Monday, June 28, 2010

Hot hot HOT!

It's summer. The yard is nothing but a crunchy dry brown. Sunlight blisters everything within moments after rising above the trees in the east, and its trek across the open fields is a hellish monotony that doesn't end until the sun finally slips under the western horizon. The air is bone dry and you're soaked with sweat in minutes if you're unlucky enough to be outdoors for more than a quick trip to the car and back inside. Even the cicadas let their shimmering chorus die down after only a half-hearted attempt to sing.

Then a dark cloud sails overhead, blocking the intensity of the sun. A small breeze picks up. For a few minutes it's tolerable outside. The thought of a rain shower crosses your mind, and you hopefully scan the sky for signs of more clouds and listen for thunder. Then, if you're really lucky, a quick downpour wets everything, cutting through the dust and watering both the plants and your soul. You pause on the porch, rejoicing in the moisture and coolness. For ten minutes or so you consider finishing a few yard chores, taking advantage of this unexpected respite.

But then the rain diminishes as abruptly as it arrived, the clouds move on, and the sun returns in full force. Steam begins to rise from the pavement in palpable clouds. Any hope of working outside during the main part of the day quickly withers and dies. There's nothing to do except go back inside and drink yet another glass of ice tea.

At least we don't have mosquitoes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

So I managed to remember to send my mother a card for her birthday, but then forgot to get one in the mail for Mother's Day. I got a card off in the mail in time for Father's Day last Sunday, but then I forgot that Dad's birthday is this Wednesday. (If you think that's bad, I forgot that I had already sent a gift to the newborn son of my college roommate and sent a second gift several months later. I'm sure Eva was utterly confused by this, but she was too polite to ask me if I've gone crazy.)

Yes, I do mark my calendar, both the paper and electronic kind, with birthdays and anniversaries so I won't forget them. I just forget to look at the calendars.

In an earlier post I blamed my daughter, in a tongue-in-cheek way, for the forgotten Mother's Day card, but now I've given it some more serious thought. Once, not too long ago, I was a highly organized and efficient person capable of juggling multiple projects both at work and at home. Now, about three years later, I can barely keep enough groceries in the fridge, stay on top of the laundry, and fight off the dust bunnies before they go feral. The house is always a mess, the garden always needs weeding, and I'm always behind on a slew of personal projects.

Did I mention that our daughter Ally is three years old now?

I knew raising a child wouldn't be easy, but I had no idea it would be this hard to keep her clean, fed, warm, and dry, let alone educated and entertained. It's not that wiping Ally's nose and making her lunch is that complicated, but rather this is a constant process that never lets up. Oh sure, she won't need this much attention when she's a little older and she's growing day by day, but seriously....we'll just be exchanging potty training for learning how to read, playing on a swing for riding a bike, and coloring with crayons for using the computer. While the issues and topics of today will very different than the ones we deal with in the future, they're still issues and topics that require patience, attention, and effort. I can see the next fifteen years telescope outward into the future in one, long, seemingly endless tunnel that I know will collapse and pass by in the blink of an eye. Then Ally will most likely leave home for college, but I know child rearing really doesn't stop there.

I am finally beginning to understand the long, continuous slog of parenthood and I've never been more grateful for my parents than before now.

Dad, thank you for letting me eat Spaghetti-Os for breakfast in grade school.
Thanks for all the times you quietly set a fish on the line and then passed the rod over to me "to hold while you got a drink."
Thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike.
Thanks for the times we went sledding, fishing, and skiing.
Thank you for the trips to Disney World, Alaska, and Mexico.
Thank you for letting me pick the college I wanted to attend and then letting me graduate without carrying any student loan debt.
Thank you for teaching me how to invest my money.
Thanks for the cars.
Thank you for letting me move back home and giving me a job at the machine shop.
Thank you for teaching me that any job worth doing is worth doing well.

Thank you for all these things and all the stuff I haven't listed here, too. We both know that I can never repay you, but we both also know that I'll do my best by Ally because of all the things you've done for me.


PS-Ally says come visit soon so we can have birthday cake with frosting and sprinkles.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


We have lots of blackberry bushes on our property. I know a lot of people would prefer to get rid of the plants rather than deal with such messy shrubbery, but ours grow on the steep slope along the driveway and down the hill. Frankly there isn't anything else I'd want to try to establish in their place and we certainly don't need any extra land to keep mowed now. I freely admit that the plants are big, thorny, and aggressive to the point of threatening to blockade the driveway on occasion, but I've told Steve to leave them alone unless they start blocking the driveway again. "If you get the urge to cut them back, just look at all those canes and think of pie," I told him when we moved into the house.

They were beautiful when they bloomed in May, an entire hedgerow of white blossoms.

Blackberry1, 2010

The fruits are starting to turn red now. Each time I walk past them I say a little prayer...."Please be sweet and juicy, please be sweet and juicy, please be sweet and juicy."

Ripening blackberries

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oh, deer!

We've been in our new home for about six months now. All winter long we watched the deer and wild turkeys in the yard and neighboring cow pasture. Sometimes upwards of 7 deer were seen crossing the field next door. Then in late spring we saw fewer and fewer deer, maybe only 1-2 at a time. I figured that with all the foliage greening up, maybe there was enough food available that the deer were no longer interested in our yard and fields.

Then something changed in May. At first we would see or hear a single deer on the edge of our property, gone in a flash with a leap into the woods, white tail held high. At night our activity would startle the deer, and we could hear sticks breaking as they passed under the trees, snorting in alarm. (FYI, for those who aren't familiar with the antics of white-tailed deer, their alarm snorts could be mistaken for a chupacabra lurking in the woods.) About a week ago we saw several young deer wearing their red summer coats browsing in the tall grass in the back yard at sunset, and we saw them again over the weekend and last night.

Now the novelty of wildlife in the yard has faded and the carnage in my flower garden has begun. Yesterday I first noticed that the tall stems of the scabiosa had been neatly clipped and a small branch of the autumn sage was broken and withered. This morning I saw feeding damage to the red-twig dogwood, one of my asters, and the ganzia daisies. My flower bed has become a salad bar.

To be fair, it looks as though the deer were taste-testing a couple of plants. None of the plants have sustained enough damage to kill the plant, and even the scabiosa have already set flowers on lower, lateral buds. I should consider myself fortunate if that's all the damage the deer did, but I know in my gut that this is probably only a warning shot in what could turn into long, protracted trench warfare.

Why do I have this negative vibe? Oregano. The deer ate my oregano. Most experts suggest using plants with strong fragrance or a disagreeable texture to deter deer. Oregano is strongly fragrant, has a pungent flavor, and the leaves are very furry. You would think these characteristics would put oregano in the top tier of "deer resistant" plants, and indeed, it's on several lists of recommend plantings for areas prone to deer damage. But the deer ate part of it anyway. If they like the oregano, then there isn't much else out there that they aren't likely to nosh on.

So Momma Deer has been christened Vinny, which is short for Venison. Vinny and her companions, Flora and Fauna, are deer non gratis in the yard. I'll probably have to resort to all kinds of gimmicky tricks through the rest of the summer to discourage them from sampling the flower beds, starting with hanging bars of soap and encouraging the dog to pee in that area more often. My only consolation is that the oregano will help make a tasty deer chili when I pull out the crock pot.

And little bunny and woodchuck who also hang out in the yard, don't fool yourselves into thinking that I haven't seen you around. I have a good recipe for Brunswick stew, too.

Red-twig dogwood deer damage

Vinny and friends were here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer quilt, finished

I finished the Summer Quilt in late May, but I just realized that I hadn't posted any pictures of it.

Like the last quilt I made, this quilt has a flannel sheet for batting and is self-bound using the backing material. I quilted this one with diagonal lines through each five inch square. The binding is stitched with triple rows. I know that this type of binding is not considered to be as durable as the traditional binding made from strips of material bound over and stitched to the quilt "sandwich" of top, batting, and backing, but I do like the look of a self-bound quilt and I'm not quite ready to try making my own binding by hand. Plus, the triple stitched binding is becoming something of my own signature, I think.

Summer quilt, top, hammock

If I remember correctly, I repurposed the fabric from 3-4 shirts and 1-2 skirts for this quilt. Some of the remaining fabric was left over from my first quilt made back in February. Wow, I can't believe I've made three quilts in 2010 already, and I've got most of a fourth made, too.

The back of this quilt is pieced from several large pieces of fabric along with strips of smaller squares and rectangles. This gives the quilt a second "face," one with a more modern look to it.

Porch swing quilt

Once again, as I was putting this one together, I found myself wondering if the finished quilt would be pleasing in the end or just one big hot mess of bright colors and jumbled patterns. But then I took it out of the dryer and it was just what I was hoping for.

Summer quilt on swing

I think you know where you can find me where's my book?

Summer quilt, ready for nap

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's the middle of June already?

I keep having this bad dream where I get up in the morning, thinking about all the things I'd like to do on a pleasant day in May, when Steve interrupts my thoughts with a question about Father's Day. Oh, that's next month, I think as I casually stroll over to look at the calendar in the kitchen. Suddenly the soundtrack to my dream is all shrieking violins as I read "June" at the top of the calendar. I wail "June!" in horror, then bite my knuckles in fear. The fine May morning withers into a puddle of heat, humidity, and sweat, weeds suddenly take over my garden, and hordes of mosquitoes and flies buzz into the room.

This vignette is followed by a weird montage of scenes from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "The Wizard of Oz," only Oscar is Toto, Ally is an Oompa Loompa, and Steve is the Wizard. Somehow I'm a cross between Veruca Salt and the Scarecrow.

And if that doesn't make any sense, neither does the fact that it's June 15 today.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chocolate Frosting

Ally turned all of 3 years old last week. As befitting her new stature in life, we introduced her to a very important rite of passage: learning how to lick the frosting off the beaters.


I'd say she took to it very quickly.


and there was no stopping her once she got going.


Before long she developed her own technique.....


And she didn't really want any unsolicited advice, either.


Why, she can do this with one hand behind her head!


Happy birthday, little girl!


I can see that from now on I'll have to fight both you and your daddy for the frosting left on the beaters.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Neighbors

We have a new neighbor next door. She's a cute panda-faced heifer.

Panda calf 1

She's pretty curious and will come near the fence to see you.

Panda calf 2

She's also fairly outspoken and doesn't hesitate to express her opinion once she's seen you.

Panda calf 3