Elderberries

The elderberries are already ripening and it seems awfully early to me, I seem to remember that they normally do not ripen until late August or early September, perhaps my memory is just fuzzy.  In any event I have such a bumper crop this year that I thought I would make an attempt at home made elderberry jam.

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This evening I was outside in the garden with the dogs and noticed the elderberry tree shaking and saw a Mocking Bird hopping from branch to branch and pulling the fruit off the tree in delightful abandon.  This made me smile and to be honest shake my head at the same time.  While I am glad that I am helping to feed the birds (in addition to the feeders that I keep filled) it means that for the next several weeks while the fruit is available to the birds my laundry will be in jeopardy thanks to elderberry bird poop.

I rethought my elderberry jam plan, just as every year I rethink my home made grape jam plan as I watch the Blue Jays happily feasting on the bunches of black grapes that clamber all over the trees on the side of my yard.

I am pretty much a sucker when it comes to wildlife benefiting from the produce I grow, as I had mentioned I have a Carolina Box Turtle that now lives in my vegetable garden and feasts on the tomatoes that have fallen off the vine.  Last weekend when I was picking my tomatoes I actually began examining them and finding any small flaw on them rather than thinking I would simply slice it off I designated it a “tortoise tomato” and tossed it to his feeding area.  I reckon I am going to have one fat and happy tortoise this year.  Like I said, I am a sucker.

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Who ARE these people?

I was hanging around in court this morning waiting to speak to the Assistant District Attorney about continuing some cases and I was chatting to a fellow Paralegal who I have known for years and I consider a friend.  She always comes to me for advice when she has to do something that is unfamiliar for her and I can always rely on her to take time out of her day to come and be a second witness for a will signing should I need it.  As we chatted I asked her how things were and she said this “well it’s a nightmare, we are having the kitchen remodeled right now and it is taking far longer than the contractor told us it would but you know the granite countertops we wanted weren’t in stock so they took a little while longer, but it seems to be taking forever, I mean I DON’T COOK so it really doesn’t matter but I am just tired of all the mess and it is going over the 10K budget”.  I hope she didn’t notice the “what the ever loving hell are you talking about” look on my face because two things began running through my mind when she said that.  A)  Why are you remodeling your kitchen when you don’t cook?  Unless you are about to put your house on the market (she wasn’t) there is absolutely no reason to do it because really, it doesn’t matter if your kitchen looks like something out of a 70s diner BECAUSE YOU DON’T USE IT.   I mean really, why not spend the money on a vacation, or I don’t know, if you have 10K to blow for no other reason then sponsor some kids in Africa or something, but to blow good money on a kitchen that you will never use? I don’t even know how to handle that kind of news.

It reminded me of a House Hunters episode on HGTV one weekend.  There was a young female lawyer who was looking for a home and she was checking out condos.  To help her was her best friend.  One particular condo was perfect for her, the right amount of bedrooms, bathrooms, and a walk in closet the size of a small house (which appears to be the thing these days), when she got to the kitchen she said “I don’t like the cabinets and I am not a fan of the granite on the counter tops”.   Her friend looked at her and said “but you don’t cook, probably the only thing in the kitchen that you would ever use would be the microwave to heat up take out”.  The buyer said “Yes I know, but I STILL WANT A NICE KITCHEN”.

Who ARE these people?  I mean really who are they?  My friend the paralegal who was spending 10K on a kitchen remodel that she will never use and the female lawyer who wants a nice kitchen even though she will never use it?

I cook dinner every night.  (Okay I admit on Sunday after a hard day in the garden we ordered Pizza) but I cook dinner almost every night of the week.  What is it with these people not cooking, have they forgotten how?  Did they ever know how?  It appears to me that people in general are losing life skills, and I don’t mean breathing and stuff, I mean basic skills that will keep them alive during a crisis.

Whenever I am flush with money the first thing I buy is food, not shoes, not jewelry, not designer clothes, I buy food.  As such my cupboards are stacked with canned goods, I couldn’t get anything more in my freezer if I wanted to.  If a Hurricane came through here tomorrow and wiped out the power I would be sitting pretty because I have a boat load of charcoal for my grill and cupboards full of canned food and a generator to keep my freezer cold. I wonder how these people who “never cook” would cope when all of the restaurants in town are closed and they have no way to get food?

It really is no way to go through life, particularly with climate change hammering us more and more with catastrophic storms.  I am not one of those “Doomsday Preppers” but I am smart enough to know that an ability to cook and a supply of food is the smart way to go.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

After all of my chores had been done this weekend I grabbed my camera and stood outside on the Patio for a while and just watched what was happening around me.  That is why I love my back garden so much, there is always so much going on that I hardly know where to begin.

To begin with the Mexican Sunflowers have begun to bloom (their very proper name is Tithonia).  They are truly the best flower in the world for taking pictures of pollinators as they have an abundance of nectar and provide a perfect landing pad for a large pollinator.  Now they have begun to bloom I am convinced that my chances of getting great photographs of large swallowtails will improve.

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As I stood there a family of Brown Headed Nuthatches came down to the feeders, completely and utterly unafraid of my presence.

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They were quickly followed by a teenage male Cardinal, still growing into his plumage, (you can tell by his still brown beak), and exhibiting all of the attitude you could expect from a teenager.

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I spotted a Butterfly in the woods and I have to admit I have no idea what species it is

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What I did notice was a severe shortage of butterflies, normally this time of year once the Lantana and Mexican sunflowers have begun to bloom I am awash with butterflies, my back garden looks a bit like the Butterfly House at Kew Gardens but without the glass roof.  I am beginning to think that as a result of the pond I now have a surplus of Dragonflies, and their presence (and their predatory nature) has kept the butterflies from my garden.

In normal years I will have the usual Blue and Green Darners and perhaps one or two others, but today I noticed more and more dragonflies and hovering overhead was a “Dragon Killer” a Jurassic size dragonfly that is at least the size of a Mocking Bird.  In addition to my normal darners I came across this most delightful purple dude who had absolutely no fear of me whatsoever and was quite happy to pose for pictures.

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There was also this guy, again a new species to my yard

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As  I wandered around the yard the dogs followed me, and played, and then, totally exhausted by the heat flopped into a shady area under the oak trees and chilled.

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I walked back to the patio and noticed a baby lizard that was playing the “if I can’t see you you can’t see me” trick, it obviously wasn’t working.

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Ms. Peaches was tired of the heat, and after having spent the morning sleeping on the husband’s chest she headed out to the deck and decided to chill on the cooler.

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All in one afternoon, there is never a  moment that is not interesting in my back garden, there is always a thing that grabs you, always a moment that requires a camera and always a moment out of the corner of your eye that makes you grateful that you grabbed the camera to begin with.  SONY DSC

My little acre.  The best place in the world to be.  I will always claim that because I know it to be true.  I stand there in silence and listen to the world around me and am delighted by the sounds of birds, and frogs, and cicalas, and crickets, and even the sound of my dogs barking at the neighbors.  I live deep in  a forest, backing onto a swamp, which will never be built and so my entire yard is nestled into Mother Nature and surrounded by her glory.  Huge old growth trees tower over the area, and shield me from the sounds of traffic or any sort of human noise and I can sit, in sheer isolation and meld myself with everything natural.  It really is the best way to live and I cannot recommend it more.

 

 

Oh Sweet Mystery of Life At Last I’ve Found You!

VICTORY!

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It was a quiet day at the office today and the boss called at 3pm and when I told him nothing interesting was going on he told me to go home.   I decided to go on a mini-mooch and check out the local thrift stores and there, shining on a shelf, at the Infant of Prague (Catholic Church Thrift Store) was my precious.   The orange stickers you see on there are  one that says “works” and the other is the price “4.95” a quick google search tells me that this particular model retailed for $33.00 or so which gives me a warm and tingly feeling on top of the feeling of victory which washed over me the moment I saw it.

Not only will it take my home made bread slices and toast it all the way but it has these wonderful adjustable basket type thingies which means that no matter how thick I slice the bread it will cope.

As an absolutely cherry on top of the sundae I also found (at the Domestic Violence Shelter store) a Mrs. Tea, tea maker which I have been looking for for at least a year after my last one died, this was even more of a jewel because not only was it only $6.00 but they are like chickens teeth because the company no longer makes them.   The thrill of the hunt, it doesn’t get any better than that.

 

A toaster, a toaster, my kingdom for a toaster!

I need a new toaster because the one I have a) doesn’t work right and won’t turn itself off at the correct time which results in burnt toast and b) will only take the smallest slice of bread or an English muffin.  I bake my own bread, which I very much enjoy toasted, unfortunately the slices are much larger than the slots in the toaster which means I get a half-toasted slice of bread.

Now I know you are all out there whispering to yourselves “why doesn’t she just go to Wal Mart and get one like that”.  Well of course that is what you would say, because any sensible person would,  but there are two problems with your plan of action for me.  One, I hardly ever shop at Wal Mart.  I hate the place, both for its business practices and the fact that it is such a pain of a place to shop in.  It is always a hike from the parking lot to the store and then once you are in the store it is a three mile hike around the store to find the things that you need.   I mean why is the pet food near the garden center which is allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way over the other side of the store from the groceries?   Perhaps one day I don’t need pet food (unlikely) but I do need some groceries and body wash.  I get my food and then I have to go allllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way to the pharmacy, past several acres of clothing and housewares and electronics to get to the body wash.

I am sure that some savvy marketing person has convinced Wal Mart that doing things that way means that people will be tempted by the acres of clothing and other stuff and oh I don’t know, impulse buy a three-piece suit or something, but when I go grocery shopping I tend to stick to what I need and do not come out of the store  with an all singing all dancing rotisserie come waffle maker that wakes you up and makes you tea at the cost of $300.00.

The second problem with your very sensible solution to my first world problem is that I never, unless I can absolutely help it, buy anything new.  It is not that I am a skinflint, it is just that I like to be part of the recycling of stuff and I am thrifty (okay I am a skinflint).    I know that once I have visited all of my favorite thrift stores a couple of times there will be the toaster of my dreams on a shelf marked $2.00 or less.  It is inevitable, it is just a matter of patience on my part and I will find it eventually.  I know this because it is also inevitable that if I finally break down and do purchase something new that the very next day I will find the very thing that I just bought new in one of the thrift stores at 10% of the price I just spent for the new one.  It will happen.  It always does.

Case in point.  My husband wanted a pants press.  I looked in all my usual haunts thinking that this being a military town there were bound to be pants presses galore.   However, his patience is not as good as mind and after some nagging I broke down and bought one from Bed, Bath and Beyond (or I should say ordered as it had to be shipped).  It cost me with tax and shipping in the region of $150.00.  It was delivered to my house on Thursday.  On Saturday I went to one of my favorite thrift stores and what did I see?  Sure enough a hardly used, perfectly working pants press for $15.00.    I vowed that day that I would not let it happen to me again and so my quest for the perfect toaster continues.

It is the thrill of the hunt that keeps me going you see.  I mean what fun is it going into a store and seeing shelves and shelves of shiny toasters?  It is much more fun to scour the housewares section of the thrift stores   and then, in that moment of glory, suddenly setting your eyes on your prize and hastily snapping it up before some other shopper finds your precious and takes it from you, “Its mine!”  I will yell, “the perfect toaster, mine all mine!”  Well I will yell that In my head of course because saying it out loud would probably get me escorted from the store, but the feeling of victory will stay with me all day.   So, I will put up with half toasted slices of home made bread until that glorious day when I find my perfect toaster.

Of course some of you are also whispering to yourselves “why doesn’t she just cut the slices of bread in half?”  I have often wondered that myself and to be honest with you I have no clue.

I cried last night

I was in Myrtle Beach this weekend, celebrating my 22nd wedding anniversary.  We were staying in a condo at Barefoot Landing donated to us for nothing by the bandbooster president and were eating out thanks to my husbands seniors who bought him a gift card for a variety of restaurants.  We chose Olive Garden because I love their soup, salad, and breadsticks thing.  Despite the fact that it rained all day saturday we had a good time, visiting all of the flea markets in the area and various thrift stores to stay out of the rain.  We went back to the condo at about 5pm and the hits started coming.  I had little access to the internet other than my phone but watched with sorrow as I saw various bits of news.

First came the news that General Stuck, a curmudgeon like poster at Balloon Juice who had been absent for a while had died, which made everyone sad because we would no longer be able to look forward to his absolutely brilliant images of Humming Birds.  Then John at Balloon Juice posted that his beloved cat Tunch had been killed by his sister’s dog in his own back yard.  I felt physically ill at that point, remembering the sheer hopelessness I felt when my beloved Lari was killed by a rogue Pit Bull in her own front yard, while she was chilling in the driveway, minding her own business.  I began to sob.  Finally the Zimmerman trial verdict came in and I was at that point beyond hope.  It appeared that every bad thing that could ever happen all crammed into one day, on a day before I was supposed to be celebrating.

When I woke this morning I peered at myself in the bathroom mirror and saw the raw red eyes of a day of tears, tears for Stuck, tears for Tunch, and tears for Trayvon.  I cannot think of a worse day in so many years.  Despite that the DH and I held hands, and remembered the day 23 years ago when we first locked eyes on each other and knew that we were meant to be.  Everyone said it wouldn’t last.  We are really proud to prove everyone wrong.