Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lip fungus?

Finally feeling good enough to go outside and do a little weeding in the gardens after the Chicken Pox (I STILL had scabbed-over pox, but felt pretty good), malady II struck the very same day.

I wouldn't think that a garden fungus (like the one on my green beans) could be transmitted to humans, but SOMETHING happened to my lips:


I'm treating the lips with cider vinegar (in case it's a yeast problem) and virgin coconut oil (in case it's a fungus problem), discontinuing all lip products (in case it's an allergy problem).

I could have looked like Angelina Jolie had the malady affected both sides of the lips equally, but it didn't.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Old-fashioned clothes lines. Drying for Freedom.

The environmental blogosphere is fond of promoting line-drying over using a clothes dryer. I dry our clothes outside, but don't have a clothesline; I use the patio furniture after Em moves it to the middle of the yard. Our patio furniture resembles metal screening, enabling air to blow from below and above. That's where I set my sweet potatoes to "air" before curing.


So, some things I lay on the table, some things I lay on the chair seats, and long things get hung on the backs of the chairs. Shirts/blouses get hung on hangers and the hangers get hung around the table edges. The patio furniture even lends itself to using clothespins to hold the clothes in place if the day is particularly windy.


We don't have T poles, and the fences around the yard (which belong to our neighbors) lack the ability to stand on their own through a good wind without any strain. I had a never-used clothes line that I bought several years ago and when No. 1's hemp-string clothesline broke I gave it to her along with a bunch of clothespins. That clothesline also broke recently and she called asking where I'd bought the clothesline because she was having no luck finding a replacement. So, I did a little googling on clotheslines and learned that the rope clotheslines aren't so common anymore. At, I found clothesline poles, retractable clothes lines, umbrella clotheslines, and wall-mounted clotheslines. No. 1's backyard already has the T poles, so all she needs is the clothesline. They don't sell them. Urbanclotheslines doesn't, either.

I lived in an apartment building with a patio in a blue collar neighborhood south of Chicago in the late 1980s/early 1990s. and one of the tenants complained to the landlord when I hung a few items out on the patio to dry, but I had no idea entire states had banned line drying.

Project Laundry List has a store, which doesn't sell them, either, but I watched their video about places that ban/have banned outside clothes drying. Another story about banning clotheslines here and a great trailer video for a documentary on the subject at Drying for Freedom. Who knew? There are a few places online where one can still buy rope clotheslines. Clotheslineshop sells a few. We're going to check out Walgreens and even Ace Hardware to see if ANY brick/mortar stores still sell them. If you know of a place, let me know.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to Gardening.

A week off for vacation and then another week off to nurse chicken pox led to insects trying to walk away with my garden. As if the heat of a Texas August isn't enough of a deterrent, I'm also still too tired to do much, but I'm going to start with a little each day and work myself up to the larger tasks. Weeds (mostly grasses) are a concern, but I'll worry about them after I get the insects in check. The plants are all large enough to compete with the grasses for nutrients, but insects can wipe out a mature plant in a matter of days.

Not enough squash left for squash borers to be a problem, but there are plenty more willing to wreak havoc in a North Texas garden. This week, I'm spraying stems and leaves with a home-made concoction which consists of a little bit of rubbing alcohol mixed with a squirt of dishwashing liquid, two pinches of sea salt and a pint of water. I'm doing this as the last phase of mealy bug control. While I was off doing other things, these bugs totally wiped out a Costaluto Genovese tomato plant and made inroads on surrounding plants. The first day, I pruned and used the Q-tip removal method on large infestations. Now, I'm down to the mild infestations coupled with prophylactic precautions. My largest spray bottle only holds a pint, so I've been making one bottle each morning and each evening, making my way from the infected area to other areas. I'll probably continue doing this even after I've sprayed every area, doubling back to spray again as the need arises.

I tend to greet Spring with high garden ambitions, make too many gardens for one person to tend, and then fall down in the summer heat. This year is no exception, but I intend to continue the gardens into the fall and maybe even year-round this time, so might use the heat of this summer like many people use the cold of the winter and plan methods of controlling grasses/insects before the fall planting. The trick will be matching the budget to Em's aesthetic requirements. I'm also rethinking a few other practices that relate more to my philosophies than anything else. I might address that in a future post.

We're finally getting some chili pepper fruit, so Em's licking his chops in anticipation of some firey dishes. Unfortunately, the tomatoes aren't fruiting right now, so salsa won't be an option. Here's a photo of the south end of the east fence garden. I don't have a zoom function on my camera, but maybe you can discern the Peter Peppers along with zinnias and a Black Krim tomato.


Ripe Peter Peppers look like red penises, it seems. I swear I didn't know that before I planted them. Heh. They're only about 5000-10000 on the Scoville Scale, so somewhat hotter than a jalapeno, but not as hot as the Chiltepin growing nearby:


The asparagus are still ferning (their first year), competing with grasses much like everything else. They tend to want to lay rather than stand up straight, so I MAY think about some kindof sling support to gather them closer to the fence and away from where there's SUPPOSED to be grass in the yard. As it is, they fall into the grass and unless I'm there to hold them up, Em either can't mow there or mows over them. Neither is desirable. I haven't seen any insects interested in the asparagus or sweet potatoes [knock on wood]. Maybe it's too early for them.


The sweet potato plants are all still doing well, if I ignore how the nearby gardens are encroaching on their beds. The culprits shown here are Fox Cherry Tomatoes.


The three I picked before vacation are now cured, so we'll be eating those shortly. I'm thinking about ways to store the ones yet unpicked. Basements are rare in North Texas because there's rock under us. I'm thinking I could put them in a large picnic-type cooler with maybe a few cold packs in a closet somewhere, swapping out the cold packs once/day or so to maintain a temperature higher than a refrigerator yet lower than the temperature inside the house. Suggestions are welcome. The four beds I have this year came from the smallest of last year's one bed (left on the bathroom windowsill like an elementary school science project most of the winter in water. Last year's one bed was started from a section of sweet potato purchased at Kroger that sprouted before we got around to eating it.

The fruit bushes planted this year had few successes. It looks like one raspberry plant is making an attempt to fruit, but it has a little damage which I MIGHT have attributed to being next to the Costaluto Genovese tomato I lost to mealy bugs or even the zuccini that I lost to squash borers, but I have a 2-year old raspberry plant on the west side of the house that looks the same way.


LOTS of the 25 bushes I planted in early spring ended up doing nothing. I don't blame the vendor for that, as they sat in my office for several days (maybe even a week) before we got them into the ground. Bottom line: The plants got here before I was ready for the plants. On a sadder fruit bush note, Em hired some guys to mow the lawn in the front and sides because the lawn mower Em was using lost the ability to propel itself. These guys didn't mow down the 2-year old raspberry bush on the west side of the house, but they totally (POOF!) eliminated the two 2-year old blueberry bushes on the east side of the house. Without a Trace is NOT just the name of a TV show. SO disheartening! They were JUST starting to look like they'd adjusted.

Overall, the state of the gardens right now is "waiting on tending" while "taking over the world". They're trying to run together and grow all over each other while grasses, weeds, and even trees take advantage of the chaos.


It's that time of year again.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chicken Pox Gambling Vacation.

We left last Monday on a jet plane to Nevada to spend a week gaming the slots. We have fun doing that. We have MORE fun when we WIN doing that, but (overall) we don't even mind too much when it seems like we're donating to the casinos we visit because we had wins that balanced the losses and enjoyed the whole experience.

We enjoyed this whole experience, as well, despite the fact that it looks like I went with Chicken Pox. No clue how/why I might have gotten Chicken Pox at 62 years of age. It's unclear whether or not I had them as a kid (no scars to prove it), but I remember nursing my three kids through it in the 1980s AND keeping them away from my dad (who also had never had it). Is "chicken pox" a collective noun? I don't know whether to call it an "it" or a "them". Reading up on it/them once home, it looks like I was exposed 10-21 days before my first symptom. That knowledge didn't help at all.

So, last Sunday I noticed my glands swelling, which they ALWAYS do when I get ANY kind of illness. I attribute this to having had Mononucleosis when I was a teen. The glands are there to help fight infection/disease, and, IMO, having Mono simply expanded the immuno lounge area.

Sunday my glands swelled and Monday morning I woke up feeling sick. The glands swelling was a tipoff that something was working on my body, but I hadn't expected it to be "I feel like I'm going to vomit" sick. Working as designed, however, the white cells did their job, the uncomfortable sensations went away and we flew off to Nevada.

As usual, we'd reserved a room at the Stratosphere. We may change our MO in the future, though; seems we've gotten spoiled by hotels with coffee makers in the room and (more importantly) grab bars in the bathtubs. It'd been about three years since we'd been there.

We play penny slots with strategies that we've developed through the years. My strategy is a little different than Em's, but it's one with which I feel comfortable. I win more than he does with my strategy, but I also lose more than he does. He's fond of keeping "score", so brings paper and pencil to keep track of how many bonuses I win and how many HE wins. 90% of the time I win more bonuses.

If you haven't been in a casino in years, you wouldn't even recognize today's slot machines. They're not symbols of fruit or playing cards spinning into similar matches anymore. They tend toward themes. Here's an example of a Jade Monkey theme. If you get three of the jade monkeys on a spin, you win free spins with extras determined by your selections. Bonuses are a little like interactive video games. Some are so humorous that we choose the machines for the laughs they provide. Both computer programmers in our working days, Em and I oftentimes discuss the insanity of the slot programmers. We also discuss the "bugs" in the system when we notice that an advertised win doesn't win.

Here's a DaVinci themed slot. It has "cascading" or "tumbling" reels. This means that if you win on a reel, it falls down and gives you a "free" chance at another ensemble for a win. Em likes the cascades more than I, but any/all can be fun. Our strategies wouldn't have waited as long as the player in the video for a win. We're, typically, on and off a machine in just a few minutes. There's an employee at Winstar (the casino in Oklahoma where we tend to go each Wednesday for the free senior breakfast buffet) who remarks on how we come to get our exercise. "You two sure work for your money." It's the part of our strategies that keep us moving to ensure we don't get hypnotized by the machines, fall into the "That was CLOSE, so I'll try again", or even "I put $xx into this machine and I'm gonna sit here until I get it back" illogics.

Em wanted to give Laughlin, Nevada at try as well this trip, so we reserved spaces on a bus with these folks for a day trip. We took that trip on Wednesday, and Wednesday evening I started breaking out with the chicken pox blisters. I thought for sure there were insects on the bus... or in the bed at the hotel. Breaking out with chicken pox was the LAST thing on my mind. We didn't win much of anything in Laughlin. Our strategies prevent us from losing much of anything, either, so we concentrated on the Colorado River which ran alongside the town and the great buffet. Casinos (and casino towns) offer free food and transportation because they know we'll spend money once there. We had a great healthy lunch included in the $5.00 each we spent for the bus ride.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Giant sweet potato.


'twas on a lark that I chose to reach down and see what might be growing in the sweet potato bed I picked (of the 4 I have). Turned out to be the biggest of them all, as I reached down and grabbed into the other beds this morning.

Picked three others to "cure" while we vacation this month. First one didn't get an opportunity to "cure". I "candied" half of it and we ate half of that half for supper last night. I asked Em this morning if his request for "candied sweet potato" met his expectations and he said that his experience has been that the candied sweet potatoes had a thick syrup and tasted like ... duh ... candy. I chose this recipe and treated the one half of the humongous sweet potato as 2 lbs.

'twas VERY tasty in both our opinions (albeit not the candy Em had remembered).


Step 1 of "curing" is to leave them set out on the patio table getting the breeze below and above them. Step 2 will be to sit in our garage (where the AC doesn't hit) for 7-10 days.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Blogging With Integrity.

On the very same week that I'd received an Email from someone asking me to support their non-profit group just because they sent me an Email, Arduous posted something about folks trying to get her to review a product that she'd received for free just for the "privilege" of receiving it.

THAT put BlogHer in the blogosphere news and it looks like ZRecommends is putting it BACK.

Good time, IMO, to repost George Carlin's stuff.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Bug family found in squash.

I felt like I'd found the lime in the coconut for some reason, as the tune kept running through my head replacing lime with bug and coconut with squash.

The canteloupe from the garden tend to have holes in the rind, and I expected (on the first few I cut) to find bugs inside that had bored through into the meat. Found NONE. The meat's always been perfect despite the imperfections in the rind. So, I was fairly surprised when I cut into an unknown squash volunteer yesterday to find a mom (adult) and children (which resembled mom only smaller). Have NO idea what they were, and didn't care. After chasing mom around the counter for a minute or two, I put the whole family into a pot of water with a squirt of dish soap along with the tainted slices of squash.


No. 1 and Daddy Smurf stopped in with some pineapple/mango fruit cups they'd gotten for a song that they didn't like. Em had already requested a Hawaiian chicken dish for supper, the day was sunny, and I got out the solar oven to cook some brown rice. This time, it came out PERFECT
and was SO good with chopped squash and bone-in chicken breasts marinated (and baked) with pineapple/mango fruit cups and the last of the homemade salsa.