Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A frog in the hand…

About every night last week, a determined pack rat built a nest on the engine of our son’s car, and every morning he went out and popped the hood and cleaned it off.

But then one morning he started the car without checking to see if there was a new nest.

The rat hit the fan, so to speak, and didn’t survive. I started to take a picture of what was left of it, but changed my mind (aren't you glad?).

Then it occurred to Richard that he better check the engine of the Banana, which is what we call the big old 1978 Buick that is sort of a back-up car for our son -- it is not yellow and I don't think it looks like a banana, but that is what he calls it and so do we. We have not driven it in a while, which is always a bad thing when one lives in pack rat country..

He went out. He came in.

You better come and see this, he said, there is a frog under the hood.

Indeed there was.

I tried to get it to go onto the maple tree a few feet away from the car,

but it didn’t seem very interested.

So, I turned to the old standby for relocating tree frogs, the fern on the porch.

Which reminds me, the temperatures are starting to drop a bit at night now and  I had better bring them all in the house fairly soon, which reminds me that I will now need to move everything that has been dumped in the spaces where they spend the winter.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The factory egg vs the farm egg

We eat eggs for breakfast once a week, on Sunday, which comes to about 4 eggs a week -- which means we not exactly big consumers of eggs and a dozen will last a while. It has been many years since I kept hens for eggs, and so I prefer to buy the eggs we do eat from a woman who sells them at the farmer's market. Unfortunately, we don’t always get there in time to get a dozen before they are all sold. Yesterday I used the last of the farm eggs and had to crack a store bought egg into the cast iron skillet.

Not too hard to tell which egg is the factory egg and which is the farm egg; and I promise, this was not tweaked in Photoshop to dramatize the difference.

I was going to call this post the “city egg vs the country egg,” but my dad, who lives about 10 minutes away down the freeway from downtown Los Angeles, gets homegrown eggs from the next door neighbor who has chickens running around in his yard. 

I imagine that if one were to do a chemical analysis of the two eggs, there would probably not be that much difference between them, but I certainly do like the idea of eating an egg that has come from a chicken that can walk around on her two feet and flap her wings and take a dust bath, and eat a bug….

Like my cousin’s chickens…

I have visited an egg factory, and those hens do not have a very good life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A bit of extra protein?

A couple of years ago we decided it would be a good idea to have 6 weeks of nonperishable food on hand in case of a disruption in the food supply, whether from a pan epidemic of flu, or an earthquake on the New Madrid fault destroying the infrastructure, or some other reason. So we bought canned fish, canned vegetables, boxes of dehydrated potatoes, that sort of thing.

The canned food lasts a very long time, but some of the boxed items, like the dehydrated potatoes and saltine crackers, are prone to infestations with insects (weevils, miller moths), and so we find it helpful to periodically eat the emergency food and then replace it.

And being that Fall is in the air – we could see our breath this morning when we left at 7:30 AM for our morning walk – I decided to use some of the dehydrated potatoes to make a hearty cabbage-potato soup that we enjoy.

This is the basic recipe – of course I did not follow these directions exactly because I was using the dehydrated potatoes. It comes from the “Natural Healing Cookbook”:

Browned Potato and Cabbage Soup

3 cups cubed potatoes
6-7 cups chopped cabbage, about 1 lb
1 cup water
3 cups chopped yellow onions
2 tsp corn oil
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups skim milk
1 tbsp tamari (I use soy sauce)
Dash cayenne pepper

Cook the potatoes and the cabbage in the water until tender. Saute the onions in a large skillet with the oil until golden. Add flour and toss until onions are coated. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat for a minute or two. Add the milk slowly, stirring after each addition until milk is incorporated. Add tamari. Stir onion sauce into the undrained potatoes and cabbage. Add cayenne pepper if you want to. Simmer soup an additional 10 to 15 minutes over low heat. To thicken soup, remove about 1 cup of vegetables and potatoes and process in a blender at low speed and stir back into the soup. Soup tastes even better the next day.

So, I got ready to make soup and picked up the pan and found this.

The government allows a certain percentage of insect parts in processed foods and an Ohio University fact sheet estimates that we eat from one to two pounds of insects each year, and without knowing it.

Well, we did not get any extra protein from little fellow in our soup. I took it outside...

and it made a clean getaway.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Caught in the act

My cousin in Hawaii and I have been exchanging e-mails about cleaning our houses.

This is her house (I will not covet my cousin's house. I will not covet my cousin's house...

She writes about her kitchen pantry “….it is so very organized, but there are little corner cobwebs and dust bunnies roaming around in there somewhere.
I discovered on Sunday, when I was watching the movie Cloverfield for second time (as I explained to her, I am a sucker for monster movies), that I had cobweb drapes adorning the bookcase/headboard . Dust bunnies? I’m here to tell you that what I have in my house is a herd of dust elephants.

I have had not much work to keep me occupied at the computer during the last week, so I have been redeeming the time by doing some sporadic cleaning that was much overdo.

Every once in a while the grime that collects on the woodwork around the windows and on the cupboards in our kitchen becomes bad enough that I actually do something about it.

It is easier just to sit on the counter than to try to stand on a step stool and lean over.

The paint on the woodwork around the windows is peeling badly. It needs a new coat of paint. I am tired of that green paint....

Actually, what needs to happen is that we should rent an apartment for a month or two and completely gut the kitchen: New windows (the one I am working on does not open, which is why it is a perfect spot to hold little treasures)…

new walls….

new countertops…

new cabinets….


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Playing with fire

We began accumulating a pile of yard waste in early summer after I went on a tear through one area of the yard clearing brush. Then some limbs from dead and dying trees fell, and Nat went around and gathered that and added it to the pile. And then came the blessed rain so that it was not so bone dry.

Then Richard said

Let the brush pile be burned!
And Nat said


He used to be a volunteer fireman, and he likes playing with fire.

Some people tend to light up for the camera. He does not. But we have recently discovered the secret to getting a good picture of him.

Take the picture while...

 he is doing something he likes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not just another yard ornament

Missouri is noted for his mules and its gated Fox Trotters, which are wonderful horses for pleasure riding. In fact, they have used the Fox Trotter to breed gaited mules. Most horses in this part of the state are used for pleasure riding. The farmers here who run beef cattle usually don’t have big enough farms to need a horse to collect the cattle -- one farmer I know uses a border collie, and if they mostly use their land to make hay, they use a machine rather than horse-drawn equipment.

There are rodeos where they do barrel racing and that sort of thing, and horse shows, but the horses don’t have much actual work to do on a daily basis except stand around and look pretty. And I am not being disparaging here – I love horses. We looked into getting a horse for ourselves years ago when our son was young and wanted a horse. We concluded that we could not afford to keep a horse the right way, and, as my husband said, “I think he would be interested in it for a while, and then it would end up becoming an expensive lawn ornament.”

The main to this are the Amish, who farm in a very flat area between here and Springfield, about 1 hour down the highway. The Amish in their horse-drawn wagons are a common sight on the highway, as are the huge draft horses pulling the farming equipment in their fields.

On our recent trip to Springfield, we stopped on the way back at the McDonald’s near where they farm because we had been “sent buy one, get one free” coupons and decided to take advantage of the offer. I am only a little embarrassed to admit that I love McDonald's hamburgers and french fries. 

Four Amish women had also stopped at McDonald’s and were leaving just as we got there. One of them approached me and asked if I wanted to buy some homemade egg noodles. I declined the offer, but later regretted that I had not done so.

Their horse is not just another expensive yard ornament. It is not a “pretty” horse compared with the horses we see when we take our walk, but it is obviously well cared for and well fed. And it actually has an important job to do. One might wonder what the maintenance and upkeep on a horse would be compared with a car?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On its last legs…

The other morning I found a very big beetle upside down on the floor of the post office, and so I picked it up. During the 15 years that I was the janitor at the post office, I routinely rescued insects that had gotten trapped in the lobby overnight; usually praying mantis, walking sticks, and katydids.

At first I thought this beetle was dead, but it moved a bit, so I brought it home.

It was obviously in the process of dying, but it was still struggling.

Only part of its body seemed to be working.

I put it on the ground, and a few hours later when I looked for it, it was once again upside down, and very dead. Richard does not approve of me killing live insects just so I can add them to my collection of dead ones, so I must wait until nature takes its course.

It has joined the other items in the kitchen windowsill. I started to take a picture of it sitting there on my antique spice can, but the sill is such a dusty, cobwebby mess that I am embarrassed to take a picture of it.
I suppose it is time to do some “Fall cleaning.” Rather ironic, I think,  that the person who used to clean houses and local businesses for a living has such a messy one.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Like a bat out of Hell

I am accused of driving too fast. 

Richard put three 18-gallon tubs of glass for recycling in the back of the truck about 3 weeks ago. Today I took the truck to town because our boy took my car to Springfield for a follow-up consult with the neurosurgeon about the recent MRI of his head and with the general surgeon about his armpit.

We already knew the result of the recent MRI, so we decided to let him go by himself. If my friend who sometimes reads this blog happens to read this post, I am likely to get a telephone call from her in which she will yell at me for letting him go by himself. I will gird my loins and take her lecture like a... a... woman.

Our driveway is a bit of a bumpy ride. Our land is part of the watershed of the Eleven Point River System, and there is a wet weather spring in the woods behind the house that becomes a small river after a hard rain.

Too much water pours off of the land behind our house to be contained in the channel that has formed, and that, combined with water draining from other areas of our property, frequently turns our driveway into a temporary river.

All this moving water has taken a toll on our driveway over the years. 

Richard has hauled several tons of gravel several times to repair the low spots and it has done little good.

You drive too fast, he says. You drive like a bat out Hell, he says.

I start to argue with Richard.

Our son, who has returned from his trip to Springfield—without incident—is sitting on the couch listening to this conversation with unconcealed glee because he is usually the one who is gets the lectures.

Yeah Mom, he pipes up, you really do drive too fast.

Arguing is futile. Richard has the proof. All three of the tubs have been turned on their sides and glass has spilled out all over the back of the truck. Some of it has shattered.  

Do you realize how fast you had to be going to knock all three of those tubs over? he wants to know.

I went out and cleaned it all up. I picked up all of the glass jars and bottles and put it all back in the tubs.

I got out the whisk broom and the dustpan and swept up the bigger pieces of glass as best I could. 

I got the shop vac out and sucked up all the smaller shards that I missed with the whisk broom so no one accidentally impales him or herself.

I got out the broom and swept carefully under and around the truck to make sure no shards of glass end up in a tire or in my bare foot.

I promise from now on I will creep down our driveway with my foot off the accelerator.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bye bye, Chance

Very close to this time 2 years ago, I wrote about my neighbor Tony and his American Bulldog, Chance. I have such fond memories of his big old lumbering dog and the sweet relationship she had with our Little Dog. They were most certainly a “Mutt and Jeff” pair as they trotted side by side down the road together.

I had intended to do an essay earlier this summer about the dogs we see when we take our walk and how most of them bark furiously at us as we pass by their houses, and in the early Spring I started collecting pictures of these dogs. The star of the essay was going to be the little rat dog that Tony also has. He is an excitable little fellow...

who barks hysterically when he see us with that high-pitched, annoying bark that little dogs usually have.

When we pass Tony's yard on our walks, we always look for Chance to see what she is up too, but we hadn't seen Chance in the yard lately. Tony had taken the door off of crawlspace under his house so Chance go in there where it was cool. We figured that was where she was. 

When we passed Tony’s house on a walk late yesterday afternoon, he was mowing his lawn. We stopped to visit for a bit. He asked after our boy. We asked after Chance.

“ I had to put Chance to sleep,” he said. “She was 10 years old and really sick. I cried for a week afterward.”

I can sure relate.

She was a good dog; a very good dog. I am going to miss her big old self and her deep rumbly “woofy” voice when she saw us.

I am sure she is in doggy heaven right now taking a stroll with our Little Dog.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What can you get for four grand?

Well, for $4,000 you can get quite a few things on a wish list, and you might have change left over if you’re careful….
  • A decent used car
  • A cruise to Hawaii and Tahiti
  • New kitchen appliances
  • New furniture
  • A minor renovation to your house
  • A dental implant to replace a missing tooth

Or 5 days of chemotherapy drugs...

 that might save your son’s life.

Round 2 of the treatment began today, and there are 10 more to go. I am so thankful that there is still a safety net in this country to pay for drugs like this for people like our son, people who are not deadbeats and who worked hard at a job, and are not welfare cheats, and are not abusing the system, and who truly need help.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The long walk

Today was the follow-up visit with the oncologist.

Our boy has a habit of charging off...

with me bringing up the rear... .

and struggling to keep up.

As usual, he is the youngest person in the waiting room.

The oncologist, Dr Rajesh Nair, is a lovely, sweet man, and very kind.

He had good news for us today.

The MRI scan from last week is clean. Our son's brain is free of cancer. The laboratory results of the blood they drew came back within normal reference ranges.  

“Awesome” was the word Dr Nair used.

Awesome indeed. Even though I have been lectured about taking notes at these visits, I failed to write down what Dr Nair said, except that we will see him again next month. And there will be PET scans and CT scans coming up in a couple of months. And MRI scans every 3 months. They are going to keep very close tabs on our boy.

I am so thankful for this caring team of physicians. I am so thankful for God's mercy.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day…

This has been a gray, gloomy day, but am I gray and gloomy? Well, may be a little bit gray, but certainly not gloomy.

Blessed rain is falling, all day long.

I’ve got sunshine in my soul today  (yes, I do!!) and I have these suns to remind me in case I forget…

This one, which I bought for next to nothing at a huge pottery outlet near the home place when we were visiting my family in California. 

It reminds me of the actor Dustin Hoffman.

And then there is this one, which I bought at a junk shop outside of Eureka Springs a couple of weeks ago.

It caught my eye, hanging outside with a jumble of other dangly things as we were pulling out of the parking lot. I told him to stop. So he did. I hopped out and looked at the price on the back, and I bought it.

I am not very comfortable spending money on souvenirs, but I am happy to have these hanging around….

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The losing battle

I was always an extremely thin person. I weighed 98 pounds when I began high school. I suspect in the current era, people who pay attention to this sort of thing would have questioned me about anorexia and perhaps wondered if my parents were feeding me. I was not anorexic, and my parents were indeed feeding me. It was just the way I was.

When I became pregnant at age 26, I weighed 100 pounds. I gained 50 pounds during the succeeding 9 months, and at the 6-week follow-up after delivering our 8-pound baby, I weighed 105 pounds. Within a few months later, I once again weighed about 100 pounds.

But as the years passed, I gradually began to put on weight. 

By the early summer of 2006, my weight had ballooned to 175 pounds. I was in denial about just how horrible I looked until we spent a couple of nights in a very nice hotel in Las Vegas in July that had several full-length mirrors. I got a good look.

As soon as we returned home, at the beginning of August, I started counting calories, with the goal of returning my weight to about 120 pounds.

Richard decided he needed to lose weight, too, because he had a similar story. When we got married he weighed 165 pounds, and he now topped the scale at 235. So we were in this together.

On Sept 1, I marked my weight on the calendar, and during the first week of September for every year since then I have marked down my weight. The numbers tell the story:

9-1-06        170.5
9-2-07        140.75
9-4-08        129

So far, so good. I realized at this point that reaching 120 pounds was not practical, so I changed the goal to keep my weight between 125 and 130 pounds. And look what happened!

9-4-09        137.5
9-5-10        138

I’m here to tell you that taking the weight off is relatively easy, but keeping it off once one has come close to where one wants to be is dead hard.

The same thing has happened to Richard

August 2006    235
August 2008    174
August 2010    184

Both of us have gained back 10 pounds, and are in a bit of a panic. We have worked too hard to see it all evaporate, so we have both gotten our butts firmly planted back on the wagon because we can see that if we don’t immediately adhere rigidly to accounting for the calories we eat, we are both going to gradually end up right back where we started. That can’t happen. It just can’t.

This is a losing battle we are are, are, ARE  going to win.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

I get scolded

People who feed hummingbirds and have cameras cannot help trying to get pictures of these entertaining little visitors. Donna over at Just Me posted a lovely video of the crowd of hummingbirds at her feeder. I cannot top that.

About 5 hummingbirds come to the two feeders we have put out,and trying to get interesting photos them has been an exercise in frustration. Although my attempts have not been a complete disaster, I have not been smashingly successful, either.

On Thursday, after watching the hummingbirds all morning as I worked, I decided to try to take a close-up picture with my camera right up against the screen. That could have been an amazing photo, because as soon as she saw me move behind the window screen, she flew over and hovered about 2 inches in front of the camera, but I could not get it organized to take a picture of her.

So, I decided to station myself outside on the deck near the feeder – very still – so I could get a picture.

Within a minute or two, a titmouse arrived and began squawking at me 

and then another.... and then another (and you can listen to what that sounds like here)...

And then they were joined by 3 or 4 chickadees...

who also began squawking at me.

In the midst of all this chattering, a hummingbird did show up, but the shutter speed on my camera is s-o-o-o-o slow that the really great shots I thought I was getting did not turn out quite so good.

But, here are the two pictures in which one can actually see a hummingbird.

Before too many more days pass, all of these little guys will head off south to the Gulf and will either spend the winter there or head on down further into southern Mexico and central America. And we will eagerly await their return in the Spring for another summer of entertainment.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Riding in cars with frogs

Part of the routine every time I get in the car to go some place is to check that there are no turtles lurking behind the wheels.

One of the most sickening experiences of my life was hearing the crunch under the wheels of my car of a turtle that I did not see on the driveway. The fact that it was a turtle with eggs that had not yet been laid made it even worse.

I may now have to add another thing to the pretrip check list.

I was about halfway home from aerobics when my passenger and I both noticed I suddenly had a new hood ornament -- a small frog had appeared from somewhere and acted like it was not going to sit patently on the hood of the car until I got home. I was able to pull over, grab the frog before it made final leap onto the highway, and put it in a plastic bag for her to hold until I got back home.

I put it on a tree by the house...

 amazed once more at this marvelous little creature...

 and how well it blended in with the bark.

I am almost sure this is the same frog we have seen fairly regularly on our porch for the past few weeks. I guess I will now have to start checking the outside of the car for passengers.