Sunday, July 29, 2007

what I haven't posted about lately

We've been raising chicks, again. We got them about three weeks ago, and they have been inhabiting the cook shed, but they were getting too big, and the poultry dust was just settling all over everything, so...

Today The Hermit revived our old chicken tractor and moved the brood out there. They seemed to enjoy the space, and grass. I even brought them out a treat of maggots I found in my kitchen compost bin. Yuck, I know.

I can't even tell you what all the breeds are. We had had a few beers before The Hermit got the bright idea of logging on to Murray McMurray and ordering. We do have some funky Polish chicks that are starting to get their headdresses. All girls, I'm tired of roosters for now. We have one that won't shut up.

They're enjoying their new digs. And I'm enjoying the few extra square feet of space and lack of poultry dust in my kitchen.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Let's put this to a vote

Calvin insisted on fixing my hair and taking this photo of me last night. I told him I'd blog it and maybe even consider using it as my new profile photo if I felt okay with it. But, being a woman and all, I don't know if I'm okay with it. I keep looking in the mirror hoping to see the face that was there when I was half my age. Instead I see my father's face, with blue eyes instead of brown. (He must have been heterozygous brown)

Oh, and I see evidence now that the little hummingbird that should have been on my earring was lost before this picture was taken. Dang it, those were good earrings and I have way too many single earrings already!

So is this the new profile pic? Let me know what you think. :)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lost dog update: SHE'S BACK!!!! :)

The Hermit just called me here at work to let me know Maggie (the Chesapeake) came back! Starflower was playing outside and Maggie came running out of the woods, acting very happy to be home with everyone.

I guess she's in good condition. Very good condition. As in, she wasn't acting hungry or thirsty after being gone for four days. Which more or less confirms our suspicions about the neighbor. Sigh.

50,000 visitors!!!

At 2:11 AM, Central Daylight Savings Time, the 50,000th visitor checked in on Sand Creek Almanac! From Witten, Germany no less; how great to have an international visitor for the big 50k!

Thanks to everyone who reads this. It really amazes me sometimes how many folks are interested in my little corner of the world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

carrot love

I found this intertwined pair this morning when I was thinning carrot plants. I generally hate the idea of thinning anything in the garden, but at least these were big enough to eat.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lost dogs and mixed blessings

For you John Prine fans, I'm sure you recognize the title of his album that came out...was it 10 years ago already?

We've been preoccupied with some missing dog issues. Hopi and Maggie, Brittany and Chesapeake respectfully, ran off Sunday morning and disappeared. They like to run on our property, but this is very unusual for them. So, Monday morning, Hopi returned. Maggie is still missing. This alone tells me that they were being held somewhere nearby, and Hopi managed to escape. It is just so out of character for them to just disappear. I'm suspecting a certain neighbor, and keeping a close eye on the situation. If my suspicion is true, it really sucks that we have neighbors like that.

Anyway, I just found out why Hopi was in a running mood. Let's just say that she and Togo...ummm....were just caught in a loving position. Oh crap, it's so hard to tell with Brittanys. when they're in season. A visit to the vet is in order. Sigh. other news, after freezing temps last week, we are caught in a heat wave. 90 degree highs here today, with lows in the 60's and fog, which means the dewpoint is at an uncomfortable level. I was out on a lake today, doing an aquatic plant survey, something which I guess is my calling this summer, and it was HOT. That, and our motor kept beeping, signaling that either we were clogged up and overheating, or that the signal was out of whack. Sigh. It was, however, the lake that I practically grew up on, at least on weekends spent at Grandma and Grandpa's, so I liked being there again. I had to pop a Claritin after we got off the lake; I'm allergic to a certain type of blue green algae, which was on its way to becoming abundant there.

I checked the garden tonight, and we have one tomato that is turning orange! It is a Stupice, my (so far) favorite early variety. We also have a Diva cucumber at five inches, almost harvestable. I harvested garlic on Saturday, and intended to post about it; maybe later. We used one of the new garlic cloves on grilled Lake Superior lake trout yesterday, and it was great!

Oh, and according to Site Meter I'm due to have my 50,000th visitor some time in a day or two. This calls for some kind of celebration.

And, while I'm here, I have harvested lupine seeds. Those of you who requested them, I'll try to get them out in the mail soon!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

volunteer tomatoes

See that tomato plant? The vigorous one with all the flowers? The one that is taller than the others?

That one just sprung up, like a couple other in my garden. I did not plant them. And somehow, they are outdoing the greenhouse plants I bought, or the ones I started from seed. From my very sketchy garden records from last year, this could very well be a Brandywine. The leaves look like it.

So, I'm thinking...why bother with tomato seedlings? Why not just plant seeds early in the spring, or even in the fall to overwinter?

My garden results this year should help shed some light on the subject.

Friday, July 20, 2007

More Cold Spot, etc.

Morning temperature: 33 degrees F. No known frost damage. This is STRANGE! It got up to 80 degrees later. Supposed to be really hot this weekend.

I don't post on my other blog, The Deliberate Homemaker that often, so I just wanted to let you know, if you were ever wondering how one could spill beer on a ceiling, you might be interested in my latest post.

The weekend promises a lot of domestic chores, with maybe a trip to Park Point (Lake Superior) if it gets too hot.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

another reason to like my Subaru

On the way home from work, in my Subaru of course (haven't picked up the Accord from brake surgery yet) I was listening to the Duluth independent public radio station. One syndicated program they carry was supported by Subaru. In the quasi commercial they are allowed on public radio, they said that Subaru plants are committed to zero contribution to landfills. Everything is reused or recycled, or so they say.

It's a step in the right direction. Although I'm sure they haven't factored in the eventual waste that parts of their cars will create (If in fact they ever die; I'm counting on the reports that Subarus are immortal!) I think it's good that a major manufacturer considers the waste stream that manufacturing creates, and makes efforts to eliminate it.

And I'm happy to have purchased a slightly used vehicle, not a new one. Not only for the monetary savings, but if I had purchased a new vehicle I would have contributed to the consumer demand that fuels the production of new vehicles, and the concomitant waste.

We considered a new Ford Escort hybrid; financing aside, we rejected it for the fact that hybrids haven't been widely used in cold climates like here, and that they really don't get significantly greater gas mileage than the car we bought, and that buying a used conventional vehicle trumps buying a new hybrid, material wise. And, our dear trusted mechanic in the nearest town might not be able to work on a hybrid, although I'm sure he'd give his best at it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


It's an inescapable fact of life, for now. We need dependable cars to make the income to fund this crazy, off-kilter way of life we have until it becomes viable, or until the oil supply runs out. Whichever comes first.

Our current fleet all have over 200,000 miles on them, which means they're great, above-average vehicles, but then again they could maybe leave us hitchhiking on the side of the road at any moment, with kids. Even my dependable Honda Accord, which I drive almost sixty miles round trip to work each day, is in the shop now for brake work. And there's the cool factor. When The Hermit and I drove to Park Point in Duluth a couple weekends ago for a music festival, in our '95 Astro van, we thought to ourselves..."Hey, I feel pretty frumpy!" :)

So we started thinking seriously about replacing the van, or at least getting a vehicle that a) we could fit the whole family in, plus accessories, and b) had few enough miles on the odometer that it would hopefully last us a few years, and c) was cheap enough, and d) had some of the "cool factor".

The above pictured vehicle, a 2006 Subaru Outback with some 15,000 miles on it, met the above criteria. I am now in way more debt that I want to be, but it's okay, I just got a hefty 2.5% raise from the State of Minnesota each year for the next two years! And, we're probably better off financially than we've been in years.

Still there was that gut-tightening wait while financing was finally approved. I hate that. I can't help but thinking, with all the people bringing their Acura leases in for tune-ups and such, that we were probably the white trash customers of the day. Mr. Attitude did a lot in the waiting room to reinforce that image. ;)

I can say, however, that this is probably the coolest vehicle that I have ever driven. It has one of these mileage calculator thingies, and on the drive home I averaged 31.5 mpg! Another factor we considered in our vehicle selection, perhaps the most important. We could have gotten in to a bigger minvan or something, but at today's gas prices you have to think "do we really need a third seat?"

Did I mention it's all wheel drive, perhaps another important factor in our Minnesotarctica climate?

Oh well, the cool factor overrides everything. :)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

musical breakthrough

I love when this kind of stuff happens. I set aside some time to practice music today, something that has been way too few and far between lately. I played and sang a couple songs on the guitar, then I felt drawn to the octave mandolin. It's a strange instrument, one that most people don't know about, but I love it.

I have recently joined the message boards at Mandolin Cafe, although I haven't posted yet. They have a special area for "Citterns, bouzoukis, and octave mandolins". I read a post and listened to an incredible sound link of someone playing an old time song on octave mandolin. Reading through the posts, I found out they were tuned in GDGD, not the standard GDAE tuning. (They also had a capo to AEAE) You non musical types might be lost here, but believe me, when I tuned to GDGD, it suddenly opened up new worlds for me. I could play a melody without having to finger chords to accompany it. The open strings just sounded right with the notes I was fingering. It sounded so old timey, so dark. And it made me sound like I, for once, knew what I was doing with this instrument!

While I was just improvising with a melody that may or may not be a standard old-timey song, two rabbits came hopping out of the woods. They paused, and they looked like they were listening. So, I had an idea. I know this song called "Little Rabbit", and I had the capo in the right place (in A). So I started playing it, and the rabbits and I were grooving on it, until Sally came outside and decided to chase the rabbits. Oh well.

Anyway, it was a cool musical time. Hope to experiment more with GDGD soon!

fire flowers

I've always been more of a water type than a fire type. Too much yin, not enough yang. I am drawn to shades of blue, drawn to the water, fearful of the force of fire.

But water can drown, too. Sometimes I feel as if I've been slowly drowning from lack of fire.

I have always thought marigolds were a bit gaudy and fiery, a contradiction to my watered-down personality. But for some reason I always have to have them.

I bought this bee balm last year at the closeout sale at the greenhouse; I don't recall whether or not it was flowering at the time. Somehow, over the course of a winter, I convinced myself it was lavender colored, not fiery red. The scarlet flowers surprised me; their form even looks like fire. It's a new kind of beauty in my garden, and an outward sign of my need to kindle and feed the fire inside.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy 13th of July

Still more proof that I live in the Unofficial Coldest Spot in Minnesota.

The garden looked okay, but sometimes frost damage doesn't show up until later in the day.

Update: Pickling cucumbers and winter squash sustained some light frost damage. I have now seen frost in every month of the year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

dog tired

I spent the day on a beautiful little lake, the clearest lake I have seen in our management area. I would definitely go scuba diving there, if I had a lot of time for recreation. But I was not there for recreation, I was there for business. Vegetation sampling business.

It would have been a great day, had it not been so windy. So whitecap-inducing, hat-blowing windy. There was a cold front moving in, and it produced 30 mph gusts or more. Luckily the lake was small enough. We sampled vegetation where we could, and even ran into a couple of unfamiliar species. But having to drop and pull an anchor at every spot, as well as throwing this double headed rake sampler thingie and pulling it in, laden with weeds, made me kind of achy after a while. What? This is my job, I'm not supposed to whine about it? Oh well. It pays the bills.

And the wind has this effect on me. As soon as I arrived home, I was dog tired. Didn't want to move a muscle. We had frozen pizzas for dinner (locally produced, so at least that's something). I'm dozing off now.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Freedom Fest 2007

This is Park Point, Duluth, Minnesota, on the shore of Lake Superior, on the hottest day of the year. The wind was not coming off the lake; if it had, we would have seen more sweatshirts and been a lot more comfortable.

The Hermit and I had a rare day to ourselves, having dropped the kids off to spend the night with my stepson and his fiance. We had heard some of our favorite local bands were going to be playing at this brand new, absolutely FREE (except for the beer) festival. What could be better?

Maybe the 90 degree weather, although I sat out in the sun from 2 until evening and there was enough breeze that it didn't bother me. I even took the precaution of putting on some #15 sunscreen. No burns on me.

The music was so good, it was worth it.

These are The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. They live in a small town not too far from where I live, and they even have a great song about it. We have almost played their first CD to death. Anxiously awaiting their second. Good acoustic folk rock stuff.

Next up was a band called The Gallows. I ended up buying their CD. I liked the washboard player; he seemed to be having fun. They were rootsy, acoustic bluegrassy sort of music.

The festival drew listeners of all ages and species. I saw my first dog with dreadlocks. And there were so many little folks, babies just taking their first steps, half the fun was just watching them. Just watching them. I'm not getting any ideas, mind you...I'm getting too old for babies! :) I just like watching other peoples' babies.

We sat down at a picnic table in front of the stage just before 2:00, and left at about 9:30, while Trampled by Turtles was playing. I love their stuff, I waited all day to see them, but it was getting a bit crowded by then. I heard enough of them to see why everyone just loves them. Fun stuff to dance too.

We stayed out way past our bedtime, and now here I am blogging after midnight, but it was just so fun to hear a terrific music lineup and not have to tend kids at the same time!

Friday, July 06, 2007

When bloggers meet in real life

Today we arose early, got the whole family in the van and on the road by 6:15, and arrived at my dad's house just past 8:00, in another (failed :( ) attempt to get the RV started. We'll get it, eventually, but it's hard when you have to drive 100 miles to perform motor repair.

The day was anything but a failure for me, however. Last night I got a bright idea: since I was going to be in the area, why not see if Lynne and I could meet up somewhere? She lives near my old high school, less than three miles from my dad's house. So I dashed off an email, and to my delight she had some free time in the morning and actually wanted to meet me! She suggested a nearby coffee shop, and we planned to meet at 8:30.

What a great time. Now I'm not normally one to spend an hour and a half in a coffee shop gabbing with girlfriends, but it really felt like I was talking with an old friend. We talked on and on about our lives, our kids, birding, blogging, and our common connections; it turns out her parents lived for a while up near my place after they retired, and her daughter is going to high school this fall at my old rival high school, and her son wants to go to my old high school.

It's funny, this blogging thing. You reveal as much of yourself as you feel comfortable, and in turn you get to know others just by reading what they reveal about their lives. In blogging you develop a character, and when you meet another "character" for real, you feel like you already know so much about them! I can say that Lynne is every bit as sweet, funny, and genuine as she is on her blog. I hope she didn't think I was a total doofus... Really, I don't get enough practice at adult conversation these days.

Lynne, it was a real pleasure. Hope to meet up at Hasty Brook soon! :)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

new pond fun

The Hermit bought a kayak. For duck hunting. I guess it's a necessity. Men need their toys. Anyway, we tried it out on our pond yesterday. The kids loved it. Calvin was the fastest.

Starflower got the hang of it, after the males of the family quit shouting directions. She's good.

Of course, everyone, including Sally, had to get involved. They had way too much fun. Unfortunately, the kayak is kind of a pricey beach toy. I have an old sailboard we might pick up at my dad's tomorrow. We're making the trek to The Cities to try and get Dad's Winnebago LeSharo RV started. If we can start it, we can have it! Fun! I'll just throw my sailboard inside somewhere...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

State of the Garden

1. Potatoes. Planted late April. Status: Excellent. I've never had such lush plants full of flowers. And I like how this picture turned out a little surreal-looking in the morning mist.

2. Onions. Planted mid May. Status: Excellent. This is the first time I've had such robust looking plants; it helped that I planted started plants rather than those dry looking bulbs I've always planted before.

3. Greens. Planted sometime in April. Status: Way above average. This kale just won't quit, and neither has the lettuce, although it is time to replant in another bed. I tried replanting a couple weeks ago but nothing has come up.

4. Tomatoes, planted early June. Status: good. July should be a good growth month for them, and I'm hoping for the earliest ones by August. There are already flowers and a few little green tomatoes. All of my plants are under row covers, which buffer the cool nighttime temperatures and keep flying and four legged critters out.

5. Pickling cucumbers, planted from seed early June. Status: fair. I didn't get good germination with these, nor with bush beans, nor with carrots. I am thinking maybe it's the soil. The composted horse manure is good for transplants, but maybe it needs to be amended with some finer material to keep the seeds in place.

We're spending a quiet Fourth of July at home, except for The Hermit and Calvin who are going fishing this morning at the same lake where we fished the other day. From the looks of things, I may need to spend a little time weeding!

Sunday, July 01, 2007