Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Get a Room

I have two giant plants in my back flower garden that are getting ready to bloom.

I didn't plant them and I have no idea what they are. They're about 6' tall now. My neighbor, Kay, thinks they wondered over from her garden. She had similar plants last year and dug them up because they were so big.

I got up close to one of the plants tonight to check out the buds. There must have been 50 Japanese Beetles working on building families.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Take Your Kohlrabi to Work Day

As I was packing my lunch this morning, I mentioned that I was going to take a couple of the kohlrabi with me to work.

My husband replied, "If they have a good time, maybe you can take them to the park tomorrow."

I'm still laughing over that one ;-)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Honey Bees Visit Garden

It's been quite a while since I've seen honey bees so I was delighted that a few stopped by the garden this morning. I've read several articles on Colony Collapse Disorder and there's no consensus on what's causing the bees to die off. Some think it has to do with pesticides, others say mites are the cause and some say it's due to malnutrition caused by genitally engineered plants (companies like General Mills re-engineer grains to be more disease and pest resistant and yield larger crops and those grains may not have the nutrients that bees need to survive).

Although the problem isn't yet clear, it's safe to assume that not using pesticides in your garden and planting native flowers will be beneficial to any bees that do stop by for a bit of your pollen.

Watching the Brickyard 400 in Comfort

We purchased six tickets, at $60 each, for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. We loaded up the van with friends, food, beverages and camping gear and headed down to Indy for a weekend of racing. We'd been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway many times before to watch open wheel racing, but never before had the old Brickyard felt the rumble of NASCAR.

It's been about four years since we saw the race live in Indianapolis. We finally gave up after ticket prices reached $120 each. Watching the race from the comfort of our TV room is a very different experience from watching it at the track. There is no line for the rest room. Food and drinks are much cheaper and we have a view of the entire track; not just the front stretch.

Intermittent Internet

Something is seriously wrong with our AT&T service. Both the phone and DSL have been out since Friday morning. Their customer service rep suggested I go around the house unplugging and replugging all of my telephones. I guess that's the best they could come up with for level one triage. We've had short spurts of Internet access over the weekend, but no longer than 15 minutes at a time. Argh!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Where did all the birds go?

Although we have four fully-stocked bird feeders and two bird baths in our yard, we've not seen many birds lately.

I did come across this hawk feather today which leads me to believe the birds that normally lunch here at Chez Purple Rose of Sharon may have been witness to a gruesome attack on one of their own.

Tomato Hornworm Being Eaten Alive

My relaxing stroll through the garden came to an abrupt halt when I happened upon the dreaded tomato hornworm. My very first vegetable garden, more than 20 years ago, yielded a giant tomato hornworm and not only did I have to call Grandma over to pluck the monster from my tomato plant, but I didn't step foot in that garden for the rest of the season.

This is only the second one I've seen in my life and, for some reason, this one didn't scare me as much as the first one did. I calmly broke the branch off of the plant, tossed it, along with the hornworm, into the fire pit and ran into the house to do a Google search to see why this one was covered with white protrusions.

The answer, courtesy of Kansas State University: "The tomato hornworm is parasitized by a number of insects. One of the most common is a small braconid wasp. Larva that hatch from wasp eggs laid on the hornworm feed on the inside of the hornworm until the wasp is ready to pupate. The cocoons appear as white projections protruding from the hornworm's body. If such projections are seen, leave the infected hornworms in the garden. The wasps will kill the hornworms when they emerge from the cocoons and will seek out other hornworms to parasitize."

GROSS! Although I appreciate their advice, there's no way I'm going to put that thing back in my garden.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom

Talking on Cell Phone???

When I pulled out of the parking lot at work this evening I saw that someone had gone off the road and came within inches of crashing into a light pole.

Either a deer ran out in front of their car and they were able to avoid it by driving into the golf course. Or, more likely, they weren't paying attention to their driving because they were talking on their cell phone.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stargazer Lily

Too bad the Internet doesn't offer scratch and sniff capabilities. If it did, you could enjoy the heavenly scent of my stargazer lily. This is the only one I brought over from the old farmhouse. It continues to bloom each year, but has yet to spread.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cicada Killer Wasp

When we first discovered the hole, I thought it was home to the cute little chimpmunk that hangs out under the skid that is supporting the pile of landscape bricks in our driveway.

Bruce was sure it was too small for a chimpmunk and, after a bit of research, he learned that chimpmunks don't mound up dirt around their holes. But, Cicada Killer Wasps do.

Here's what's going on under our driveway, according to What's That Bug:

Cicada Killer Wasps arrive in July and August. They feed on pollen and nectar, but larval wasps feed on Cicadas. The female Cicada Killer paralyzes a Cicada with her sting and drags it back to her burrow where she will bury it and lay an egg. The developing wasp larva will then feed on the paralyzed Cicada. Being that the Cicada is paralyzed and still alive, it does not harden and dry out so the larval wasp has living fresh meat.

Imagine the horror of being the Cicada!

Here's a video we found on YouTube showing an actual Cicada Killer coming out of her burrow.

Weed Gardening

I have an exciting landscaping plan for the front yard, but it involves more money than I'm willing to invest this summer.

As I'm building up my cash reserves, I have successfully cultivated a prolific weed garden.

I've started harvesting my crop, but it's a bit more than I can use at this time. Let me know if you'd like some of my bounty. I'm happy to share.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Final Fence Construction

Last night I tried to cut the tops off of the fence posts with a hand saw. It took about 45 minutes to get the first one cut off.

Tonight Bruce finished the job with a chain saw -- six posts trimmed up in less than five minutes.

Might be hard to see in this photo, but the copper post caps really add a nice finishing touch.

Today's Garden Tour

~~~ Bruce caught me putzing in the garden, so I'll use this photo to lead you on today's garden tour. ~~~

~~~ Bee enjoying the sunflower. ~~~

~~~ Zenias Rock! ~~~

~~~ Tomato plants are around six foot high. ~~~

~~~ Butterfly Bushes finally in bloom. ~~~

~~~ Purple Rose of Sharon ~~~

~~~ Testimonial for Miracle Grow. ~~~

~~~ Perfect Coneflower ~~~

~~~ Odd bug on Queen Anne's Lace. ~~~

Grandma, What Big Eyes You Have

Grandma's been having a hard time reading her bible and newspaper. Seems her arms just aren't long enough anymore or maybe the light isn't bright enough.

Either way, we're hoping today's visit to the eye doctor and the new glasses she ordered will bring the world back in focus.

Although her vision isn't as clear as it once was, you can see by the photo above that her wit is still as sharp as ever. I didn't want to take a photo when she was getting her exam as the flash might have interfered with her test. The doctor was kind enough to recreate the event so I could capture it. I didn't even notice, until I downloaded the photos, that Grandma stuck her tongue out at me.

She only tried on four pairs of frames before selecting these. The last time I got new glasses I tried on every pair in the place, at least twice. She's so easy to please. I almost had her talked into these frames (see below) but she thought they were a bit too young looking.

Monday, July 21, 2008

As Seen Through the Eyes of Strangers

Ever wonder what a bunch of random strangers think about your look? No, I never did either until I stumbled upon a website called FaceStat.

You upload a photo and check off various attributes that you want to be rated on.

I selected intelligence and was rated as bright.

I selected trustworthy and was rated as probably.

I selected age and was rated pretty much spot on.

In addition, those rating you on those attributes can add random comments. Most thought I looked like a mom with bad hair.

It's sort of fun if you're not easily offended. Just keep in mind that the average age of those judging you is probably 19.

The Paper

Every week someone stuffs "The Paper" in our South Bend Tribune newspaper box. It's the local weekly shopper and it's always good for a few chuckles.

Here are my favorite reader submissions from this week's "Speak Out" column.

The randomness of these thoughts really make me wonder about the mental health of the people in our community as well as the qualifications of the editor who decided these are print worthy.

I will admit that I often have random thoughts myself, but I have a bit more self control than to share them with my neighbors through a newspaper column. I much prefer to spew them out to my husband as he's in the middle of something requiring concentration.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wasp Nest, Day 1

We have a 3' x 3' wasp nest attached to the back of our house. It's too high up for us to reach, even with a ladder, and the wasps abandon it after the end of summer last year so now we just think of it as art. Today we noticed a new one sprouting up under our patio umbrella.

I thought Bruce was going to knock it down, but he says he wants to watch the construction. Should make for fun evenings on the patio!

Bring on the Stuffed Peppers

Now that we've tied up the tomatoes we can see how huge the green peppers have gotten.

Plenty big enough for Sunday dinner. When we were in St. John, we had the most awesome stuffed peppers courtesy of our chefs Gretchen, Jim, Mark and Christy.

Here's the recipe:

Rice Stuffed Peppers

(Makes 6 full stuffed peppers)

6 red bell peppers
1 leek
1 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic - diced
1 poblano - diced
4 oz. mushrooms - sliced
3/4 c. uncooked rice
2 cans chicken broth
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground pepper
1 t ground cumin
1 t tumeric
1 t paprika
1 c frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans
3/4 c. monteray jack cheese

1. Slice of tops of peppers, remove and discard seeds and core
2. Preheat oven to 350
3. Cut leek into quarters lengthwise, slice 1/4 inch thick.
4. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and add garlic and
leak. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften ~ 5 minutes
5. Add poblano, cook another 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, cook another 4
6. Stir in rice, cook, tossing to coat, for 1 minute
7. Stir in broth, salt, pepper, cumin, tumeric and paprika. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 15 - 20 minutes.
8. Stir in corn, black beans, and a 1/2 grated cheese. Scoop into peppers.
9. Place in a glass baking dish and add 1/4 inch of water to the dish. Bake 1 hour
10. Sprinkle with remaining cheese - cook 1 minute under broiler.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wasted Saturday

We had big plans for Saturday. We had our beach bag and cooler packed and were planning to spend the day on Lake Wawasee. But the weather didn't cooperate. It was pouring down rain here all morning and into the early afternoon. Several of our friends decided to go anyway, trusting that Syracuse is far enough away they'd be experiencing a different weather pattern for the day. Turns out they were right. They had a fabulous time while I sat in front of the TV watching old movies.

Since the sax player in the band I saw Friday night reminded me of the kid in Super Bad, I pulled that movie off of our DVD rack and settled in for a couple hours of wincing and laughing at its stupid, juvenile, male humor.

If you've seen the movie, you know all about McLovin. I Googled him and came across a website where you can make your own McLovin driver's license. All I need now is to find a laminating machine for my new ID.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fernwood Friday

After a very long week of work and a successful meeting in Chicago on Friday, I relaxed with friends and great music in the peaceful setting of Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles, Michigan.

The WVPE Meet Me in the Garden event at Fernwood featured the music of the Three Gringos jazz band.

Their guest sax player was incredibly talented. I kept thinking he looked familiar and it suddenly occurred to me that he looked exactly like the kid from the movie Super Bad.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tiny Things Hiding in My Veggie Garden

I didn't realize that there were big-headded grasshoppers in Indiana. I thought they were only out west in the prairies. But, among over 500 different species, I may have misidentified him. This micro critter is only about a half-inch long.

~~~ Right now I might look like a sweet gherkin, but just give me some time. ~~~

A Splash of Color

I get so excited each time I visit the garden and find another Zenia has bloomed. No purple yet, but this orange flower adds a nice touch of color among the zucchinis.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Trip to the Vet Ends with Ice Cream

Spike had to go to the Vet this evening to find out why he's leaking. For the bargain price of $199.20, he received a urinalysis, a probe in an area where things should only come out and never go in, a blood test with a big scary needle and two prescriptions.

To reward him for being such a brave little guy, I took him to the FrosTop (my generic name for every little ice cream shop) and bought him the doggie treat special. We walked across the street to the park and I sat the bowl on the grass and waited for him to discover it on his own.

~~~ He found it, but wasn't quite sure what it was. ~~~

~~~ Yummy ~~~

Eli's New Hair Style

From across the office today, I noticed that Eli was wearing a hat. I thought it was odd since it's the middle of summer.

As I got closer I saw that it wasn't a hat, but a dye job on his hair.

For some reason he decided it would be a good idea to paint a bullseye on his head. Guess he thought using red dye would be too over the top.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday's Garden Tour

~~~ Tomato leaves lean into the bird bath for a drink. ~~~

~~~ Come on in birds, the buffet is open. ~~~

~~~ Bright yellow Zenia brightens the garden today ~~~

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Putting Fresh Eggs to Good Use

Last Sunday, as we were leaving Bruce's family reunion, second-cousin Brian hooked us up with a dozen and a half eggs, fresh from his chicken coop.

Yesterday we had fried egg sandwiches for breakfast.

Tonight we used a couple of the eggs in a meatloaf.

Today's Garden Tour

I admired these ceramic plant markers at the Master Gardeners' plant show yesterday so Judy bought them both and gave them to me as a gift.

I spoke with the artist who created them and got her email address as I'm considering placing a custom order for several more.

The zenias are starting to bloom. The first few are fairly pale so I'm hoping I see more brilliant colors as the summer progresses.

This sunflower started to unfold today. It's a volunteer, as I didn't plant any sunflowers this year. I guess the birds missed a seed last fall.

One of my garden staples is the purple coneflower.

This lightning bug (look closely at the daisy) is resting up from a hard night of illuminating our back yard.

I only use zucchini to make bread so I let them grow really large before I break them free from the vines. Today we peeled and shredded this zucchini and put it into a plastic bag in the freezer. The next time I go to the grocery store, I'll pick up some brown sugar, raisins and a few other ingredients and whip up a few loaves of zucchini bread.