhouse and killed their eggs. And I feel responsible for the survival of the little baby Robins, since I had put them in danger in the first place.
But I have been thinking about what EJ said after I pulled down the nest and thought the baby Robins were dead. He said that life and death are part of the rhythm of life. And he is right. In life, there are sometimes sunny days, but there are also storms. It isn’t always day, there is also night. There is summer, but also winter. Sometimes people recover from sickness, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes pain and tragedy comes, but it all has its season, its purpose, and through pain and tragedy can come growth and beauty. Like feeling horrified about accidentally pulling down a Robin nest, but then getting to enjoy a thrilling experience of observing the babies grow up.
As a wise man once wrote:There is a time for everything,
After I unsuccessfully tried to find the third baby Robin, EJ saw the Papa and Mama Robin eating the ripening cherries from our cherry trees. Apparently we have a Bird Bed & Breakfast–we nest them and feed them. So EJ went out to pick cherries before they all disappeared. I went out with him, but went out to the sidewalk instead of to the trees. “Aren’t you going to help?” EJ asked. “Not yet, I want to take pictures,” I replied. But I confess that I was really hoping to get dramatic video of the Papa and Mama Robin swooping and screeching at my husband so I could share it here and on Facebook. I was disappointed, though, because they didn’t do much more than chatter. Either they don’t see him as the Destroyer of Nests that I am, or the two of us together seemed too many to attack. So EJ and I picked cherries.
Later, I set up the hose in the gardens. We have garden all around our house and it’s quite a task moving a hose from place to place. So I have come up with an ingenious system. A few years ago, I stretched hoses into various parts of the yard and then I detached the hose I didn’t need and attached the hose I needed. But last year while I was aimlessly wandering around the hardware store while my husband searched for some doodad he needed, I discovered and bought a valve thingy that allows me to hook up four hoses leading to different parts of the yard. On some hoses, I also have a two-hose valve thingy so I can branch off the hoses again. With this system, I can easily turn on some hoses and turn off others, as needed. It actually works. I am quite proud of myself.
Today as I set out the sprinkler in my herb garden, I accidentally got sprayed in the face, but since it is so hot outside, it wasn’t a bad thing. Mostly it was just a surprise.
It is really hot and humid today. The weather app on my computer said earlier that it was 84 degrees but had a “realfeel of 96.” Everyone seems to think hot weather is a paradise, but I am a northern girl, and I love my northern state, and I melt when the temps rise too high. So I didn’t work outside much, but instead pitted cherries at the sink. Pitting cherries always makes me think of when I was a child. We had about four or five cherry trees and one year we must have had a bumper crop. We picked and picked cherries, and then a neighbor let us pick the cherries from his tree. (We had enough for my Mom to freeze 80 quarts.) Of course, after picking comes pitting–and we pitted and pitted. I was wearing a brand new matching shorts outfit for the first time and the cherry juice stained it horribly. So ever since then, whenever I am picking and/or pitting cherries, I always make sure I am wearing old clothes I don’t care about. I don’t especially like to pit cherries. There are some tasks I don’t particularly like to do, but I always try to find a way to make those tasks enjoyable. Today, I looked out my kitchen window and watched the sparrows at the birdhouse. I also watched fluffy clouds that will turn into storm clouds at some point. I love clouds.
I saw the Papa and Mama House Wren standing on the birdhouse as if they were considering buying it. They checked it all over, discussed it, peeked inside, and then realized it was occupied and flew off.
Over the last couple of years, EJ has planted several fruit trees throughout our yard. He has two dwarf Alberta Peach trees in his garden in the back yard, and five dwarf cherry trees of a couple different varieties throughout my part of the garden. This year they are loaded with fruit. The cherries are ripening now. One cherry tree is very close to the lilac bush where I have hung the basket of baby Robins. I am sort of wondering how we are going to pick the cherries without getting attacked by protective Papa and Mama Robin.
I have been taking pictures of the basket through the downstairs window. The pictures are not always very clear because of the glare and dirt on the window. (I haven’t yet washed the windows this year…I’ll get to it.) It’s fun watching the parents bring their babies food.
Yesterday evening, I went to an upstairs window overlooking the Robins to see if I could get an….um…bird’s eye view of them (pun intended). To my excitement, I could look right down into the nest. I opened the window and took pictures of them. I zoomed in on the basket, although it’s not always easy to distinguish between the lilac branches and the little birds.
Here are pictures of the birds from both downstairs and upstairs:
I was concerned about the nest yesterday because radar showed a large storm coming across Lake Michigan. I don’t know how the basket would fare in a stormy wind. However, the storm dissipated before it reached us, as it often does.
Switching my thoughts to the birdhouse outside my kitchen window: I occasionally see the father sparrow chirping on the birdhouse, but he flies away as soon as we get near. The other day he kept going to the entrance of the birdhouse, so I think there must be babies, but for the most part we see very little. I really miss the wrens, who would sit on or near the birdhouse and sing all day long.
I would prefer that the basket was in a better place–higher and not swinging so much–because I worry what will happen if a storm comes and the wind blows. I also wish I had been able to put mown grass in the basket for a more natural “nest.” However, I did the best I could yesterday to get them off the ground and away from the neighborhood cats and other predators as quickly as I could. I put the basket in a place with overhanging branches so it wouldn’t be too exposed, and away from the trunk of the lilacs so predators couldn’t easily access the nest.
I looked in the basket this morning to made sure the babies were ok, and I took a quick picture. I read this morning that baby birds leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching, so if they can survive a few days more, they should make it.
I read that Robins usually lay 3-7 eggs. I only saw these two babies yesterday, but I went back to where they had fallen to see if I could find more. However, the Mama and Papa Robins get upset and swoop low over my head when I go outside, so I wasn’t able to look very long. My quick look didn’t reveal any more birds, either living or dead.
I must say that I am impressed with the Robins’ care and protection of their little ones. They guarded and tended their babies all day yesterday while they were on the ground before I realized they were still alive. The Papa flies to a branch between me and his young whenever I go outside and warns me away. And both parents swoop low over my head to drive me away when I come near.
Here is a closeup of the beautiful Papa Robin faithfully protecting his young: