Monday, March 31, 2008

Ham'n Eggs Never Looked So Good


This lantana just showed up in my backyard a few years ago. Every year it puts on a show and gets bigger. It's about 5 1/2 feet tall right now, and would be taller yet if I didn't prune it back pretty hard every year.


The birds love the black berries the bush produces all summer long and into the late fall. In fact, that's probably how I ended up with this volunteer. The butterflies like it too, and give a lot of attention to the blossoms.
I love gifts from above.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thank You

I was given a gift tonight, of a new laptop. My laptop died almost a year ago and 'Pup and I have been ....taking turns.... with the desktop. The desktop is getting a little older too, and a bit...cranky.

Please, help me say thank you to a very nice, generous gentleman, who celebrated his recent birthday by giving ME a present: Jerry, I love you!

I post a picture of the present tomorrow...

The Sounds Around

When 'Pup and I got married, he had a pretty good bachelor guy sound set up. He had speakers in every room, on audio racks that were mounted in corners and fed through the attic. The set up in the living room was especially nice, and it made for good listening and movie watching.

Alas, all is gone now, except for a couple of small round holes in a couple of corners. The system would be outdated by now, and we've not had the opportunity or money to redo it. We will, someday, probably when we can afford a really nice television.

Speaking of which, we're going to have to get several of those digital converter boxes, as we don't have cable and aren't planning on getting it. Next year is going to be a difficult one for TV watching.

Supplements


Recently, we received these two products in the mail. Biotivia has all natural ingredients in their supplements. 'Pup and I've been trying them out, though we can't tell if it's working yet or not. Though, neither of us have caught the flu, and both of us haven't had a problem with a cold. Considering that, all around us, everyone we know seems to be sick, that's not bad.

Neither of us can afford to get sick. When we get sick, bad things can happen. Our doctor yells at us, (okay, not really--but he does look kinda stern), and both of us feel bad. Our doctor has put a lot of effort into keeping us alive. He doesn't like it when we get sick. He worries.

We had to clear the supplements with our doctor before taking them. The BioQuench especially, as it contains something called "Trans-reservatrol". It's supposed to work by "quenching" the "free radicals that cause aging". Eh....we'll see.

The Bioflu is to provide immune system support. I guess the idea is: the better the immune system, the less likely you are to get the flu or a cold. Well, we'll see.

Coverage

When my mother in law was alive, and still fully functioning, she and my father in law would keep their daily pills in old prescription bottles. One bottle per day per three month supply. That's a lot of bottles.

They did that so that MIL could keep straight what she'd taken and what she'd not taken. That got harder as the Alzheimer's started to claim her. Occasionally, she'd forget that 'Pup and I were married. She'd ask if she'd been at the wedding.

We got married in her backyard.

There was one day, when 'Pup got to talk to his mom....as herself. For some reason, the fog had lifted and she knew and remembered part of her life. I think it was the last time 'Pup got to REALLY talk to her. After that, she was vague and unsure of herself and us.

I think my FIL had good coverage through his pension, and through medicare. I don't know what plans they had, things like what plans to choose from, Medicare parts A, B, C and medicare part d are a mystery to me. I'm not going to change that either, as I'm sure it will change in a couple of years.

For now, we have double coverage. Between our prescriptions and other medical needs, like regular blood tests for the INR and A1-c, we need every bit we can get. For us, there is no such thing as too much coverage.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Little Action on the Side...

My side yard is looking pretty good. I'm growing everything around the half-barrel in pots because the soil there is too heavy and mixed with too many rocks. The rocks are the legacy of an older drainage system, and are EVERYWHERE. I have hibiscus established in the bed, though they are a little too far in the shade. We're trimming back the ash limbs, but that tree is a HAPPY tree and grows so fast I swear I can see it reaching out new twiggy fingers.
What trimming we've been able to do has allowed it to start blooming though!

Also blooming is one of the little rescued roses. That brings the total of roses blooming in the garden to 7 out of 12. (Counting the miniature roses as "1".) The bloomers are: Belinda's Dream, Gold Medal, Cherry Parfait, Honey Dijon, Golden Showers (climbing) and Pinata (climbing). Still to bloom are: Peace, Mr. Lincoln, JFK, and the lilac colored rose.
A small bloom, but pretty and an intense red.

I've two of these standing planters. One is close to the fence and is shaded out, so I've planted it with some tropicals (also rescues!) that would normally be house plants. Down here, I'll have to bring them in when it's too cold in the winter (that would be next...oh...November or December...), and then put them out again. I've crowded them a little, but I can always transplant them into bigger containers as they get bigger.


The other standing planter is planted with sun loving herbs. In this case, Silver and English Thyme, and Winter Savory. Notice, next to the planter, are some of the lily plants.

Yep. They're putting on buds and should be blooming enthusiastically by next week. I wonder if these will be the purple variety that have been the most vigorous bloomers in the past? (These are from April 2007, y'all should check out that month in the archives. There are some good pictures in there.)

Add Water and Grow

Birds are more likely to visit a garden where they find food, shelter and water. But, they aren't the only ones to need these things. Bees also need access to food (blossoms), shelter (hopefully NOT in your garden, unless you're into such things) and water.

The birds who visit me have access to water in the fountains, especially the Jar Fountain. More than once, I've seen a blue jay or cardinal taking a splash bath in the small basin where the water gathers before it spills over the sides of the jar.

But, the bees need quieter water:

Here, the bee is using duckweed as a platform to drink from. When she took off, she oriented herself before taking off, presumably towards her hive.

The duckweed is so thick here because it's in a half barrel that's full of water, but not yet really set up where I want it. It's acting as a nursery of sorts for some of the plants I want to put in the other container water gardens. The duckweed is not a particularly wanted plant...it's just one of those things that happens. In this case, the bee is grateful. I think after I get everything set up, I'll try to make sure there's a place where the bees can land and drink. The water lilies that will be growing should provide stable enough platforms for any bee to drink from with no danger.

Speaking of which, the water lilies are growing and putting up more and more leaves. I really need to:
  1. finish the other two water barrel set ups so that they can each have one or two lilies, along with some other plants
  2. establish the water garden and have it in good balance for introducing fish
  3. buy the fish. In this case, I'll probably go with some red minnows and perhaps a goldfish. That would be few enough so that I would probably not need an aerator, the horn wort could provide enough O2 for the small fish to live and eat the mosquito larvae.
  4. I could get rid of the mosquito "dunks" (that think that looks like a floating donut, kills skeeter larvae)
  5. continue my search for solar powered and inexpensive water pumps to provide more aeration.

Unfortunately, for me, I'm coming to the realization that the water gardens will be the last things I set up this year, after I get the rest of the garden planted and pruned and prepared.

Oh well, good things are worth waiting for.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Finalist is.........

I'm a finalist in Sparrow's (All Atwitter) weekly haiku contest. The topic was spring. If you'd like, follow the link and read the haikus, (I'm Nancy, btw, if you should think me worth voting for..) and enjoy some different takes on what spring means to different people.

Enjoy!

Tomato News Mexico Miniatures


When we went to Nelson's Water Gardens last month to get some supplies for my little pond. While we were there, plants just threw themselves at us and the nice people who work there gently take them from you and hide them at the cash register. They do this so that you are spared the work of carrying them all around the garden. The fact that you then look at more and suddenly have the hands to carry the NEW plants, surely doesn't figure into the plan, does it??

Oh well, they always have a great selection of tomato sets. I get to try new varieties this way.

I bought the three sets I got from there when the plants were about 15 inches tall, and a little spindly. No problem, as I then dug some very deep holes and buried all but the top bunch of leaves in the raised beds. The plants were healthy and they took off like rockets. They're setting fruit already! (Caramello above)

The Sugary variety here. The little fruits on this vine are beautiful. They've an almost teardrop shape and this plant looks to be very prolific. I may save seeds from the first fruits to ripen and see what happens this fall when I plant them again.

We have a hiatus from tomatos in the midsummer when it just gets too hot for the plants to set fruit...then we can plant a fall crop that can occasionally be wintered over, as I did this winter, where I was picking and devouring the occasional tomato in Dec. thru Feb.


I planted a couple of different sugar snap peas in the big pots I used for tomatos last year. They've not taken off, perhaps not enough ........what ever, but they've finally started blooming.


But underneath the pea plants is a surprise. I do believe these must be seedlings from the Mexico Miniature plants I had last year. The parent plants didn't make it through the winter (the potted tomatoes just couldn't be protected well enough), but there were tiny fruits that hung on the frost killed vines and then ripened. I took several of them and split them open and seeded the pot with them. Looks like the planting worked. I've several of these little seedlings and I may have to thin them out. Till then, the peas are growing....when it gets too hot for the peas, the Mexico Miniatures can take over!

It's going to be an interesting year for tomatoes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Few Shots to Tantalize


An old tree man's face peeking out from under the ferns and among the leaves looks like he's waiting for warmer days.




The newly re potted fig tree...




A blooming scented geranium....it's a sweet leaved geranium...used for desserts and things and I can't remember its name!


Golden Showers rose, not a beautiful bloomer, but sturdy and a good climber. Its scent is pleasant too.
More later.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Growing Spring

I've got some pictures from the front yard. I snapped them with the cell phone, so I'm not thrilled with the quality, but.... tomorrow I break out the good camera.
Belinda's Dream is producing a grand bloom-out. She'll do this several times this summer.
Honey Dijon, the blooms fade after a couple of days...hummm. Wish a mustard stain would do that.
Cherry Parfait is doing a good job too.
This corner is doing well, I planted some rescued allysium seedlings in the strawberry pot. They look kinda pitiful now, but should (cross your fingers) fill out and bloom sweetly.
The planted pots.......still sparse, but again, time will fill them out.
And two more rescued miniature roses... for 99 cents each. They're going to be beautiful.
Finally, look what arrived on our doorstep! We're going to be able to reduce the huge leaf pile masquerading as a compost heap. ('Pup went leaf happy this last fall and helped rake and take away several neighborhood yard's worth of leaves..)
Now, if I can just figure out how to put it together... I need to go to a hardware store to get a 3/8 inch nut driver...whatever that is....
Wish me luck.

Done...and To Do

Done:

  1. Transplanted little fig tree into larger half barrel pot. Buried and unburied small toad. Heard said toad sing later, in the dusk...
  2. Move canna formerly inhabiting said half barrel to three......no four, smaller pots. Move one to side yard and begin to wonder where to put the other three....
  3. Planted: more lily bulbs purchased earlier and misplaced and then found again. Number of new lily pots: 2, established 5.... blooms forming on the established plants (YIPPEEE!)
  4. Potted up: herbs for side yard... epizote and purple leaved basil, thyme, winter savory. Still to transplant/pot up: 2 more kinds of thyme, Texas tarragon, summer savory, sweet basil, cinnamon basil, Thai basil. Still searching for: calendula.
  5. Beds still needing weeding--but begun, if only somewhat half heartedly: the two LONNNG beds in the front yard. After which, the cucumber, squash and a few other seeds will be planted in and amongst the day lilies, hoping to avoid detection..
  6. planted: petunias in the citrus tree pots to spiff'm up a little.

Still to do:

  1. finish weeding and then purchase and finish mulching front beds.
  2. finish redoing compost bed and finish shredding leaves
  3. prune trees and shred or snip up limbs for removal
  4. Find somewhere for gardener (me!) to fall down safely....

It's gonna be a good spring. I hope I survive it!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mercer Arboretum Pictures part 2

They have more than individual specimen plants at Mercer. My favorite part was actually the walk in the woods.


They've an interesting collection of rare and endangered plants...


And some flowers for the bees...

But,
I love trees.





Their ponds were pretty too.




And finally, after many tries, I have a GOOD picture of a Honey Dijon rose. The color really is quite extraordinary, even if it does look as if there's a bit of ketchup in the mustard...

Half Century!

SOMEONE'S having a 50th birthday today...

Go say hello and wish her a happy one!

Passion Meme

I like teaching. More than anything, even gardening, it has given me happiness and made me feel as if I were doing what I was supposed to do with my life.

I was tagged with this meme by the Ambulance Driver. I'm supposed to write about the one thing I've tried to teach all my students. One thing...one underlying theme that defines my teaching career...that's hard to identify without some considered and deep thought.

I dreamed about it last night. I wrote this whole post in my dream last night. Too bad the hard copy of that dream post didn't make it into the waking world. It would have made things so much easier, and faster.

I do remember the highlights of the dream and the central premise. One problem though...it's not a singular premise, it is a double one. The two ideas are tied together for me, and that explains why I was having trouble with limiting myself to the one most important thing that I wanted all my students to take away with them after their time with me.

To understand the two and their connection I need to tell you something about myself. I love Horton the Elephant. You know, the guy that hatched an egg, and saved a little planet of people? Long before the movie, Horton was my hero of choice.

While I like, and can even quote from "Green Eggs and Ham", by Dr. Seuss, my favorite character was always Horton. I identified with that elephant, even when I was a young, skinny (fancy that!! skinny!! ME!) little girl, I knew that Horton was the one character I wanted to grow up and be like. Humm...that could explain...nahhh...it's just a coincidence, (isn't it?) that I'm looking more and more LIKE Horton every year...


What endeared Horton to me was his absolute certainty that keeping a promise, no matter what, was important. "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful, one HUNDRED percent!" No matter what indignities, no matter what danger, no matter how uncomfortable, Horton kept his promise. Something about that kind of constancy made me want to be like that. I don't always make it, but I do try.

Then, I got to read "Horton Hears a Who" book. I was enraptured once again, to see Horton enjoying the unlikely friendship of something so small that he had to take the voice he heard on faith. He couldn't see his friend, he couldn't prove the existence of his friend, but again...he was faithful, kind, considerate...in short: he was Horton. "..a person's a person, no matter how small.." Ya gotta love it, ya gotta love him.

What was it that I tried to teach my students? I tried to teach them to enjoy learning about the little things in this world and not to give up just because something gets difficult.

I worked for a small school district on the Texas Gulf coast for 12 years, first as a remedial reading teacher and then as an English as a Second Language/early childhood teacher. How small was the district? Well, I was one third of the staff for the Prekindergarten program and I was THE Prekindergarten ESL teacher for the entire district.

One of the first groups I taught were some fifth graders who had difficulty reading. They were a disparate group, with not much in common with one another, except that they didn't like reading and weren't too fond of one another sometimes. This was especially true of one particular girl. She was...y'all...she was mean. She called the other kids every racial slur I'd ever heard of, and taught me a few new ones.

I had to establish one very firm and unyielding rule with this class. NO ONE was allowed to tease or try to hurt another person. I couldn't control what they did outside of the hour a day I saw them, but for that hour, they were going to behave with some courtesy towards one another. It was an uphill battle, with many many one on one talks with this difficult girl. But my persistence, insistence and stubbornness on this point did make a difference in how the other students in the group treated one another. How much difference, I wasn't to know for eleven years afterwards.

The last year in that district was the 1999 to 2000 school year. I was teaching Prekindergarten and when it was time for the first parent/teacher conferences, I had to share some bad news with a parent. I'd caught her daughter and another girl making fun of another little girl in the class. I told her that, I just would not allow that to continue, and that I would not countenance any teasing.

"I know," said the mom, "You never did. And we always felt safe in your class.

The mother's answer floored me. "I was in your class when I was in fifth grade. You taught us reading and you didn't allow anyone to tease anyone then either."

I was speechless. First, because I'd never had the child of a child I'd taught in my class. I suddenly felt kinda...old. But mostly, I was astounded. And embarrassed. I didn't recognise the woman.

I looked at her blankly. The surprise on my face must have shown, because she went on to explain her answer, and kindly, to tell me who she was. She wasn't the "mean girl", but she had been one of the children who'd had trouble with some of the other students.

Until then, I'd not realized just how consistent I'd been in that rule. Like breathing, it was just something I did.

Kindness and courtesy are important. Safety to try new things and to try again without fear is important. Those two things make it easier to create an environment where the students are open to and able to learn new things. It clears the way for laughter. It's just easier to teach someone who's happy to be there with you. It makes it a lot more fun for the teacher too.

I'm also supposed to tap 5 other educators out there. (4 so far, I'll be posting another later)

  • The rules for the meme are:

    Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what YOU are most passionate for students to learn about.

    Give your picture a short title.

    Title your blog post "Meme: Passion Quilt."

    Link back to this blog entry.

    Include links to 5 (or more) educators.



    Guusjem
    Boudicca
    Mostly Cajun
    Bob


Update: this is late, but the timing for this was not good, as The Round Hirsute One, has had a loss. I'll miss reading about his dad and their Chinese Buffet excursions.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I Walk the Line

The Honey Dijon rose, fully open. I like the color. The scent is light, but pleasant.

I've had a couple of very good days, physically. This is a good thing, because I can get more done before I have to allow myself to recover. And, it's not so much that I get tired, or the muscles get tired. I wish that were it. Instead, it seems that if I do too much, the nerves serving my legs and lower back muscles just...go haywire. I have trouble picking up my feet and stumble unless I'm very careful (this is true on good days too, just not as much). The muscles in my lower back start to clench and it's very hard to get them to relax. This also makes it a little hard to walk.

So, I walk the line between doing enough to stay at least somewhat exercised and productive, while not crossing that line into pain and debilitation that can last for a couple of days. Sometimes that line is only a few minutes wide. It gets scary sometimes.

But yesterday and the day before were good days. The weather's been nice here (and I feel for those of you for whom spring is at least 6 weeks in coming...I couldn't begin to manage that), I've been able to walk easily enough that I've not had to use my cane for balance and support all the time. I was even able to go to a garden center the day before yesterday and walk around with only a cart to lean on. I got a little unsteady towards the end, and bringing in my purchases once I got home juuuussstt about crossed that line, but I was able to sit and recover in an hour or so.

Now, I've got a powerful itch to do some very productive and strenuous things out in my gardens. It is sunny, and 72 degrees F outside. The ground is firm enough not to be mushy, but it rained recently enough that it's still not too hard to pull the weeds from our often clay ridden soil.

I'm hoping the "line" today will be very wide, as I want to do this more often. I'm tired of being scared.

Cherry Parfait buds and blooms, not much scent but so very vigorous and a profuse bloomer, and a trio of Gold Medal roses. The Gold Medal roses are not only beautiful and pretty hardy, they have a very beautiful, soft, sweet scent.
.

Land

As 'Pup and I were driving to the Arboretum, we kept passing by large tracts of land that had once been farm land, or pasture. Now, however, it's being cleared down to the clay pan layer of and then back filled with trashy soil from God knows where...and then houses are being built. Lots and lots of houses, some of them absolutely appallingly small and cramped looking. I can't imagine paying over a hundred thousand dollars for a cracker box placed on a postage stamp sized lot. They're so close together that if the houses caught fire, the two storey houses would collapse onto one another and a whole neighborhood would be ashes in no time flat.

I don't mind new developments. I even approve of affordable housing. I just hate to see it done badly and with no chance given for the new owners to do anything but grow a pot of flowers next to their obligatory spindly tree in the middle of the yard. The back yards are so tiny that the fences would cause too much shade for anything but some shade tolerant plants to grow...and that means no food crops at all. No wonder so many of the kids coming out of such developments think food grows in cans.

Closer into town, some of the neighborhoods are disappearing too. In the Fifth Ward of Houston, what was once a fairly close knit community is now more and more dominated by over sized houses and new commercial real estate developments. I look at the older houses and often see meticulously tended gardens, and I morn for every rose bush and garden patch paved over and built on.

Skin

'Pup is having some troubles with his skin. He and the doctor are doing tests to see why small breaks don't heal and sometimes get worse before they get better. I wish those late night advertisements for every kind of acne treatment in the world, would have something to help him heal faster. His diabetes is in control...the gastric by-pass saw to that. He should be healing better. He's chronically anemic, that might have something to do with it. I'm wondering if I could brew something from the herb garden to help sooth things. Anyone have a suggestion of for a good skin wash?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mercer Arboretum Pictures



It was a truly lovely day. The temperatures were in the middle 70's (F), and there was just a light breeze, and low humidity. All in all, one of the better Spring Days I've experienced.

Now, 'Pup and I probably SHOULD have stayed home and done some work in the yards and gardens. But we didn't. We went to Mercer Arboretum and enjoyed the day. I'll be sharing some of the photos for the next couple of days. We took a LOT of photos...lol.


Enjoy.

Bluebonnets.......and pink? bluebonnets???
Oh well. I still like the blue best, but they're all pretty.