Monday, June 30, 2008

Why I call him Mr. Attitude...

We took a break from home making to attend a festival in Duluth on Saturday, carpooling with our handyman, Chris. The festivities were the third annual Rhubarb Festival, put on by Churches United in Ministry in Duluth, who do the true work of Jesus, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. There was a bake sale featuring all kinds of rhubarb delectibles, food stands featuring rhubarb lemonade (they included a separate container of sugar to take the edge off), and a silent auction. But of course, what is a festival without good music? And for their size, they had an awesome lineup. Leading off were The Pines, a fairly new roots folk rock duo I'm really excited about. In fact, they were the reason I was excited about this whole thing! Their music is haunting, acoustic rhythm driven, and their songwriting, dare I say, Dylanesque? I just put their CD on my iPod last night so I could listen to it as I fell asleep.

Next in the lineup was Ann Reed, a Minnesota folk fixture. I had never seen her perform live, and it was a good show, although, she's wonderful and all that but just not the kind of songwriting that moves me lately. Although I respect anyone who sings their songs freely and from the heart.

Next up was Minnesota mandolin wizard Peter Ostroushko, who played a surprisingly laid back set. The highlight was his version of Girl from the North Country. What could be more appropriate on the newly named Bob Dylan Way?

While all this was going on, my kids were exploring. Mr. Attitude came back, caked head to toe in clay mud, and Chris informed us he had found them sliding down to Lake Superior on a muddy slope. They could not understand why I prohibited them from further exploration! So Starflower and Mr. Attitude decided to explore the festival booths, including the face painting. Normally when kids get their faces painted at festivals, they get smilie faces and rainbows and all that. Well...

May I present to you Frankenstein and Dracula. It's not in my genetic makeup, I tell ya.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

my blue doors

I spent a good part of my day painting the exterior doors of the new house. There are some projects I can get into, like painting doors, and some I can't, like insulation or drywall. Luckily we have someone who is willing to do the latter two.

The picture to the left is the "front" entrance, actually on the west side of the house. To the right is the "back" entrance, which will be used primarily for bringing firewood in. But both benefit from a coat of ocean blue paint. I also painted the insides a light almond color, which was not nearly as dramatic as the blue, but it looked good. I should mention, Starflower helped, and did a very good job, with the interior of the front door.

As I mentioned, I had someone who was willing to do drywall. Calvin was in charge of screwing for the day. (How bad does that sound!) And our good friend Chris was the general drywall contractor of the day. And if that isn't good enough, he's also willing (for a reasonable fee, of course) to come back some day this week and do the taping and mudding! I was really dreading doing that myself. I'll gladly paint, but drywall finish isn't my strong point.

So now we have two rooms which actually look like rooms. Only a few more to go...

While we worked, we listened to the MN Twins game, as pitcher Kevin Slowey shut out Milwaukee and the team dominated their stint with National League play, against some formidable pitchers no less. This young team amazes me. They are absolutely fun to watch. By all logic, they should not be winning so many games, but they are. I made sure I got my votes in for Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau for the All Star team.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

in the garden

I was going to post this last night, but a wimpy thunderstorm knocked out our DSL overnight. I guess it doesn't matter much to them if a few people are without service, but I called just to let them know we were without service. I knew they wouldn't get on it until this morning.

Thanks to good temperatures, and a good watering once in a while, the garden, though behind schedule, is starting to come alive. I like the look of a nice bed of greens!

I have a "bonus" bed of kale and spinach, among my growing pickling cucumbers. I had planted this bed early in the spring, maybe late April, but nothing came up. I thought it had something to do with the soil, so I dumped some of my good horse pasture dirt in there and mixed it up before I planted cucumbers. As the cucumbers came up, so did various greens.

And I should really know my greens better. When I saw this stuff growing, it looked like Swiss chard to me. I never bothered to check the stems. Spinach. But it sure looks good! I forgot I planted it at the end of a bed of onions.

It the foreground, sugar snap peas with a little dill, and an open space planted with Swiss chard. I checked the label this time. In the background, waist high garlic. For the second straight year, I am blessed with garlic. The scapes (flower stalks) started growing this week.

Daisies are in every open ditch and pasture lately. These are the result of a wildflower planting I did here a long time ago, way before we lived here. They are all that remain of the original seed mix.

And, here is the lupine, starting to go to seed already. Ah, the brief, wonderful joys of summer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

update- the not so expensive rabbit after all

First, thanks for all the good bunny wishes. Good news- another vet at the office got a chance to look at Cocoa, and she thought it may just be myositis behind the eye that's making it look bulgy. So instead of surgery, we got prednisone drops to put in the eye for a week. Hopefully that will take care of the problem. I think the eye looked better this morning even before the drops were put in.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

the expensive rabbit

For the most part, the rabbits have been low maintenance pets; just give them rabbit food and water, and some fresh greens now and then, and they're happy.

But early this week I noticed something wrong with Cocoa, Starflower's rabbit. Its right eye was bulging out and the eyelid was red. A little pinkeye, I thought, maybe it will go away and I can avoid a $45 vet visit. But today when the eye was still red and bulging I decided maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to give the vet a call. Come in for a $45 visit and get the $5 eye drops or whatever.

The first obstacle to that plan was finding a vet who worked with rabbits. One would think, in a rural area like this, vets would come out in the middle of the night to treat an eggbound chicken. Nope. My first call was to the local vet ten miles away, who has spayed and neutered a few of our canine and feline companions and euthanized one. I set up an appointment with the assistant, but she called back about half an hour with the news: "Dr. Vet does not see rabbits." Okay. Maybe she will not see any of our other pets in the future, even those that are her preferred species.

Next I called a clinic in the next nearest town, twenty miles away. "Do you see rabbits?" I asked. "No. You could try Cloquet." 45 miles away. So I called. "Do you see rabbits?" "Yes we do! But...we can't get you in till Monday. Two of our vets are on vacation. But the Moose Lake clinic does take rabbits."

"I already tried them, and they said no."

"Did you call Arrowhead Lane clinic?"


"Oh, call the OTHER one!" Little did I know the small town of Moose Lake, MN supports two vet clinics. I called the other one, asked if they saw rabbits, and the receptionist said she'd ask the doctor. She came back and said "Yes, but he says he's no expert on them, he'll probably be reading the book while he examines it. We can get you in at 4."

"Good enough", I said. At least he was willing to give it a try. Conjunctivitis isn't that hard to diagnose, I thought.

So we arrived at 4, and the vet was actually at the front desk waiting for us. A younger guy, and obviously enthusiastic and eager to help us. We went into the exam room. They ruled out glaucoma, did some X rays (cha-CHING!) to rule out a tumor, then he came with the news:

"It appears her eye may have been pushed out of its socket." Ugh. Poor bunny. POOR BUNNY! But bunnies are great at hiding things like that. They try to go on with life as usual.

But there is hope. He consulted with a friend in Wales who apparently is a rabbit expert, and he can put the bunny under anesthesia (cha-CHING!) and attempt to poke the eye back in. Ouch. But what are the alternatives? Surgery to remove the eye, euthanasia, or nothing. I can't do anything but the best for Starflower's pet bunny. Sigh.

So I'll be bringing Cocoa in at 7:30 AM for eye-poking surgery. Please pray that all goes well! And thank God it's The Hermit's payday Monday.

turtle tracks

The gravel roads are full of turtle tracks lately, as the female painted and snapping turtles emerge from their watery habitats to lay eggs on land.

This female was busy in the driveway this morning, depositing her eggs in the sandy gravel. She was so focused on her task, she was not distracted by my presence. I'll have to mark this spot and keep track of it; If I come back at the right time, I just may see baby snapping turtles emerging from the ground.

I've been making some tracks of my own lately, and this encounter was one of the rewards for doing so. For the last five mornings, I've been going for a run. Yes, you read that right. At 41, after not having run seriously for almost twenty years, I've decided it's time to make a serious effort to get back in shape. I enjoyed running when I was in college; it was a good way to get away from the stress of classes and dorm life. In retrospect, I didn't know what stress was then!

At my peak, I was running maybe five or six miles every other day. This week, I have a course that's maybe half to three quarters of a mile, and I run a little and walk a little. The mosquitoes give me an incentive to keep running, at least until my body screams "ENOUGH!" Then I come back to the new house and do some stretching and yoga. I've been meaning to get into a yoga routine for months, but oddly enough I seem to need to rev up my metabolism a bit before I can get into the relaxed state yoga requires. So far, running and yoga have been a good match and a routine I look forward to in the morning.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

guess what...

We have chicks. I told The Hermit we had so much going on this summer, I didn't think we had time for them, but...oh well. I like eggs. They're all girls. Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps (assalopes :) and Araucaunas. For blue eggs.

Today I broke two strings on my bouzouki while attempting to tune it. They were old strings, I understand, and I had replacements, but...before today I had never broken a string, on any instrument! I know... that tells me I have been seriously neglecting this instrument, which I have. And, that generally, I don't play enough. Which I plead guilty to. I will try to remedy that situation. I did have a kickass session on it, after strings were changed. I'm almost ready to make a video and post it. It was that fun! For those left utterly confused, bouzouki= a mandolin family instrument in a lower tuning, generally an octave lower than your regular mando but there are lots of variations. I mostly do GDGD tuning.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

clouds and pines

This photo was taken just after 9 PM, just before sunset. That's what I love about living just above 46 degrees north latitude; I wake up just after sunrise, and when I go to bed there's a little bit of light lingering in the Western sky.

We had a few scattered showers moving through here tonight, hence the clouds. The rain didn't amount to more than a few drops, but the clouds and rainbows were spectacular.

Today I had to work, but it was actually a good experience. I went to a lake association meeting to talk about fish stuff, and a new long term monitoring project we have, which includes one of the lakes of interest. Here in Minnesota, lakeshore property owners have gotten together to form associations, which do everything from organize Fourth of July boat parades to doing some serious fundraising for watershed improvement projects. I really enjoyed the perspective of this lake association, although the gap between talk and action still remains huge. At least their hearts are in the right place.

On the way home, I stopped in the city park in the town where I lived until nine years ago. I got out my cell phone and called an old friend I hadn't talked with in years, who used to live in this town with me and now lives in the country a few miles north. I don't know why I felt so compelled to call her today, but I am so glad I did. We talked like the neighbors we used to be, as if time and distance had never separated us. We met her and her husband because we admired her garden as we went on walks through our semi-rural subdivision next to the freeway. Gardening was an instant bond between us, and as our friendship developed we found out we shared some common musical interests; she played fiddle and her husband played guitar and banjo. The Hermit was learning guitar then, and I had just discovered mandolin. We spent many hours playing together on banjo and fiddle, mandolin and guitar. Today I would give anything for a neighbor down the road who could share a tune or two.

We went on to share many wonderful times, including becoming pregnant and giving birth within a month of each other. Our friends had all but given up hope of having a child of their own, and were on the verge of adoption when it happened. They adopted, and had a child. And went on to have another child. So now we each have three wonderful children.

Then life changed, we moved away, and for a long time I just thought something was missing. I think I finally know the answer to what was missing. And I am glad that we will probably be getting together soon!

I guess I had forgotten how much this friendship meant to me, and I regret that. I like where we live now, but the bonds of friendship have been somehow more difficult to forge. But tonight we went to the grocery store for a few things (spending over $80 in the end), and met up with a couple we knew from church, and chatted in the aisle for a long time. And we also ran into the band director/kindergarten music teacher/piano teacher. So maybe community can still happen.

Friday, June 20, 2008

too much work!

today's lupinicity

It's crazy, I tell ya. My job is somewhat seasonal in nature, although I work full time year round, and this happens to be the busiest season. When the lakes are open and aquatic vegetation is growing, I'm there. This week I finished up a project mapping curlyleaf pondweed on a lake, spent a day on another lake inspecting individual applications for Eurasian watermilfoil control, spent a day and a half decoding my notes from the inspections, and now I'm at home preparing a talk I'm giving to a lake association tomorrow. As in, Saturday. As in, I almost NEVER work on Saturday. And I never take work home. I suppose I could have told my boss no, but then he's been giving similar presentations just about every Saturday for the last month, and performance reviews are coming up... Unfortunately, I don't get extra weekend pay. I've already taken the time off I earned from doing this.

Did I mention I don't like public speaking, although I can do a tolerable job of it when I have to?

I'll be happy when this is over. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

lupine of the day

As I was going to T ball with Mr. Attitude, I noticed lupines blooming along the school's access road, and on the banks of a couple ponds they have on the grounds. I guess it's been more popular lately to have wildflower seeds included in the usual ground cover mix. I think it looks lovely. Above is the progress of my lupine at home.

It being T ball and kids Bible study night, we ate a late dinner and I am tired. Starflower has strep throat, which is strange because apart from her huge swollen tonsils and sore throat, she has no symptoms. She had the sore throat yesterday, when I took the day off, but I made the judgment call to not take her to the doctor because she did not have a raging fever. Oh well. Diagnostics are one of the more difficult arts of being a parent.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

now we've gone guitar hero

This is Calvin, in the new house where we had cake and ice cream, after he realized his big birthday present was...Guitar Hero III for Wii.

He wanted to sleep out in the new house with his we're thinking they will be playing all night, The Hermit and I just might claim the new inflatable mattress for ourselves...

lupine time again

If you're a long time reader, this may look familiar. From the stage of flower development, we're about thirteen days behind last year.

And, if you remembered last year's lupine, you may also remember I made an offer that I never followed through on, and I'm really sorry about that. I had offered seeds from this lupine to anyone who wanted them. Unfortunately, I lost the seeds. BUT, I will collect seeds again this year and I promise, I'll keep better track of them this time!

The lupine is blooming just in time for Calvin's eleventh birthday. He's having a few friends over, and they're going to sleep on a king size air mattress in the new house! The mattress is more comfy than my own bed; I've tried it out. :) The Hermit is picking up a super secret present as I type this. I'm sure there will be an update on that later.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Turtle Hunters

The following post is evidence in my ongoing argument that video games are not a direct cause of Nature Deficit Disorder. My kids had video games readily available, and yet today they hunt turtles.

Calvin had already caught three small painted turtles by hand, but he decided he needed a net of some sort to increase his success. I told him I had some mesh bags left over from planting seed potatoes, and he remembered we had this old, warped tennis racket. I mean, I was Calvin's age when I took a few tennis lessons and used it. So it's old, and it sat outside over winter. Calvin cut the strings off and, armed with staple gun (yikes!), turned warped tennis racket and potato bag into useful turtle net.
Then the Turtle Brigade set out. If you're worried about life jackets, like I know my grandma would be, our pond is mostly shallow, especially where the kids were stalking turtles, and I was supervising the whole adventure. And these kids know what they're doing in that kayak.

I especially liked watching how these brothers worked together, considering how much of their time they spend arguing about this or that. Nature provides a common purpose.

The kids caught a total of five turtles today, and decided to release the turtle we had held in the aquarium all winter. We noticed its shell was not as hard as the wild turtles' shells, and we thought it would be better off in the wild. I wish it all the best.

Of course, we had to have some turtle fun, on my new tablecloth.

We now have an aquarium with five turtles, four two year olds and one last year's hatchling.

My kids keep reminding me how sweet life can be.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

All planted, almost

This is the view of my garden from Mr. Attitude's soon-to-be bedroom. I envy him.

Today I planted the leftover potatoes, pole beans and winter squash, pumpkins, watermelon, Diva cucumber, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, and golden beet. And I weeded the rock garden in the bottom center of the photo, which included hand pulling a huge stand of stinging nettle. I managed to not get stung. Then I planted rhubarb, and encircled it with stones, as can be seen in the left center of the photo. Then there was the blueberry bed, mid right side in the photo. It had been overgrown with a grass that formed an amazing, impenetrable root layer. I managed to get most of it out, but it was a long, sweaty process. After most of the biomass was removed from the blueberry bed, I gave each of the five plants a good dose of fertilizer. The plants, having been nipped down to the ground by rabbits and/or deer every winter, are smaller than when I planted them.

I still have a few things to plant tomorrow. Of course, there are always things to plant.

I'm working on my blogroll, incorporating the new blog list feature that has site feeds so you can tell when the blog was last updated. I have the Minnesota blogs done, but the process takes a while so I won't get it all done for a while. But this may save me some time, since I can tell when blogs have been updated. I know, I could use some kind of software to accomplish the same thing, but hey, I'm not that sophisticated. Yet.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

garden cheating

Now tell me, is this fair?

my tomato

his tomato

I have been growing tomato plants from seed since March, and the seedling in the top photo was one of the healthier ones. Maybe three inches tall. I didn't have the space to transplant them from their cells, but you'd think they could have grown a little bigger! I planted a bunch of them out in the garden on Sunday, and of course not all of them survived.

So into the picture is The Hermit with the monster tomato he didn't grow, he bought it from the garden center. That sucker already has green tomatoes on it! I don't know why I even bother growing from seed sometimes. Oh well, next year will be better, in the new house.

And, as long as I was posting, I had to get this photo in. Aren't "gray" treefrogs the cutest? And you may ask yourself, how does that tattered cook shed screen keep the mosquitoes out?

Actually, it doesn't.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Electrified! And strange bird sightings...

In my last post I mentioned that as we were leaving for the wedding, we met the electrician on the way in to work on the new house.

We now have a circuit box, and power to two outlets in the house near the box. He is coming to wire three rooms tomorrow. The new house is that much closer to being livable!

As The Hermit and I were driving out to get a very last minute wedding present of locally made pottery Saturday morning, I noticed a white bird in our neighbors' cow pasture, about the size of a chicken but more slender, and acting like a heron. Ohmigod, it was a Cattle Egret, a rare sighting in Minnesota! And me without binoculars or camera! I'm absolutely, positively sure it was a Cattle Egret, but I was never able to get enough documentation to list it as a state record. I think the strong easterly winds Friday may have brought it in from somewhere, and now it has left for somewhere else.

And today when I was out on a lake, I saw a strange looking loon. It was a loon all right, by appearance and behavior, but it didn't have the markings of our state bird, the Common Loon. It was brownish gray on the back and had a white throat. I think it may have been a common loon in juvenile plumage, but why would there be a juvenile here this time of year?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I'm a (step) mother-in-law!

And does that ever make me feel old. They better wait to have kids until I'm good and ready.

Yesterday my stepson Tom (whom if I recall right was about Mr. Attitude's age at my wedding), married his high school sweetheart, Abbi. They have known each other over ten years and been together much of that time. I hope they keep finding happiness, love, and strength through each other for many years ahead. They certainly make a nice looking couple.
The kids were all decked out for the occasion. Mr. Attitude caught a little rest on the way to the festivities so he could be at his best at the reception, flirting with the bridesmaids and impressing everyone with his break dancing talent. (Where did THAT come from???) Calvin, as usual, was a bit more thoughtful and introspective about the whole affair. Starflower enjoyed the party. I, of course, was out of my element in a crowd that consisted mostly of the bride's family. But we stayed, danced a few dances, and had fun. One of Tom's friends wrote an original song for the couple that he performed at the reception, between dinner and the dance. It was amazing. I think it has hit song potential. Seriously, it was that good. It made me cry, anyway.

It was good to see all of my stepkids and their significant others, and to be reminded that I am not in my twenties anymore, and to be thankful for that, I guess.

I am a bit tired today, after all we didn't get home until after eleven, so I've been taking it easy, although I did manage to get tomatoes planted.

Oh, and as we were leaving for the wedding, we met the electrician coming up the driveway. He decided to take advantage of the good weather Saturday to do some work. Which is a post in itself. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lyme rant

Why do medical practitioners rely on notoriously unreliable tests to diagnose Lyme disease, instead of considering clinical presentation?

And why will they give out statin drugs like candy to "treat" high cholesterol, which is not even a disease, but yet someone like me with obvious symptoms of Lyme, a disease with potential for continued degradation of quality of life, among other things, who does not pass the unreliable tests, is refused any kind of treatment?

I am 41 years old. My joint pain came on suddenly a month ago, and was exactly like when I was diagnosed the first time. My left knee has been throbbing all week. You can't tell me it's just osteoarthritis, my joints "wearing out". But that's what my PA seems to think. Or is told what to think, what to diagnose. Of course, we wouldn't want to give out antibiotics willy nilly to someone who might need them, because it might cause resistant strains, meantime we're treating nearly our whole damn animal food supply with them, prophylactically. It's not an insurance cost issue either. I know a course of Doxycycline doesn't even meet my drug copay, so it's all out of pocket.

Why don't they want Lyme patients to be acknowledged, and to be treated?

I think I may have a battle ahead of me.

the stars are out

Trientalis borealis

I first noticed the starflowers Wednesday evening, but it was too dark after I returned from Mr. Attitude's first T ball game to get a good photo. Or so I thought; I took this one at about 1/8 second. Not too shaky! But then my USB cable went missing so I could not upload the photos until this morning when I found it with Starflower's MP3 player.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

first pond day

I haven't checked the Sand Creek archives, but I think June 1st may be the latest ever First Pond Day for our family. I know there have been first swims as early as April, with ice still visible.

It was just me and Sally, Mr. Attitude, and Starflower (by the way, starflowers are not blooming yet, although they are in Vermont.) The Hermit is away on business, and Calvin should be coming home from a friend's house any minute now. Starflower and I managed to carry the kayak about 200 yards from its winter parking place to the pond. Starflower is one strong girl; I had to stop and rest several times, but she was always ready to keep going!

We kayaked and swam for about half an hour; it would have been longer, had it not been for the mosquitoes. I'm hoping this first hatch will die off soon. It didn't help that we had all kinds of standing water here and there in the woods all spring. The pond water was not yet out of the preferred temperature range for brook trout, meaning, it was COLD! I went in for one quick dip, and that was enough for me.

Not that I spent my whole day in such leisure. By 9 AM I was hauling loads of black dirt from the (former) horse pasture to the gardens, by hand in the garden cart, a distance of about 150 yards over uneven terrain. The garden beds had to be filled, and I wanted to get it done before the sun got too high. I hauled six loads from the pasture, two more than my goal of four. Then I transported three loads from a pile that The Hermit had dumped last fall near the garden. All of the garden beds that needed supplemental dirt got it. I figure each cart load was about three bags of topsoil that you'd buy at the big box garden center, for about $3 apiece. So each cart load was worth $9, x9= $81 plus gas money to drive there and back (40 miles each way). Not to mention the gym membership I don't have to buy because I got a great workout in the process! And, it's really nice dirt. Complete with several earthworms in every shovelful.

Then, mind you, I cleaned and Shop Vac'd the whole house. Well, three tiny rooms, but there was enough hair in the bag to make a new dog or cat.

So I earned the pond dip, and this tall icy drink I am now sipping.