No Fleas on My Socks

The shelf in the corner where EJ painted.
The shelf in the corner where EJ painted.

This week started out really well. On Monday I did a little garden work and washed the windows. Meanwhile EJ had found a wooden shelf for a dollar or two at a garage sale that matched the other shelves we have in the kitchen. It is just longer than the other two shelves. We are considering putting the one long shelf or the two smaller ones in the corner of the kitchen where a pantry unit used to be until we moved it to another room to use as a coat closet. Because the pantry was there, the corner didn’t get painted when the rest of the kitchen was painted. If we put the shelf/shelves there, the corner will need to be painted first, so EJ decided to paint it on Monday. Of course, painting is sort of like the children’s story “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” because you can’t merely paint a corner, you have to also repaint the whole kitchen.  EJ took down the smaller shelves, putting everything that had been on them on the kitchen table. He got one coat of paint in the corner before he had to leave for work. As soon as he gets time, he will paint again.

EJ probably would have gotten the kitchen painted and put back into order, but he went with me to the doctor on Tuesday. I have been struggling, off and on, with a rash since December.  First it was on my hand. It looked like a zombie hand. Now it is on my leg. It doesn’t look like zombie flesh, but it is annoying. The high heat and humidity made the rash worse, so I figured I needed to go to the doctor.

The last two days have been spent in an all out battle with a plague of fleas. We have a dog and eight cats. The dog and two of the cats are allowed outside, so it’s only expected that we’d occasionally get fleas. (The two outside cats are older ones who are not happy remaining inside all the time, as the other cats are.) Usually I put flea medication on our pets’ skin, spray a little flea killer around, and any flea problem disappears.

This time, however, I delayed a tiny bit and bought a new cheaper kind of flea medication because money is more tight and flea medication for eight cats and a dog can be expensive. I am not sure the new flea medication worked as well or quickly as the other. Whatever, we suddenly got an explosion of fleas. I felt bad that if I had acted more quickly, I could have prevented this Flea Apocalypse, but EJ said his co-workers mentioned that they have been battling fleas too, so maybe it’s not my fault. This year has also seen an unusual explosion of mosquitoes and ticks in our area.

Anyway, I HATE and DESPISE fleas, so I have been battling with everything I can think of. My goal is to use “shock and awe” techniques–hitting them fast and hard to get rid of them.

Besides putting medication on the dog and cats, I got the brilliant idea of sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth around the house. Diatomaceous Earth is “an off white talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (such as bed bugs, ants or fleas) it compromises their waxy coating so that their innards turn into teeny tiny bug jerky. But it doesn’t hurt mammals. We can eat it. We do eat it! It’s in lots of grain based foods because lots of grains are stored with Diatomaceous Earth to keep the bugs from eating the grain!” Diatomaceous Earth worked very well on the ants in my herb garden and is a safe pesticide, I thought it would be wonderful to kill those awful fleas.

amelia_bedelia
Amelia Bedelia

When JJ saw me sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth around, he said, “What on earth are you doing????” I said matter-of-factly, “Dusting the house. Duh.” I couldn’t help but remember a series of stories from my childhood about a housekeeper named Amelia Bedelia. The woman she worked for gave her a list of instructions and told her to follow it EXACTLY, so Amelia Bedelia followed it EXACTLY even though the instructions didn’t make sense to her. When her list said, “Dress the turkey,” she put clothes on it. When her list said, “Dust the room,” (not “undust the room”) she sprinkled dust all over the house. So I told JJ that I was “dusting the house.”

EJ texted from work that maybe I could research foods or herbs that repelled fleas, so I did. I learned that garlic repels fleas and that it was safe to use on pets. When EJ got home from work that evening, I told him that I had rubbed garlic powder into the pets’ fur. (And also sprinkled garlic on the floor with the Diatomaceous Earth. Remember, this is a  “Shock and Awe” campaign.)  JJ overhead and exclaimed, “What??? Why on earth did you rub garlic into the cats’ fur????” I replied, “Duh! To protect them from vampires.” I mean, everyone knows that garlic wards off vampires, and if anything was ever a bloodsucking vampire, it’s fleas. And mosquitoes. And ticks. Oh my!

Ok, I can’t help teasing my son a bit. Don’t worry, he teases me back quite skillfully.

Yesterday EJ and I drove to a nearby town to get flea spray, but the store didn’t have what we needed. I use my socks as flea indicators. If I notice fleas hopping onto my socks, then I know we have a problem. By the end of the evening, I had reduced the number of fleas on my socks to one or so every couple of hours downstairs. My “Shock and Awe” campaign was working. The animals aren’t allowed upstairs (although Timmy is skilled at dashing up when we open the door), but when I headed to bed, I had fleas jumping on my socks. Sigh. So I got my Diatomaceous Earth and garlic powder and sprinkled them upstairs. I didn’t want to sleep up there when the fleas were more of a problem, so I decided to sleep on the couch in the living room. Only the cats are used to cuddling me, and they wouldn’t keep away.

Our cat Annie often doesn’t have a strong need for attention, but when she wants attention she won’t take “no” for an answer. She insisted on cuddling with me, and I could feel flea eggs on her. I kept putting her on the floor, and she kept jumping up next to me. So I got up and found the little cat flea comb, and tried to comb out the fleas from her fur. And then I decided to comb the other cats. The cats were funny. Luke purred as I combed out his fur. Timmy rolled over on his back, obviously loving it–as long as I didn’t pull. The other cats ranged from calmly tolerating my combing, to not impressed with it, to Yafah’s “After medicating me and rubbing garlic into my fur there isn’t any way you are getting near me!” I was combing cats until 4 a.m.

First thing this morning, EJ and I went to the store in a town a little further away to buy the flea spray we needed. When we got home, EJ volunteered to cook lunch while I began to sweep, vacuum, mop the downstairs. After EJ left for work, JJ and I herded the pets into the kitchen and closed the door. (NOT an easy task, but a very humorous one. Yafah wasn’t feeling the love and trust by then.) Then we gathered our laundry and bedding, and loaded everything into the car to take to the laundromat. Before I left, I sprayed the living/dining room and bathroom with the flea spray.

Biblical Plagues
Biblical Plagues

I talked to my friend on the phone while waiting for the clothes to finish washing. I told her that I can’t wait for autumn, I feel like we have endured plagues all summer: first mosquitoes, then high heat and humidity, then a rash, and now fleas. JJ spoke up, “Let’s move before we reach the last plague, ok?” He was referring to the Biblical account of the ten plagues that fell on ancient Egypt until Pharaoh agreed to let the enslaved Israelites go free. The last of the plagues was the death of all the First Born, and JJ is my first–and only–born. So you can maybe understand his concern.

JJ and I lugged the laundry home, and I began the task of drying baskets of washed clothes (using the dryer, not the clothesline)–a task I will probably be doing into the night. While the clothes dried, I went upstairs and swept, and vacuumed, and mopped and sprayed. Then I herded the pets from the kitchen and did the same there, as well as in the back porch. I also took all the rugs onto the front porch, shook the dirt, Diatomaceous Earth and garlic powder from them, and sprayed them with flea spray.

So far, so good. No fleas on my socks.
So far, so good. No fleas on my socks.

I took a shower because I was exhausted and hot and wanted to feel clean. I got dressed and put on a clean pair of socks and then walked around the house. The only fleas I found was when I sat in my spot on the couch. The cats often cuddle with me there. I sprayed that spot again. I am keeping a close watch on my socks and will re-spray any spot where fleas jump on my socks. I walk around the house with my eyes on my socks. Every little itch and tickle or dot is viewed with immediate suspicion.

I hope our flea measures work SOON. The pets are still scratching a bit. (You’d think no flea could have survived my efforts.) There often is a new outbreak as larva mature into adults. We will return for another can of flea spray tomorrow morning so we will be ready.

A doe and her two fawns
A doe and her two fawns

What a week. What a summer. I can’t wait for autumn. On a better note, today as we drove home from the store, we saw a doe with her two fawns. That is always a precious sight.

Outside Work

Once again I took Danny for a morning walk rather than our usual afternoon walk so that we could try to beat the heat. I took along a cup of coffee made with our own coffee machine. It’s nice to be able to make coffee again.

First thing this morning we registered for JJ’s college classes. JJ was able to get all the classes and times that he wanted. Yay! He is nervous about starting college because it’s all so new and unfamiliar, but I think he will do well.

Removing the bricks.
The bricks I removed from the path this afternoon.

Both EJ and JJ had to work today. After they left, I went out to mow the lawn. EJ had recommended that I wait until Sunday when it is supposed to get a bit cooler, but I really wanted to get it done today. There was a strong breeze, which helped, but I still got overheated and drenched with sweat. As soon as I finished, I staggered into the cool air-conditioned house, poured me a glass of iced tea, and sat in front of the fan, and then video-chatted with my friend for a bit.

Later, when I had cooled down, I went outside and dug up more bricks from the path I am eliminating in EJ’s backyard garden. The brick paths at one time defined areas of EJ’s garden beds, but since he removed the shed last Spring and reconfigured his garden, I think the paths are not needed. They are difficult to keep weeded and hard to mow. You can see in the picture that the path was grassy. I give more attention to weeding the paths in my garden. I worked until I was again overheated and drenched with sweat. I delayed long enough to quickly weed my strawberry garden and then I retreated back to the cool house, iced tea, and the fan. I didn’t even take the time to stack the bricks with the others.

I went outside into the heat one more time to take pictures of the brick bath and some flowers in my yard that are beginning to bloom.

Oh, I should say that I finally remembered that I had some Diatomaceous Earth in the garage. Diatomaceous earth is a fine, white, crystalline powder made up of the fossilized shells of diatoms, which are tiny, single-celled algae found in plankton. Diatomaceous Earth has many, many uses, including as a pesticide. I spread some on the red ant hill in my herb garden about a week ago, and when I went out to the garden yesterday, the ants were gone. I found another ant hill a few feet away, so I spread Diatomaceous Earth there too. Yay! Those ants always swarmed and bit me when I tried to work in that area so I am glad they are gone.

The Front Porch Garden

We were still without a coffee machine this morning. Or, rather, we were without the pot that broke the other day. Tuesday my husband made coffee by placing a glass measuring cup in the machine and holding open the doohicky that stops the flow of coffee when the pot is pulled out. Only a four cup measuring cup fits in the machine. That is not enough. Yesterday we walked to the local gas station and bought cups of coffee. At first EJ was only going to buy one cup of coffee. When I asked him why he was just getting one, he said he’d just take a sip of mine. Uh…I think we can afford for us to have our own cups of coffee, and I really wanted a whole cup of my own. EJ wisely decided to buy a cup for each of us. Anyway…this morning EJ asked, “Do you want me to make the coffee with the measuring cup or buy coffee at the store?” I said I didn’t care how we got coffee but I wanted COFFEE. We laughed.

We decided the priority for today was to buy a coffee machine.

But first I took Danny for a walk. We usually go for a walk after EJ leaves for work in the afternoon because my mornings are too busy. However, there have been heat advisories this week so it’s been too hot to walk Danny. Poor thing, he loves his walks. So while EJ got dressed, I took Danny out this morning. When he noticed that I was going to take him for a walk, Danny sneezed. I think dogs sneeze when they are emphatic about something. Usually Danny sneezes once when he knows we are going for a walk. Today he sneezed three or four times for extra emphasis. It was about time we went for a walk and he was READY. It was hot outside, but there was a slight coolness in the air. I poured some coffee into a travel cup and drank my coffee as I walked my dog. It was very pleasant. I love mornings, and would walk every morning but I am usually too busy. I mean, I like to wake up slowly with a cup of coffee and my computer, and then everyone wakes up and the day gets busy. The coolness was gone by the time Danny and I got home.

After Danny and I got home, EJ and I left for the local Hospice thrift shop in a nearby town. The thrift shop raises money for the organization. We found one coffee machine for three dollars. We also found a few other things. My greatest find (other than the coffee machine) was large plant pots that were two for a dollar. We took six. I chose five plastic terracotta pots and EJ chose a large white pot. I wish I had gotten more because I think I could use them eventually. Oh, well.

We went to the Hospice’s other store across town as well. This store has large items like furniture and exercise equipment. We always enjoy browsing through this store because…well, we never know what we might find. We also stopped at the grocery store on our way home for a few groceries. They have a coffee station with free cups of hot coffee. Ahhhh!

Front Porch Garden
Front Porch Garden

After we got home and fixed lunch, I filled five of the new plant pots with dirt. I repotted my cactus plants in two of them. I have had these cactus since they were little nubs. They are now quite big. I have discovered that it is not easy repotting cactus plants. OUCH! In another pot I put the new bay plant that I bought last week at the Farmers’ Market. The lady I bought it from said it will get quite big. She also said that Rosemary is supposed to be brought inside during the winter, so I dug my two Rosemary plants out of the herb garden and put them in the other two pots. I figured I better get them in pots before they got too big.

These plants all join my Front Porch Garden. My Front Porch Garden are potted plants that I take outside every summer and bring inside every winter. The horseradish and ginger plants are part of this garden, as well as a spider plant. I always feel sorry for the spider plant in the winter because for some reason the cats love to sleep on it. So to protect it, I have to put it upstairs in the library/guest room, but I tend to forget it’s there (out of sight, out of mind) and water it infrequently. By the time I take it outside, it’s looking pretty pathetic, but it bounces back and thrives in the summer.

Tesla in the window box.
Tesla in the window box.

EJ also has some salad greens in window boxes on the front porch railing, but they aren’t doing well because our cat Tesla like to sleep in the window box and she crushes the plants. EJ is going to have to come up with a way to keep her out.

While I was filling my new pots with dirt and potting the plants, we had a severe thunderstorm warning in our area. The sky got black and there were some rumbles of thunder overhead. However, the storm passed just south of us and did not hit us. I do not think we even got any rain. The storm did cool the air off a tiny bit for awhile, but by the time I finished potting all the plants it was hot again and I was drenched in sweat. It felt good to go back into the air-conditioned house and cool off.

 

Little Things Resolved…

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.

My Garden Path
My Garden Path

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.

 

A Lot of Little Things

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.

 

Orientation

Our "new" fan
Our “new” fan

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.

Northern lights
Northern lights (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

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!

Laundry Day

Stackable washer/dryer
Stackable washer/dryer

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 retractable clothesline.
Our retractable clothesline.

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.

The Farmer’s Market

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.

Best Challah!
Challah Bread

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.

Bay July 12, 2013Another 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 Sparrows in the Vines

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.

 

 

Plan A, B, C….

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.

Bronze Fennel
Bronze Fennel

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.

Borage
Borage

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.

Homemade Mosquito Trap
Homemade Mosquito Trap

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…

Rosemary
Rosemary

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…

Trying New Recipes and Planting New Things

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.

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My Horseradish

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.

On Mulberry Street

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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.

Storm Clouds June 28, 2013 006Yesterday 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…

Storm Clouds June 28, 2013 012We 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:

Storm Driving June 28, 2013 026We had a great time together. The mosquito horde might keep me from my garden, but they can’t keep me from enjoying the day…

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Quick Dashes Outside…

1004405_359986514123707_1410105245_nThe 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.

Mosquito Ordeal

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Dream house

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.

Storm chasing
Storm chasing

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.

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Early morning walk

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:

pigpen
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….

Sigh.

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.

Bye, Bye, Birdie

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:

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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.

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