Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Of course, the camera batteries died when I needed them most. So, I missed the shot where the crop duster looked like he was going to go right through the bedroom windows, taking my scalp in the process. This is all you get.

Every few years, when the beetles are out of control by normal means, the crop dusters come and spray the fields that are most effected. I am always amazed at both their skill in flying, and at the precision of their application. They navigate around power lines, buildings, fence rows, and trees--sometimes in very tight spaces. The equipment they use, along with some way cool GPS technology that puts Garmin to shame, allows them to spray exactly where they want, and nowhere else. I wouldn't want to be in the field when they come by, but the garden next to the end rows is safe. It was quite a hoot to watch the kids running around shrieking and falling to the ground when he roared over them.

Makes me want to watch Pancho Barnes again. *sigh*

Monday, August 30, 2010


Part of the appeal of living in the country, for me at least, is all of the accidental delights that bring joy to the ordinary. One of those delights is the Barn Swallow population here on the farm. I love their acrobatic swooping around my head when I'm mowing. And I love their neighborly chattering as they gather on the fence row and the gutters outside my office window. Their back and wings are the most beautiful shimmering dark blue. And they eat mosquitoes too! I especially love how the little babies silently spy on you as you walk under their nests in the barn. Those in the picture above are almost ready to set off on their own.
I will miss them when winter comes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Musing on Mowing

I am really, really, really getting tired of mowing. Normally, by the beginning of August, the lawn starts looking crispy and thin; and I can get away with only cutting the grass every 2 weeks or so. Not this year. I'm still mowing every week; and the grass is still lush and green. Don't get me wrong--I'm happy for the grass. After 7 years, it's finally starting to look more like a lawn, and less like a bean field. We've had fewer thistles, and no puff ball, mutant mushrooms this year. The crab grass, dandelions, and other weeds I can live with because they are green and mow just like the grass. But my spleen is tired of getting bounced around for several hours every week and I'm ready for frost.

Last night, in an effort to break up the monotony, I carried my camera with me. Aside from the blast of adrenaline when the camera bounced off and almost got mowed (thankfully, the strap got caught on one of the levers, saving it inches from the blades), I think it was a success. Here are a few of the shots.

Chinese Mantid

Lots of berries right now-red, white, and blue!

"I'm hiding. You can't see me!"

Hyssop-I really need to plant more of this. The bees and butterflies love it.

Sedum-Purple King, maybe?

Liz, I know the challenge was for our town, but I thought I'd start with just my yard. How'd I do? :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Inordinate Fondness

"The Creator, if he exists, has an inordinate fondness for beetles."`JBS Haldane*

And just for scale:
I really need a camera with a macro lens. 
I have not the first clue as to what these are, but the I-can't-help-myself part of me wants to find out. They'll probably turn out to be something hideous and itchy. Shall we?**

*Please do not mistaken my quoting Haldane as agreement with him in general, or even in part. I just think the quote is funny.

**Further research has revealed that these are eggs from the Spined Soldier Bug, one of the True Bugs (as opposed to an insect mistakenly called a bug). They are predatory stink bugs. I am going to put them back outside so they can help eat the Japanese Beetles that are turning my Porcelain Vine into lace.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Palm Pilot*

*Any resemblance to any gizmo living or dead is purely coincidental. No similarity to any gizmo living or dead is intended or should be inferred.

What I am about to share will put you in the category of "smarter than the average bear". At the very least, it will earn bonus points for you with your nephews.
I am going to teach you how to tell time with a stick.

Long before Timex came along, the cavemen still needed some sort of gadget to tell them what time it was so that they wouldn't miss their favorite programs on TV. They would pull their hand out of the pocket of their saber-tooth overalls, stab a stick through it, then go and watch "As the World Revolves" or" CSI: Pangea", depending on what time it was. This was the first pocket watch model available. Later models required fewer trips to the ER, but were more likely to get lost.

What you need:
  • A straight stick (string will work too)
  • Your hand
  • Sunlight
  • A little old fashioned know-how
What you must know first:
  • Which way is North?
  • Your latitude (Chicago is at 42*N, Seattle is at 47*N, and Miami is at 25*N)

 What to do:
  • Stand in the sunshine.
  • Hold your hand level with your palm facing upward.
  • Grasp the stick with your thumb.
  • Hold the stick so that it is at the same angle as your latitude (near Chicago it would be close to 45*)-on a sundial, the sticky-up part that casts the shadow is called a gnomon.
  • Point the stick directly North. 
  • In the morning, use your left hand and point your fingers west. In the afternoon, use your right hand and point your fingers east. (If you don't know whether it's morning or evening, what are the odds that you'll care about making a sundial with your hand?)
  • Note where the shadow falls on your hand. Use the chart below to determine the time.
  • If you can't see the stick, it's time to go home.

Of course, some of this is relative to your hand size, as well as the seasonal cycle and adjustements for Daylight Savings Time.
For greater accuracy allowing for hand size, take a day and physically mark out the hours on your own hand. The best time of year to do this is one of few days where no correction is necessary (use the graph below). I know it gets a little technical, but the graph below shows the appropriate corrections to make to your sundial given the time of year. The Equation of Time is universal. Latitude and time zone don't matter.

The Equation of Time
Can you tell about what time it is in the photo below?

If you're trying to catch a plane, I recommend that you stick with your Blackberry or iTouch. If you want to impress your hiking buddy, then your very own Palm Pilot is the way to go.

Conversely, if you know what time it is, you can use this app (ha!) to determine direction. Simply line up the stick's shadow with the matching time position on your hand and it will be pointing North.

Well, it looks like it's about time for "Ace of Caves". See you later.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Addition

Our long awaited new addition to the family has finally arrived. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Kernel, the Corn Snake (elaphe guttata guttata):

Last fall, M wrote a story for NaNoWriMo, and one of the characters in her story was a corn snake named Kernel. It seemed like a perfect name, so we gave it to our new little fellow.

Kernel is now about two weeks old and was given the green light to come home with us yesterday. How funny it seemed bringing him home in a plastic deli cup, like so much macaroni salad!

As you can see, he isn't much thicker than a pencil, and about twice as long.

Right now, his color is darker, but as he grows he will become a beautiful orange.

He just ate last night (don't ask, unless you really want to know), so we have to let him work at digesting for a couple of days, but later when we can pick him up, I'll try to post more pictures.

Right now, he's settling in and exploring his new home. We're working on getting temps regulated just right and making plans for a baby book. So far, the cats haven't seemed to notice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This is a mosquito:

This is a mosquito on drugs:

Any questions?

The Gallinipper Mosquito (Psorophora ciliata)

Friday, August 6, 2010


Sing with me..."One banana, two banana, three banana, four...four bananas make a bunch and so do many more..."

Yes, you're right. Technically, these aren't banana spiders. They are Black and Yellow Argiopes, but nobody around here can pronounce Argiope (ar-guy-o-pee), so they call them banana spiders. All I know is that with more than a dozen of these beauties in my front flowerbed, it's not going to get weeded any time soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pirate Treasure Hunt

At the beginning of the summer, I decided to do a treasure hunt for the kids, unbeknown to them . The loot included make-your-own message in a bottle necklace kits, pirate bandannas, pirate coins, jibbitz for crocs, rock candy and a pirate flag--all from Oriental Trading. But then weather and lack of inspiration struck and all of it sat in the office. Until yesterday. The night before, M watched National Treasure with her Papa while I was at a meeting. She woke up with grand plans to write a note to her cousins so they could do their own treasure hunt, but she had no plan for what they were going to be looking for. I convinced her to be patient and give me an hour and we would do it up right. This is what followed.

I wrote out a poem and delivered it to "the Buccaneers next door" (the 4 cousins).

Legend be told
Of Blackbeard's gold
Hid on an Isle
In ocean cold.

Map that was lost--
Found at great cost.
Ship sent to search--
By wild storm tossed.

From East to West
As the Sun crests
Horizons far--
Where is the chest?

Brave the gale!
Find it or fail!
All Ye Pirates,
Finish this tale!

They were instructed to work together and not let anyone fall overboard (although there were several side excursions in the dinghy).

Thirteen clues then led them through obtaining fuel for their voyage (the propane tank), gathering grain for bread and rum (the crib--Yes, I know beer is made from grain and rum is made from...whatever rum is made from. I was working with what I had.), a bell tolling, an old iron horse, soldiers in the fort...until they found the treasure and were instructed to divide the spoils equally, or risk the Black Spot.

 It was great fun, and, for the moment, I'm a cool Mom. Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Tatting Continues

Over the weekend and the last couple of days, I have continued to work on the tatting off and on. The bulk of my time is going to the Hardanger Tablecloth (which I will post about later), but my eyes can only take about 3-4 hours of embroidery before they start to feel like live coals. The tatting is much easier on the eyes, but I'm still working on the fine motor muscle development to do that for longer periods of time. In other words, the two balance each other.

With such large amounts of time devoted to hand work, I've had plenty of opportunity to think about why it is that I like to do these things. I can sum it up with two thoughts.

So many of the gentle arts are being lost, and that grieves me. "Lost art" encompasses so much more than hand made lace and doilies. It includes conversation and sharing our lives with others. With a majority of the population plugged into technology, the simple graces of relationships and beauty are fading. When we do gather together, it often seems that we gather around the television or computer. Gifts are bought pre-made with little time invested in thinking about the intended recipient. Yes, I know that the different social platforms allow us to be more connected than ever, but I would argue that those connections are more shallow and largely self centered. I don't want this to become a sermon, but imagine how different it might be if more people put down the gadgets and picked up the tools of creation.

The second reason is a little more personal. In my life, I have already spent too much time in the waiting room--waiting for people to live and waiting for people to die. In those times, the circumstances that you find yourself in are far beyond your control. Often, the only thing you can do is pray.* And while prayer is the most powerful thing we can do in any situation, it does leave the rest of your body antsy and fidgety. Having something to do with your hands is a very grounding, calming thing. It soothes the feeling of helplessness, and gives you a steady point from which to focus your thoughts; not unlike a tripod for a telescope.
In a way, it reminds me of the liturgy used in worship. Liturgy itself is not the desired result, but a means to an end (at least, when it's done correctly). Liturgy, in it's simplest definition (a prescribed ritual) can be a framework for worship. Similarly, hand work in times of stress (or otherwise) can be a type of liturgy to refocus our attentions on the Lord, who is always in control.

*Why being in this position is the best thing for us is matter for another post, elsewhere.

Probably not the post you expected, huh?

Monday, August 2, 2010

101 Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar

Isn't it about time we do another 101 Uses post? I think so. Here's an easy one: Apple Cider Vinegar. A simple search on google yields a ridiculous amount of results, so finding 101 should be easy. To make it more specific, let's target just Apple Cider vinegar, not ordinary white vinegar. While it may seem that they are very similar, in fact, they are not.
Here are a few of my favorites*, along with some of the more bizarre:
  1. Cure colds: 1 part ACV to 1 part honey, take 1 T 6-8x a day
  2. Appetite suppressant: 1 t. ACV to a glass of water + a little honey for flavor
  3. Arthritis cure: 2 t ACV to glass of water before each meal--takes 3 weeks to start working
  4. Upset stomach: 2 t to 1 c of water
  5. Yeast infections: douche with diluted ACV solution (do not use white vinegar)
  6. Cough cure: 1/2 c ACV, 1/2 c water, 1/4 c honey, 1 t cayenne pepper--take 1 T any time cough acts up.
  7. Flea removal: add to pets water, and rub on fur to remove fleas
  8. Hair rinse: 1/2 T to c water
  9. Skin toner 1:2 water on cotton ball
  10. Lighten age spots
  11. Spa treatment for feet
  12. Remove tooth stains
  13. Weight loss
  14. Kidney detox
  15. All around the house cleaning
  16. Aftershave?
  17. Acne cure
Well, there's a start. Anybody have anything to add?

*this does not mean that I have tried all of these, or can attest to their effectiveness, or even safety. If you try them, you do so at your own risk. However, if you have good, bad, or hysterical results, of course, I want to know about it.