Wednesday, February 20, 2019

February



It rained yesterday – again.  Not a lot of rain, mostly drippy drizzle but enough to leave everything outside wet. 



Today, according to various weather predictions, by middle afternoon, it is going to clear up and warm up a bit.  Thought not enough, I expect, that I’d feel comfortable mowing the grass with the ELECTRIC mower.  And, then it’s going to cloud up and cool down again plus (oh joy!) it’s supposed to rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Ugh.  I’m going to have a jungle.

Well, it could be worse – could be pouring down snow (VA) or 15° and cloudy (MT) or 23° with threatening snow (NM) – all places where I have family.  I guess, 46°, breezy and cloudy doesn’t sound too bad but it is tiresome, nonetheless.

However – I think I do know why the weather is so wet and chilly here.  The Houston Fat Stock (sorry, Live Stock) Show and Rodeo will start next week.  That means the trail riders are all heading into the city for Go Texan Day on Feb 22 and then to take part in the Rodeo Parade the next morning.  And the weather is always wet and cold. 



This year there are an expected 3000 riders coming in from as far as San Antonio (239 miles) to as close as Brookshire (72 miles), and Montgomery, Rosenberg, Cat Spring, Brazoria plus 7 more towns including one group from Louisiana.  The purpose is to reenact the Old West cattle drives (sans cattle, of course).

 Personal note – These people may have lost their minds.

Alright – what else is going on this month . . . .

When I saw this one - Beat The Heat Month really? why it’s cold!  Actually, it has nothing to do with the weather.  Beat the Heat is a coordinated effort by PetSmart Charities, humane societies, clinics, and shelters to provide low-cost spay and neuter services for dog and cat owners.  This is a good thing.  We all need to make the effort to control the numbers of unwanted puppies and kittens, many of which wind up abandoned and feral on the streets. 

Pull Your Sofa Off The Wall Month  And, again ???????  It seems that at least once a year we should pull the sofa, couch, davenport, divan or love seat away from the wall to 1. See what’s behind/under it; and 2. Determine if there is another place for it – rearrange furniture, shake things up a bit.  Most of us are trapped indoors anyway and who knows, maybe you’ll wind up with a new room. 


 hmmmmmmm

And, last but certainly not least, it is Spunky Old Broads Month.  Spunky old broads are positive, fun, energetic mature women over the age of 50 who refuse to sit back quietly and get old.  RIGHT ON LADIES!

20 Feb 2019

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Rain and Forests and Seeds and . . .



Well, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN . . . . . another morning of wet everything.  Yard work plans to be shelved yet again.

Do you suppose “Rain Forest” is a season?  I’m beginning to think yes.  Pretty soon everything in my yard is going to reach monster heights.  I’m going to need a machete to walk outside.  Now, normally I’m not one to complain about rain (primarily because by August I’ll be whining about the lack of) and, I’m not complaining about the rain now.  However, the overcast, humidity, fog, and drizzle are getting to be really tiresome.



And, according to The Weather Channel, it’s not going to get much better.  Ugh.

Well, since I’m thinking summer will start by the Ides of March, I guess I’ll enjoy (?) the cool overcast days while I can.

I got all my seeds planted several weeks ago.  One of the new ones I planted is Roselle Red Hibiscus



The Roselle Hibiscus (also called Florida cranberry, red sorrel, or Jamaica sorrel), while native to West Africa, grows well here and points south.  It produces attractive flowers and foliage and can grow to as much as 7 feet in a single season. 

My primary reason for wanting to grow this particular hibiscus is for the flower which is used to make jams, sauces and teas (the hibiscus tea everyone likes).  The leaves can be cooked like spinach or added raw to salads (fyi: the description of the flavor for the leaves is “a nice zing” which I translate to tart). 



Roselle grows best in well-drained soil and bright sunlight.  It doesn’t like drought conditions and appreciates regular watering.  It does not do well in shade at all and is very likely to freeze and die when temperatures fall below 40 °.  So, be sure and save seeds for next year.  Start pruning early as that will increase branching and the development of more flowering shoots.  Roselle will start flowering in October – the flower itself is small and not overly showy.  Oh, and you can grow it in a container but it will still need bright sun and lots of watering (as it is likely to dry out very quickly). 



The part of the plant most popular is found at the bottom of each flower – the calyx.  Once picked the calyces will stay fresh for about a week so plan to use them quickly.  Again, according to experts, one bush can yield as much as 12 pounds of fruit so you may not need to plant more than one or two bushes unless you just like the way they look.  And, for those that like to grow such things, Roselle is an heirloom plant.  (Heirloom plants are older cultivars of a particular fruit or vegetable that are grown in very small numbers today. Heirlooms do not play a large role in modern agriculture because they don’t always ripen consistently and often end up growing in peculiar shapes or appearances.)



 Another bunch of seedlings that will need sun soon are Catalpa Trees.  Also known as Cigar Tree, Catawba Tree and Fishing Worm Tree, it is a native ornamental tree that produces dense clusters of white flowers and long seed pods.  They typically grow to about 50 feet in height.  Because of the large, broad, heart-shaped leaves, they also make great shade trees.



Come springtime, beautiful and fragrant clusters of white, trumpet- or bell-shaped flowers cover the tree.  The fruits, which resemble green beans, hang down from the branches.



Want to grow one?  Seeds should be fresh when harvested.  The long seed pods will turn brown in mid-fall and you can harvest the seeds then.  I put mine in the fridg for 2-3 months, then plant in small peat pots and they pop right up.  Now, experts say you can plant them as 3-4 inch seedlings.  I grew one from seed a few years ago.  I planned to wait until it was closer to 15-20 inches tall before planting but, one spring I sunk the pot into the middle of a flower bed to help protect the roots from our very dry, very hot summer.  By the middle of fall, it had broken the pot and grounded itself.  Not my first choice of places but sometimes you take what you get.

These trees are very accommodating.  They will grow in most any type of soil, once established are drought tolerant, are deciduous, and can live up to 150 years.  It is also the sole source food for the catalpa sphinx moth caterpillar.  If the caterpillars are numerous, they can eat the tree bare of leaves, though the tree should produce new leaves quickly.


 Because the caterpillars are an excellent live bait for fishing, some dedicated anglers plant catalpa mini-orchards for their own private source of "catawba-worms", particularly in the southern states. 

In addition to being a great shade tree, in the way-back days, teas and poultices made from the bark and leaves were often used as laxatives, mild sedatives, as a treatment for skin wounds and abrasions, for infections, snake bites, and even malaria.

Right now I have about 20+ seedlings coming up so I may have baby trees for anyone who wants one by early summer!

17 Feb 2019

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Tale to Tell



So, my early morning plan for today was – yes – more yard work; more weeding, more weed digging, perhaps a little mowing.  However when I went out those plans had to be shelved.  Ugh, rain – rained last night and now outside was drizzly and drippy and wet and overcast and chilly and breezy and humid.  Ick.  OK, no yard work. 

A good day for storytelling . . . . . . .


The Ghost at Fielkinge
Swedish folktale

During the first half of the eighteenth century, several large estates in Schonen were the property of the family of Barnekow, or rather, of its most distinguished representative at that time, Margaret Barnekow, daughter of the famous captain and governor-general Count Rutger of Aschenberg, and the wife of Colonel Kjell Kristofer Barnekow. A widow at twenty-nine, she herself took over the management of her large properties, and gave therein evidence of invincible courage, an inexhaustible capacity for work, and a tireless solicitude for all her many dependents and servitors.

While traveling about her estates, Madame Margaret one evening came to the tavern in Fjelkinge, and was quartered for the night in a room that had the name of being haunted. Some years before a traveler had lain in the same room and presumably had been murdered: at any rate the man himself and all his belongings had disappeared without leaving a trace, and the mystery had never been explained. Since that time the room had been haunted, and those who knew about it preferred to travel a post-station further in the dark, rather than pass the night in the room in question. But Margaret Barnekow did not do so. She had already shown greater courage in greater contingencies, and chose this particular room to sleep in without any fear.

She let the lamp burn and fell asleep, after she had said her evening prayer. On the stroke of twelve she awoke, just as some planks were raised in the floor; and up rose a bleeding phantom whose head, split wide open, hung down on his shoulder.

"Noble lady," whispered the specter, "prepare a grave in consecrated earth for a murdered man, and deliver his murderer to the judgment which is his due!"

God-fearing and unafraid, Madame Margaret beckoned the phantom nearer, and he told her he had already addressed the same prayer to various other people; but that none had had the courage to grant it. Then Madame Margaret drew a gold ring from her finger, laid it on the gaping wound, and tied up the head of the murdered man with her kerchief. With a glance of unspeakable gratitude he told her the murderer's name, and disappeared beneath the floor without a sound.

The following morning Madame Margaret sent for the sheriff of the district to come to the tavern with some of his people, informed him of what had happened to her during the night, and ordered those present to tear up the floor. And there they found, buried in the earth, the remains of a body and, in a wound in its head, the Countess's ring, and tied about its head, her kerchief. One of the bystanders grew pale at the sight, and fell senseless to the ground. When he came to his senses, he confessed that he had murdered the traveler and robbed him of his belongings. He was condemned to death for his crime, and the body of the murdered man was buried in the village church-yard.

The ring, of peculiar shape, and its setting bearing a large gray stone, is still preserved in the Barnekow family, and magic virtues in cases of sickness, fire and other misfortunes are ascribed to it. And when one of the Barnekows dies, it is said that a red spot, like a drop of blood, appears on the stone.



Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters
Heroines in Folktales from Around the World
collected by Kathleen Ragan
“Dismayed by the predominance of male protagonists and heroes in her daughters’ books, Kathleen Ragan set out to collect the stories of our forgotten heroines:  courageous mothers, clever young girls, and warrior women who save villages from monsters, rule wisely over kingdoms, outwit judges, kings, and tigers.” 



16 Feb 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019

Mornings


In the early morning hours when I first wake up, I tend to plan out my day.  It’s a holdover from working full time in sales and then consulting.  Sort of prioritized my day which made it easier to work in problems or emergencies. 



Of course, now I don’t have the same problems but, I do still plan out the things I want/need to accomplish.  Then, when those things are done – Yea Me! 

Today, my list started and ended with yard work.  We are having early spring these days.  Yes, I know, February.  And, yes, I do expect at least one more drop into the 30’s before all is said and done.  However, the weeds believe it to be spring and are running amok throughout the yard.  I am trying to get the them under control (well, that’s a bit of an oxymoron – control and weeds). 

And I did want to get the Coral Vine cut back to the ground otherwise the new growth would grow over the old and I’d have a massive vine, not only 20 feet long but probably 5 feet tall all along the fence.  Now, I’m the first to admit, it’s pretty and it attracts pollinators but it gets out of control very easily, is invasive, and is happy to grow up trees and onto power lines.  Apparently the seeds and root tubers are supposed to be edible but mostly this is a Federal Noxious Weed, TDA Noxious Weed, and TPWD Prohibited Exotic Species.  I spent several years trying to kill it with no success so finally I gave up and try to keep it pruned.


Coral Vine, (Mexican Creeper, Chain of Love, Queen’s Wreath) is a fast-growing tropical that loves our warm to hot climate.  While it can freeze to the ground, it is happy to come back in the spring and in fact, can grow 10 to 20 feet in just one season.  It has bright pink flowers and big heart shaped leaves and is a pain in the patootie to cut back.  

That done, I moved on to the weeds.  Right now, my yard is full of



 Chickweed

Wood Violets

10-Petal Anemone



Clover

and
  

Sow Thistle
Aarrrggghhhh!

I’ll bet I spent two hours digging up the Sow Thistle because 1 I hate it; 2 I hate it a lot; 3 It has big prickly stickers and 4 it goes from this size to thigh high overnight.  And, I’ll bet I have at least another two hours of sow thistle digging before the majority of them are gone.  The rest I can deal with - the anemone, clover and chickweed (plus a bunch of others) will die out when it gets hot (which just might be in March).  The violets are just a part of life here in my part of Texas – you gotta love ‘em and go forth.

15 Feb 2019



Saturday, February 9, 2019

Weirdness



It seems there has been a lot of that going on – Weirdness.  Just read the news feeds.  And, then there are these few things --

1 One of the things my sister and I do together is attend estate sales – I’ve mentioned that before.  We went to one this past Thursday.  It was located in Cat Spring, TX (“… a small community, big on family, food and friendships.”). 



Myself – I’d never heard of Cat Spring but according to the info I had, it was only 35 miles north and west. 

In case you want to know – Cat Spring was settled in the early 1800’s by German immigrants.  As of the last census, there is a population of 76.

I think it’s further because it took us an hour to get there via state highways, a tiny bit of I10, county roads which turned into a dirt road and ultimately a mud driveway.  It was one of the more unusual places I’ve been to and if I were to guess, I’d say originally it had been a working ranch (maybe still is).  First of all, the compound consisted of four very large metal buildings.  The first was a huge storage building with all sorts and sizes of tools.  Hmmm.  Interesting.  The second building was divided into two main areas.  One side was a storage (more tools, etc) area; the other a large square room with a very small kitchenette (it held exercise equipment, lots of exercise equipment).  There were a couple of “do not enter” doors that I assume were bathrooms and closets.  Double hmmm.  Building #3 was the largest and was one huge rectangle shaped room including a small kitchenette and the do-not-enter doors.  This was the weird part - Along one long wall were 6-foot bookcases (maybe 20+) and those bookcases held books – hardback books - all sorts of books – fiction, mysteries, romances, historical and self-help, training, textbooks and non-fiction of all sorts (like Billy Graham, Buddha, History of the Atom).  Then, there were five or so bookcases that held DVD’s.  All kinds of movies – action, adventure, drama, documentaries, comedies, scifi, war – all kinds.  The fourth building must have been the main house although it also only had one large square room with a kitchen (I don’t think there was a separate bedroom, though there was a small utility room, large bathroom and closet). 



Very interesting place and if I think about it, it sort-of makes sense – the four buildings and all the books and movies.  The sale itself was not bad – some very nice things, some unusual things, and some “really-why?” things. 

2 So, last night around 7pm, the temperature was hovering at 38°.  Then, when I went to bed around 10pm, I noticed the temperature had risen to 42°.  I know, not a big jump but as the night wore on, it got slightly warmer.  Weirdness.  There was nothing to make it warm up.  The wind had been and continued to blow about 15mph out of the north. 

Then, when I got up this morning, according to weather.com, today . . .

TODAY CLOUDY(yes, and what else is new)
HIGH
43°
20% Humdity

TONIGHT
LOW
44°
10% Humidity


Really?  You’d think the “Low” would be less the high.

Aaannnd tomorrow – it’s going to jump up 30 degrees!

SUN
HIGH
70°
20%
SUN NIGHT
LOW
61°
40%


February in Texas – you just never know how to dress in the morning!



3 Honestly, I swear the past six weeks have been overcast and rainy almost non-stop.  We’ve had about 7 inches of rain since the first of the year.  That may not sound like much but when it’s not raining, it’s HUMID – like 75-80% humid.  That means – it’s really raining – the drops are just hovering in the air rather than falling into the rain gauge.  Nothing dries out!  Arrgh!  I know the sun hasn’t exploded or moved to another galaxy because I’ve seen it very briefly a few times.  I worry that if it doesn’t dry out a bit, the weeds will completely take over the yard and I’ll be lost in the spring weed forest.

4 My brother and family live in a small town in Washington state.  All things considered, winters aren’t so bad – rainy?, yes; chilly?, yes; bone-freezing snow and ice, not so much.  They are actually closer to Portland than, say, Seattle.  My niece posted this today.  (Weirdness is not limited to here.)


“Portlanders made a mad dash to their grocery stores in anticipation of the snow tonight. One of the first things to go was the kale.” Photo courtesy of Jesse Friedman

5 Last but not least, there’s this. 

NOAA has confirmed it: 2018 was the fourth-hottest year on record with 2016 being the hottest in recorded history followed by 2015, and 2017.

I have no hope that 2019 will be any better.  

9 Feb 2019

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Feet, Fats, Hogs and Other Things



OK, I’ve been very quiet the past many days – unheard from by most.  Well, my excuse is that

I injured my foot and the fix is to stay off it (let-me-tell-you, much easier said than done).

Then too, I checked three really good books out from the library and have been curled in my chair, reading (and resting said foot).

And, yes, I could sit at my desk (resting said foot) and write and I had all sorts of good intentions (we all know about those and the road to hell) but just didn’t ever seem to get around to doing just that.

As for said foot, better some days than others.  I am officially ready for the magic wand and enchanted words



and be done with it.

Recently I wrote a piece on soap making.  And, I mentioned that I generally use Lard as the “fats” part in my soap making.  It’s readily available in a handy tub, inexpensive, and makes a very nice white, sudsy, bar of soap.  I also commented that in the way past (like the 1600’s), the fat of choice was Tallow (beef and mutton fats) and that’s just not available at the local grocery store.  Not true, as I recently discovered.



A bit expensive (just enough of the fats would be upwards of $100) but for any purists out there – Tallow is available.  Just an odd piece of somewhat useless information.

Yesterday was Groundhog Day.  Everyone knows that’s the day celebrated in the Northeast to determine when winter will be over.  According to Punxsutawney Phil, who lives in Punxsutawney, PA, he did not see his own shadow and is therefore predicting an early spring.  I’m sure those that live in the frigid, cold, snowy, icy northlands, all had crossed fingers and toes and hoped for a cloudy day. 

So, here’s a bit of (maybe, useless) information (but interesting, non the less)



“Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal–the hedgehog–as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful.”

I think hedgehogs are very cute.  I wish we had them here.



However, I’m not overly familiar with groundhogs – prairie dogs, yes – groundhogs not so much.  So, Did You Know? that

Groundhogs are also called woodchucks or whistle pigs (and how cute is that!).  They eat vegetables and fruits, whistle when they’re frightened or looking for a mate and can climb trees and swim.

“In 1887, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. The line of groundhogs that have since been known as Phil might be America’s most famous groundhogs, but other towns across North America now have their own weather-predicting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.”

Interesting, yea? no? sort of?  Well, I think it’s interesting.

This just made me wonder – does Texas have a weather predicting animal? 


“Alamo, the longhorn, made his weather prediction on Groundhog Day at the John C. Freeman Weather Museum. Alamo, substituting for a groundhog, predicts an early spring.”
  
Well, we haven’t had any bad winterdon’t tempt the fates, Pamela, an early spring? Ok, that’s fine as long as summer holds out until, oh, July would be good.

And, if you live in someplace where there are no groundhogs or longhorns, you might watch –


Birds flight behavior has been used to gauge how bad the weather is going to be. If they’re flying high, the weather will be good and clear. If they’re flying closer to the ground, it’s thought that the air pressure from a coming storm system is causing them pain at higher altitudes.



The saying goes “When sheep gather in a huddle, tomorrow will have a puddle.” It’s believed that when sheep are crowding together and shielding each other, a storm is on the way.



There are a number of old proverbs concerning the ladybug’s usefulness in forecasting the weather. One such saying goes “When ladybugs swarm, expect a day that’s warm.” On the flip-side, if you see them seeking shelter, cold weather is on the way.


You just never know what unusual facts I have to share!

2 Feb 2019



Saturday, January 26, 2019

Ohmigod!



We are just about out of January – already.  Time goes so quickly.  My youngest middle granddaughter turned 18 yesterday.  She assured me that was correct – she is now, absolutely positively 18 years old.  Personally, I still think someone miscounted the years.

Then, I got to wondering – what exciting interesting things might I have maybe almost missed this month. 

Well!, I didn’t miss this one.  This month as been so J A N U A R Y I S H for us –
rainy,warm,overcast,cloudy,rainy,cool,cold,rainy,overcast,cool,warm,overcast
and did I say rainy???
that I’ve spent more days reading than anything else. 
Book Blitz Month
Make January your Personal Book Blitz month by -
Read the books that are sitting on your shelf that you have been wanting to read. check
Re-read your favorite series. check
Read a book from a new author or an author that your friend recommended. check
Read a book that was made into a movie. check

And, yea!, I didn’t miss this either.  I lean toward being a tea drinker anyway but when it’s cold and damp, a hot cup of tea warms me right up. 
National Hot Tea Month
Peppermint Tea helps to relax the muscles of the digestive tract and reduce spasms.
Passionflower Tea promotes sleep and relaxation, lowers blood pressure.
Black Tea is rich in antioxidants, has few or no calories, has minimal sodium, proteins, and carbohydrates, and is known for its curative qualities



I’m pretty sure the whole world missed this one.   
No Name Calling Week: 21-25

Ok – I had to look this one up.  Someone has too much time on their hands is all I can figure out if they came up with …
Dimpled Chad Day: 4
Noun  1.       dimpled chad - a chad that has been punched or dimpled but all four corners are still attached
chad - a small piece of paper that is supposed to be removed when a hole is punched in a card or paper tape

I certainly hope everyone participated on this day.  If you did miss it, start today.  I included one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems – hugging is so much better than tugging.
National Hugging Day: 21
Hug O' War By Shel Silverstein

I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins



OK, well, this one makes me glad we don’t have snow – well, real snow, the kind that is more than 2 inches deep and hangs around for weeks at a time.
Snowplow Mailbox Hockey Day: 23  It was created to give those snowplow drivers a day to have fun.  Here's how to play: See how far you can whack a mailbox with just your snowplow! 20 extra points if you hit it out of the zip code!

And finally, today is
Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement: 26 comes from the legend of Toad Hollow which is rooted in an 1800's school house in Kalamazoo, Michigan and the stories told by Ralph C. Morrison.  Morrison said that Toad Hollow cannot be found on a map, but rather, it's found in your heart.  This is a day to give encouragement and support to others (people you like, and even those you do not).


26 Jan 2019