Saturday, September 29, 2007
As soon as his plane took off it started to snow. First if was big globs of snow like loose snowballs going splat, splat, splat on my windshield, then it got down to business and snowed for real.
I had taken the frost blankets off the garden Monday, so I ran out and put them back on. It was lots of fun. I used an 8 foot garden stake as an arm extension to hook the fabric up and over the supporting poles and plants. It took me an hour working on my own and by the time I was done I was soaked and cold.
Since I'm a red head, I have no naturally visible eyebrows or eyelashes. Every morning, I goop myself up thoroughly with mascara to look like I have a face. Running around in soggy snow is not good for mascara. By the time I was finished with the plants, I looked like Alice Cooper.
I came in, pealed my dripping clothes off - amazing how hard it is to pull clothes off when they're that wet - and took a long, hot shower.
A couple hours later, I realized that the warm and toasty after shower feeling was wearing off way too quickly, so I went to bump up the thermostat. It said 63, so I pushed it up to 68. No heat. Pushed it up to 70. No heat. I went to the basement and stared at the big furnace box and the ductwork and pipes and had no idea what to do.
Called the Engineer to see if he had any ideas.
He said to turn the thermostat up.
Well duh! Like that's not the first thing I tried.
He had no ideas beyond that and, besides, the waiter was serving his dinner.
I found the power switch for the furnace and decided, what the heck, if rebooting works for computers, maybe it will work for a furnace. I turned it off and listened to funny noises. I turned it back on and listened to more funny noises, including water gurgling.
So I called the heating and air company that had been out last week to install a whole house humidifier and had left the job half done because of a faulty motor on the unit. After about an hour, the on-call guy called me back and we went through a bunch of diagnostics. The water gurgling turned out to be the clue he needed to diagnose the problem over the phone. The condensate drain was plugged - which needed a part from Lennox to fix and Lennox isn't open until Monday...
He suggested I try to blow out the obstruction. I blew until my cheeks popped to no avail.
To heck with that! Let's go postal on it!
I got out my trusty keyhole saw and cut a hole in the condensate drain trap. Smart girl that I am, I had a bucket ready for the spurting water.
Heat's back on and I've put in an order for a new drain trap cap that's spring loaded for easy clean-out to be installed when the motor for the humidifier blower comes in.
The bucket will work until then.
I think spiders are gloriously beautiful; so many arthropods are. Snakes and lizards are lithe and lovely. Almost anything imaged by a scanning electron microscope is marvelous.
I think big noses are magnificent. Had I been Roxanne, Cyrano would have had no need for de Neuvillette to front for him.
On 9-26 Cicada, of Bioephemera fame, posted this painting and speculated upon the live girl's size and lack of cellulite.
My first impressions were "cool skeleton" and "beautiful hands." Hands are darn hard to paint. I suspect (looking at her perky bosom) that the live model was probably a teenager which would explain the lack of dimples and ripples on her glowing flesh.
Being less than svelte myself, I've done a good bit of thinking about size and beauty. Except for the slender figures in Egyptian art, seems to me that historically most Western females have been pretty robust. I would suspect that, back when food was harder to come by, a "strapping" figure was not only a sign of health, but also a sign of wealth. And what could be more attractive than that combination?
Even today, Japanese men hyperventilate with lust at the thought of Marilyn Monroe.
These ladies could hardly be called thin, but they surely are all woman.
Then in 1967 a British model called Twiggy arrived on the scene, and it hasn't been the same since.
Darn it all!
The dust mite micrograph was downloaded at http://www.housedustmite.org/ , the picture is courtesy of Electron Microscopy and Audio Visual unit of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Friday, September 28, 2007
I have a friend who sells geraniums as a fund raiser every spring and she wanted some pictures of the flowers' colors to help her sell them next year, so I went up to her house with my trusty Canon to oblige.
We got a bit of a surprise on her driveway, Crotalus viridis viridis, alias the Prairie Rattlesnake. It was just a little bugger, but practically invisible against the concrete.
This is why, when we garden in the spring and fall, we carry a tomato stake with us and let it probe a path ahead of our feet.
If you feel like reading a longer poison snake story, click here.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I've been trying to get the electrician out to finish the job since May. In 4+ months his crew has been out for a total of about six hours. I truly appreciate that the boss pulled Pete off installing new Austrian crystal chandeliers in the Governor's mansion (second set in a year - my tax dollars at work) to rough in my swamp cooler when it was over 100 out, but I really would like to get the new service and panels installed before the snow flies. Pete and RePete do a good job when they're here, but, geeze, I wish their boss would send them on a regular basis.
I drew this totem pole to show where I figure I exist in the pecking order...
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I don't like rare pork or beer, he doesn't like chicken or fruit. Which, of course, means I'm the picky one since it's entirely reasonable to not like chicken or fruit and insane to not like beer or rare pork. (As a Latvian, it's beyond his comprehension that life could exist without beer. He shudders at the very thought.)
I made Runge pickles, which he loves, out of my overgrown Armenian cucumbers, but he won't eat them unless I dry them off with paper towels first.
And he calls me picky.
Monday, September 24, 2007
We have frost warnings for my neck o' the woods tonight and I still have a bizillion green tomatoes on the vines. Which just happen to be more than seven feet high! (No, I did not feed them steroids.)
Unfortunately, I do not like fried green tomatoes -- though I did once make a pretty tasty green tomato pie...
So this afternoon, I went down to Mill Creek Nursery and bought three 10'x12' "frost blankets."
It was quite a job getting them up and over the tomatoes. I had to wait for the Engineer to get home to help me with it. I did the front bed myself. I'm tall enough to get the fabric over the eggplant bushes - they're only about 4 feet tall.
Cross your fingers for my veggies. The Ghost Garden, all dressed up for Halloween.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Wish I did.
I figure that's why the cats like the Engineer (besides that he will intermittently fill empty crunchie dishes and open doors), they recognize him as one of their own.
Cattitude defined: I do what I want, when I want, how I want, and if you don't like it, that's your problem.
I don't know why this word isn't in the dictionary.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
When I was a fruit raiding kid, it wasn't just the peach tree that initially attracted me. Another neighbor had a sweet cherry tree. That tree was off limits during the daytime, but at night, when no one could see, lots of us kids liberated a few cherries.
The purloined cherries were sweet and delicious until the night I thought I felt something wriggle as I took a bite.
I checked it out under the closest streetlight and discovered, worse than a worm, half a worm.
But, of course, there are always kids of (how shall I put this?) alternate proclivities. One such was the famous and beloved Uncle Binky.
When I was in the first half of grade school, my best friend had a three years younger brother, a "little kid". Uncle Binky was a solidly built and dignified little boy. He could have worn spats without looking out of character. Such was his presence, that none of the older kids teased or harrassed him. He was also legendary for his devouring prowess.
When the hunger hit him, Uncle Binky would scout out a good sized ant hill. Not any old ant hill would do, it had to be one of the hills little red ants build in the cracks in the sidewalk.
Uncle Binky would find a slender twig, squat down by the hill and begin pushing grains of sand down the entry hole. As anyone who's dropped stuff down an ant hill entry hole knows, the ants do not like this and immediately begin swarming out of the hole to find the vandal and repair the damage.
The ants would rush out and Uncle Binky would carefully and deliberated push more grains into the hole. When the hill was crawling with frantic, antena waving ants, Uncle Binky would scoop up the whole hill, ants, sand and all, and pop it into his mouth.
He would chew a few times before swallowing, then sit back with a beatific smile on his face that would do justice to any statue of Budah.
Uncle Binky was one ant eating mensch of a kid.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I'm in the mood to write scurryless limericks tonight, but everything I think of is just a wee bit too vulgar or just downright dirty. Why is it that the words that rhyme with the most other words are naughty?
Though Sue was a lovely young lass,
Her language and manners were crass,
She liked to drink beer,
'Till she felt downright queer,
Then she'd gracelessly fall on...
Abort! Abort! I can tell where this one is headed.
That famous young man from Nantucket,
Stuffed all of his clothes in a bucket,
He ran around nude,
And was terribly rude,
No, can't go there! What if my Mom was to read this?!?!?
She thought she should make up a limerick,
(Now wouldn't that be quite a slick trick)
To tell her ex love,
He could give it a shove,
Aw geeze, another one I can't finish.
Dang! Guess I'll try again tomorrow.
Monday, September 17, 2007
It's been fun getting into and out of the house because the driveway is the only decent path. I like to wear sandals when it's warm, and the wire mesh lurks to snare careless feet. To walk on it in sandals, I have to lift my feet straight up and place them straight down, making sure I step squarely on the mesh so it doesn't move.
There is a gate around the far side of the house, but it has not been used for at least a decade. To use it, one must wade through a wild patch of vinca to the gate, then traverse around the back of the house where the Engineer has been digging trenches.
The vinca patch worries me a bit because rattlesnakes come down from the hillside above the house in the fall and the vinca's a great place to hide. I'd really rather not have to wear hip boots to enter and exit my own home.
Monday morning, 6:00 a.m. the cement is supposed to be poured.
Is it even light then?
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Amazing how flexible speed limits are.
I don't drink. No particular virtue or willpower on my part, I simply don't like the way it tastes. I am, therefor, always the designated driver.
Saturday evening, we went over to some friends' house for cocktails (I had ice water), then out to dinner. We went from Holladay to downtown Salt Lake City, along 215 and 80. Speed limit is posted, for the most part, at 65 miles per hour.
When I tried to drive 65, everybody was blowing by me like I was standing still. Same thing going home after dark. To quote that classic Mazda commercial, "Zoom, zoom, zoom!"
For many years, I lived in Michigan and would occasionally drive to West Virginia to visit my grandparents. In Michigan, everyone drives like bats out of Hades.
Then you hit the Ohio border and your brakes. You go even a couple miles over the limit in Ohio, they'll pop you. I think speeding ticket revenues the state's top income source. You can always tell the folks who haven't visited Ohio before. They're pulled over by the side of the road having a serious conversation with a trooper.
Then you cross over the bridge into West Virginia and it's time to start flying low again.
Friday, September 14, 2007
It's amazing how red the sky over the valley looks with the reflected light of the city. When the lights around the house are working, it's not as noticeable.
When I was a kid, I loved the dark. (I still do.) My bedroom had french doors out onto a balcony that had a pair of iron pipes supporting one corner. Some nights, when the weather was good and all was still, I would quietly exit through the french doors and slide down the pipes to escape.
Getting back in was a little more challenging for me, I couldn't shin back up the pipes. I would park my bike next to the garage window and climb from the seat of my bike onto the window sill. From there I could reach the edge of the balcony and scramble up.
When I was in high school, Dad bought a big car (we called it "The PimpMobile" because it was so overly plush.) Mom's car was parked in the garage and Dad's under the balcony/carport. The PimpMobile as so big the back third of it poked out from under the balcony. My brother's bedroom windows opened over the balcony. He would climb out his window to escape on night adventures and slide down the pipes. On his return, he would walk up the trunk and roof of Dad's car to get back in.
My brother was not in the habit of using his brain when he was in high school. He never seemed to realize that Dad knew about his midnight excursions by the footprints on the car.
My sister wasn't as lucky as my brother and me. Her room was on the far corner of the house from the balcony. When she wanted to sneak out, she would have to creep, ever so silently -- Mom had ears like a bat -- down the stairs and into the half-bath by the kitchen. She'd stand on the toilet and squirm out through the window.
None of us ever thought of going through a regular door. I'm not sure if it was the fear that Mom would hear us or the frisson of adrenaline our clandestine modes of egress brought.
In my early autumn prowling, I would head for the peach tree. Down three blocks, across the street, hang a right, then slip between two houses and into the back yard where the peach tree grew.
The lady who owned the peach tree had given the neighborhood kids permission to pick peaches. There were more than she could ever use. During daylight hours, we did.
But, somehow, legitimate peaches never tasted as sweet as those pilfered by the light of the moon.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
It made quite a stimulating alarm clock.
I've grown strong over the last year, though, and once I knew what it was, I went right back to sleep until Sachi woke me at 9:00 starving for her breakfast.
What was really amazing was that by 9:00 they'd finished tearing the rest of it out. Fast work!
Of course, they did cut a cable and a sprinkler line, but, what the hay.
And, yes, the driveway is as steep as it looks. Most all of my friends have admitted to being afraid of it.
Kitsu checked it out after the concrete guys went away and said it was the biggest litter box she'd ever seen.
They're putting down gravel to level it today and bulding the forms. Hopefully they'll pour the new concrete tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The driveway has been in bad shape since we moved into this house, but lately the chunks of concrete at the bottom have been shifting under the car's tires when driven over. Not a comfortable feeling when there's a drop-off on one side of the driveway...
Today they came to tear the driveway out so we could pour a new one. And discovered that we don't have a single driveway, we have two, one on top of the other.
Which, oh, by the way, will cost extra.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I reckoned without the school field trips. The Agriculture building was aswarm with short people - all on a mission.
The Ag Building tries to represent the whole state. Around the inside perimeter of the building are booths for each county's Ag/PR display, a refrigerator case for the butter cow, and Bart.
The grade school kids show up at the Ag Building in classroom groups with their scavenger hunt papers in hand. What is the theme of this year's State Fair? (Fill Up On Fun!) What is Juab County's primary agricultural product? (alfalfa) Where is Davis County and what does its booth feature this year? (north of Salt Lake City on the east side of the Great Salt Lake, the Ogden Balloon Festival) How many pounds of butter did it take to make the butter cow? (Do people eat it after the fair? Ewww!)
I don't know how many pounds of butter went into the butter cow this year, but I do know that nobody eats it afterwards. They freeze it and use it again next year. Or so I've been told. So I sincerely hope.
The first year I womaned the Master Gardener booth at the fair, the butter cow was shown knocking over a butter Bart and his butter pail.
Bart is one of Salt Lake County's founding Master Gardeners. I suspect he's run the State Fair Ag Building since before dirt was invented. He was wearing his standard uniform today: overalls, plaid shirt, red baseball cap and a toothpick in the corner of his mouth. The only times I've seen him out of full uniform are Christmases, when he swaps the ball cap for a Santa hat.
His desk is at the back of the building by the water fountains and the women's room, convenient for answering school kids' questions and flirting with the ladies.
And Bart is a ladies' man, he gets all the cute girls.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Kitsu leisurely nibbles at her food, pausing to contemplate the universe between bites.
Sachi wolfs hers down like a starving dog.
Then she homes in on Kitsu's dish. Kitsu would let Sachi muscle her out of the way and devour a second breakfast.
So every morning, I have to stand guard, interposing my big ugly human feet between Sachi and Kitsu's breakfast. All three of us understand the game. All three of us know that if my vigilance slips for even a moment, Sachi will suck up Kitsu's portion.
Before we had all the flooding and remodeling, back when the doors fit their frames properly, I would simply carry Sachi back to the bedroom with me and push the door shut, but not latched. When Kitsu was done eating, she would come and open the door to let her sister out. Now that the doors don't hang right, I have to stand guard -- and I'd better not let myself be distracted for an instant.
Tomorrow morning, I will take the camera with me and see if I can snap a picture of the morning kitty meal.
Big Trash Day is an opportunity for manly men to prove their might by constructing the biggest heap of junk for the city to haul away. The Engineer and our across the street neighbor, Dr. G., a semiretired ear, nose and throat specialist, have been in serious competition since we moved into this house seven Big Trash Days ago. The Engineer usually wins. It's close this year, though.
Dr. G's pile is longer this year. In addition to the usual yard waste, it contains broken pots and pieces of shelving.
The Engineer's is taller and contains the best parts of our junipers (see a rant about that here) as well as lots of blue board insulation and detritus from our year of remodeling. The office chair in front of the heap has lost pressure in the gas cylinder that facilitates changing the height of the seat. This was quite entertaining, as you never knew when the cylinder was going to give a gusty sigh and drop your derriere to the floor. Since we live in one of the nicer neighborhoods, many trash picker trucks cruise the streets looking for good junk. Some specialize. The aluminum picker came by this morning and pulled out the tracks for our defunct vertical blinds. He left the blinds themselves.
The office chair didn't last long at all before it disappeared. Bet somebody gets a surprise when they try it out...
Saturday, September 8, 2007
I don't get too excited about yellow jackets -- unless, of course, one has stung me. That gets me riled and plotting bugicide. If I'm eating by myself, I usually just put a little bit of meat at the far end of the table and everyone eats in peace.
The Engineer isn't so blasé about wildlife at the dinner table, however. He seems to feel it's his manly duty to chase any intruders away from his meal; my meal too.
He had left the barbeque tongs that he used for the steak on the far side of the table. When the yellow jacket discovered them, with their lovely stuck on meaty morsels, the Engineer began swatting at the yellow jacket with the tongs. The battle royal quickly devolved into a slapstick sword fight, which the hornet appeared to be winning.
When the Engineer snapped the tongs a little too close to my nose (a la Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid catching a fly with chopsticks), I said. "Don't you think that going after the bee with those tongs is a little like using a sausage to chase a dog away?"
The Engineer looked at the tongs for a moment before laughing and admitting that maybe I had a point.
So he went after the yellow jacket with his bare hands. He swatted and slapped and grabbed at the yellow jacket. I kept saying, "It's going to sting you." He slapped at it as it buzzed a knife and I decided it was time to end it.
"That's not how you kill a yellow jacket," I said, "That's how you get stung or cut.
"Sit still for a minute and I'll show you how it's done."
I gave the yellow jacket time to alight on the knife and start working on a beefy bit. Then, quick as a snake, I popped it with the back of my fork. It got wedged between the tines, so I placed it on my empty plate and sliced its little head off with my knife.
The Engineer was staring at me wide eyed, so I smiled (with lots of teeth) and said, "The female is the deadlier of the species."
I think he was appalled.
Friday, September 7, 2007
When I saw him standing near the back door, waving his antennae, I knew he was looking for romance. Though his was a face only a mother could love (from what I've seen, mantis mothers would view their offspring as objects of lunch rather than affection), I could tell instantly he was sincere.
So I dropped a Kleenex over him and carried him in to meet his blind date.
Understanding how tempestuous female mantids can be, I dropped a few crickets into the plastic bug box to distract her before introducing her soon to be true love.
He immediately realized that he was in the presence of a goddess and made a swift retreat to the far corner of the bug box to spy out the lie of the land.
This was not a dumb male.
Eventually he sidled up to her from the rear, tap, tap, tapping a semaphore with his long antennae. When she turned her triangular head to look at a particularly lively cricket, he dove quickly between her wing and her abdomen. He clutched her wing margin with his foreleg and kept his head buried beneath it until overcome by love.
Lady mantises, you see, when in the arms of love, have a disconcerting habit of chewing their sweetie's head off.
When a male praying mantis says, "Love hurts," he ain't kidding.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
While I cook dinner, the Engineer does his nightly patrol and changes into after-work clothes (play clothes as my Mom used to call them) then sets the table. Tonight was no exception.
I looked at the sky and said, "It looks pretty dark, maybe we'd better eat inside."
He said, "No, it's going up the canyon, it'll pass us by." To make sure, he ran out to the front of the house and studied the sky. "No worries."
As we carried our plates out, it was growing rapidly even darker. There was a big wind up on the hill, evinced by a great cloud of brown dust hazing the view. Again I suggested that perhaps we should consider eating inside.
"No, it won't rain, we're only getting the edge of it."
So I decided I would see how long he'd last.
The wind picked up. Heck, the wind picked up the deck chair and threw it against the house. The salad dressing bottle blew off the table. Three pickets blew off the fence. The trees thrashed and dropped branches into the pool.
As huge raindrops splatted into us, we carried the picnic table under the overhang between the carport and kitchen door, then continued eating. The rain drops, however large and hard driven, were few and far between. Not even enough rain to knock the dust down. Dinner was getting a little gritty.
We finished dinner before we went back into the house. I carried the light weight things that I'd been holding down back in first. Didn't dare let go of them, they'd have taken flight.
When we watched the news at 9:00, the weather lady reported that wind gusts at the meteorology station about a mile from the house measured 63 miles per hour.
An overgrown Armenian cucumber tastes much like a small one. If you cut it up and scoop out the seeds, you can still eat it in a salad. I don't know about you, but I can only eat so many salads before I feel like a rabbit, so that doesn't use them all up.
I've tried them breaded and fried, a la summer squash. Not bad, but bland. Maybe with a spicy breading or dip they would be good. I plan on trying them in a stir fry sometime soon. I love cucumbers in stir fry, so I have high hopes.
Today I had a friend over for lunch and was planning to have a frittata, salad with fresh garden veggies and zucchini bread. When I got the zucchini out of the fridge, I discovered it had a soft spot. The trash can was my only alternative. Oh well. So I used Armenian cucumber instead of zucchini. Put it through the food processor, soft seeds and all.
The bread was yummy!
I'm going to try making Runge Pickles with them tonight.
½ Gallon Sliced Cucumbers
2 C Sugar
¼ C Canning Salt
2 C White Vinegar
2 Medium Onions, Sliced
1 Tbs Dried Crushed Red Pepper
½ tsp Powdered Alum
1 tsp Turmeric
Put everything except cucumbers into a kettle and boil. Cool. Put cucumbers into ½ gallon glass container, pour fluid over. Let stand, unrefrigerated, overnight. Chill and serve.
Monday, September 3, 2007
I find a nice rock and sit quietly, watching the creek, looking at plants and rocks. Some summers I will see a dipper, a plain looking little gray bird with a cocked, wren-like tail. The dipper bobs along the bank of the creek, bouncing from rock to rock, then suddenly dives into the water. Dippers walk and fly underwater seeking their food.
Last time I sat on my rock, I was thoroughly checked out by a chipmunk. He came within about five feet of me, curious, but nervous and tail twitching, before he told me I was ugly and smelled bad. Then he scampered off.
When I'm out on my rock, I feel like I could live at the cabin, but I know I'm too spoiled by the comforts of modern urban life.
Traveling from Utah to Idaho along Interstate 84, just over the border, there's a sign that says, "No Stopping Dangerous Dust Storms." Half a mile further on, there's a rest area.
Maybe if the DOT officially sanctions the stop it isn't dangerous after all?
Or my favorite: you have to have so many years experience to get a job. But how do you get the experience if you can't get a job without having experience.
Now that's a Catch 22 if ever there was one.
Contradictory things are so common we have a special word for it - oxymoron (which I used to think was somebody as dumb as an ox): jumbo shrimp, military intelligence, alone together, honest politician (or lawyer), clear as mud.
And, of course, in all things, Murphy Rules.
Sigh. No wonder sometimes I don't know which end is up.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
He acquired the ChainsawBob moniker about a month after we moved into this house when he went up on the roof with a chainsaw and cut any branch that hung over the roof. If an airplane flew over the house, the view would be of a perfect, house-shaped, cut-out in the greenery. Whenever he goes to a Master Gardener function with me, everyone calls him Bob. The past president won't let him into her yard until she's frisked him for power tools.
He always waits until I leave before he wrecks his master works.
The vinca jungle used to be full of irises and assorted bulbs and perennials. No more. Whenever he thinks it's looking a little too untamed, he scalps it with the lawn mower. He's killed most all of the flowers, only the vinca, the mighty daylily and the yellow rose survive. He cuts any shrub or small tree into either a ball or a rectangle. He regularly weed whacks my daylilies and violets.
Two summers ago, he decided the juniper on the driveway side of the yard overhung the road too much, so he "took care of it." He cut off all the green outer layer of the old juniper, leaving the bare scrubby trunks and inner branches exposed. I told him it wouldn't grow back. He didn't believe me. It's been two years. It hasn't grown back.
Today I went to the farmers' market, the dry cleaner and the grocery store -- my errands gave him lots of time -- and ChainsawBob struck again
When I got back, he was
strutting around with his chest puffed out and a self-satisfied grin on his face. Big Trash Day, the day that the city picks up anything you put on the curb, is a week away, and he's made himself the biggest pile in the neighborhood. He butchered the driveway side of the juniper he whacked two years ago, essentially giving it a mohawk, and mutilated the junipers in front of the house. The man is damn lucky that I have no idea of where my baseball bat is. I think I would have used it on him today.