Friday, November 30, 2018

More oddities and strangeness

Today is the last day of November.  Already.  Finally.  Thank goodness.  For some odd reason, the first days of November rush by until Thanksgiving.  Then, the last days creep along until the 30th.  Of course, now the days will run pell mell to the many holidays coming along.

Today, November 30 is National Mason Jar Day.  It is the day to celebrate when, in 1858, John Landis Mason filed a patent for “An Improvement in Screwneck Bottles” and home canning became a safe reality.  I know – a little weird that there’s a DAY for that.

Still, not any weirder than Nov. 25, which was Crystal Skull World Day (Bringing harmony into your life).  oookay  and how many of you realize that these unique …. uhmmmm … art pieces, “generate a healing energy able to cure common ailments and fungal infections”.  Whatever works.

Or what about celebrating Sinkie Day, Nov.23.  Did you celebrate by standing over the sink to eat all the Thanksgiving leftovers.  Oopsie, missed that one.

The other day, I went by to see a friend of mine.  He has a smallish, rather ordinary looking, tree in his yard and under the tree were these ….

Know what they are?  Limes covered with mildew?  No.  I give up.  These are Juglans nigra, the Eastern Black Walnut.  Walnuts, like the kind you eat?  Yes. 

Just in case you didn’t know, Black Walnut is a native tree found mostly in east North America.  It grows from southern Ontario, west to southeast South Dakota, south to Georgia and northern Florida and southwest to central Texas.  Who knew?  It’s difficult to get the actual nut out of the husk (my friend had to take a hammer to this one).  That’s because the thick, hard shell is tightly bound by tall ridges to the thick husk. Rolling the nut underfoot on a hard surface such as a driveway is a common method; commercial huskers use a car tire rotating against a metal mesh.

Just a few Did You Know? facts --
Black walnut nutmeats provide a robust, distinctive, natural flavor and crunch as a food ingredient.  Early settlers added them to soups and stews, and ground them into meal for baking.
The nut produces a brownish-black dye which was used by early American settlers to dye hair (and other things too, I suspect). 
Black walnut is highly prized for its dark-colored, straight grained, true heartwood. It is heavy, strong, and shock resistant. 
Walnut wood has historically been used for gun stocks, furniture, flooring, paddles, and coffins.
These trees suffer with maggots, weevils, cankers, moths, aphids, and a host of other pests and diseases.
Black walnut is allelopathic, which means it is toxic to other plants.
This tree can grow to 100 feet tall and 50 feet wide.

My plant books say you can grow them from seed. 

I just might have to try that.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


  the sun came out.  Yea!  It’s been overcast for the past several days.  Remember my saying that a Texas winter is made up of days - 2 warm and humid, 1 very warm and humid, 2 cold, 2 cool and humid – start again.  Well, today is the very warm and humid day. 

We have a cold front coming in late this afternoon; temps will drop like a stone.  Tomorrow it will only be in the upper 40’s and by Thursday, back to upper 70’s. 

Sunday is my day to do housework (a leftover habit from my working days).  So, while doing laundry, vacuuming, and dusting, I walked around my yard enjoying the balmy air and sunshine.  Here’s what I saw –

Spiders – all over the yard

The Sulphur butterflies are out in force

These little guys just wandering around

And, when I checked some of the greenhouse plants,
this little one looked out at me.

Still have a few blooming …..

Milk Weed

Blue Plumbago

Tiny little red roses

Pink Turks Cap

But as it is said – Winter is Coming. 
The Sycamore tree across the street is turning bright yellow –
eye catching with its white trunk.

My yard is full of leaves.

and ….

Chickweed – aarrrggghhhhh!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Days following -

And, how was your Thanksgiving? 

Ours turned out a little differently than planned.  The plan was – 2 grands would drive over from SA to my house; we would then proceed to Matagorda.  My youngest daughter and friend would meet us in Matagorda.  We’d have a nice several hours of walking along the beach, looking for and picking up interesting items, relaxing with the sound of waves and briny ocean air.  Stop at a local restaurant, have lunch.  Didn’t happen.  My daughter got there before the grands got here – texted me “we might want to rethink our plans – pretty darn cold here”  Plans changed; it was still a very nice day surrounded by family. 

Actually, I had every intention of asking about your TG yesterday but as it happened, I worked in the yard for several hours instead.  We are currently in the “2 warm days” of a Texas winter (2 warm and humid, 1 very warm and humid, 2 cold, 2 cool and humid – start again).  By the time I came in, my brain was in “take a break, chill out, put your feet up, breathe, in with the good air, out with the bad” mode; not able to form whole sentences.  

Now, while working in the yard, I encountered something I shouldn’t have.  Mosquitoes.  OK, it’s been very chilly – we’ve even had a couple of frosty mornings.  Mosquitoes should be in winter slumber not to appear until, well – never works for me - but at least not until next spring.  Nope.  Dozens and hundreds.  Arrgh!  Stupid things!  Why?? Where?  Hmmm …….

               and here’s the rest of the story …..

How Mosquitoes Came to Be
indigenous peoples of the
Pacific Northwest Coast of North America

 Long ago there was a giant who loved to kill humans, eat their flesh, and drink their blood. He was especially fond of human hearts. “Unless we can get rid of this giant,” people said, “none of us will be left,” and they called a council to discuss ways and means.

One man said, “I think I know how to kill the monster,” and he went to the place where the giant had last been seen. There he lay down and pretended to be dead.

Soon the giant came along. Seeing the man lying there, he said: “These humans are making it easy for me. Now I don’t even have to catch and kill them; they die right on my trail, probably from fear of me!”

The giant touched the body. “Ah, good,” he said, “this one is still warm and fresh. What a tasty meal he’ll make; I can’t wait to roast his heart.”

The giant flung the man over his shoulder, and the man let his head hang down as if he were dead. Carrying the man home, the giant dropped him in the middle of the floor right near the fireplace. Then he saw that there was no firewood and went to get some.

As soon as the monster had left, the man got up and grabbed the giant’s huge skinning knife. Just then the giant’s son came in, bending low to enter. He was still small as giants go, and the man held the big knife to his throat. “Quick, tell me, where’s your father’s heart? Tell me or I’ll slit your throat!”

The giant’s son was scared. He said: “My father’s heart is in his left heel.”

Just then the giant’s left food appeared in the entrance, and the man swiftly plunged the knife into the heel. The monster screamed and fell down dead.

Yet the giant still spoke. “Though I’m dead, though you killed me, I’m going to keep on eating you and all the other humans in the world forever!”

“That’s what you think!” said the man. “I’m about to make sure that you never eat anyone again.” He cut the giant’s body into pieces and burned each one in the fire. Then he took the ashes and threw
them into the air for the winds to scatter.
 Instantly each of the particles turned into a mosquito. The cloud of ashes became a cloud of mosquitoes, and from their midst the man heard the giant’s voice laughing, saying: “Yes, I’ll eat you people until the end of time.”

And as the monster spoke, the man felt a sting, and a mosquito started sucking his blood, and then many mosquitoes stung him, and he began to scratch himself.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Food, Foodies, and Historians

I suspect today many Americans are, today, confirming menus, making last minute trips to the store for forgotten items, baking and generally preparing for tomorrow’s big feast.  Typically tables will be overflowing with turkey, gravy (giblet, please), stuffing/dressing, sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows on top), white potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and a whole slew of other items particular to each individual family.  

All things considered, Turkey is a late comer to American tables as the Thanksgiving centerpiece.  Didn’t become popular until the early 1900’s. 

According to Food Historians (and who knew there was such a thing), at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, the main meat sources were venison, passenger pigeon, goose, duck, swan, eels, shellfish, and, probably, wild turkey.  There were no potatoes, sweet or otherwise (those hadn’t made it up from South America and the Caribbean).  And no cranberry sauce (no sugar). No pies (no wheat flour).  Bread – probably yes but made from maize flour.  Stuffing was made from onions, herbs, and nuts.  Squash, maize, and beans – yes.  And, omg – there was likely no beer – just water to drink.  Still, in 1621, a glorious feast shared by all.

How about some fun facts about some of the first Thanksgiving foods –

Three Sisters – maize, beans, squash.  These were introduced to early colonists by the Wampanoag and is one of the best illustrations of companion planting.  As older sisters often do, the maize (corn) offers the beans needed support.  The beans, the giving sister, pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three.  As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together.  The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds.  The prickly squash leaves also keep away raccoons, which don’t like to step on them.  By the way, this is a great way still to plant.

Eels were a staple in European and early American diets though they’ve fallen from favor here.  And, by the way, regardless of how they look, eels are a fish.  They can be found from north to south, east to west, most often in tidal pools or mud flats.  They can be boiled, fried, broiled, soup, pie, collared, pickled, stuffed, fricasseed, jellied, smoked, or baked.  Eels helps to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and chances of arthritis. It enhances the development of brain, good eyesight and functions of nervous system.  Hmmmm – enhancing brain development - maybe we as Americans should start thinking of them as a food source again.

Passenger Pigeons were a good sized bird – 15-16 inches in length.  They were a very popular food source.  They lived all over North America, as many as 3-5 billion at one point.  They could fly as fast as a gazelle could run, upwards of 60mph.  They only laid one egg at a time.  And they’ve been extinct since 1914 due to hunting and deforestation.  I hope we’re getting smarter about hunting and destroying natural homes for the rest of the animals on this planet, including ourselves.

Of course, I have to include Turkey even though it wasn’t the centerpiece in 1621.  Wild turkeys can fly, but domestic turkeys cannot.  Turkeys can run up to 20 miles per hour.  Male turkeys are called “gobblers,” after the “gobble” call they make to announce themselves to females (which are called “hens”). Other turkey sounds include “purrs,” “yelps” and “kee-kees.”  There are approximately 5,500 feathers on an adult wild turkey, including 18 tail feathers that make up the male's distinct fan.  The wild turkey was hunted nearly to extinction by the early 1900s, but restoration programs across North America have brought the numbers up to seven million today.  Maybe we are getting a little smarter.

Well, Happy Thanksgiving to all.  This is what I’ll be doing and I’m thankful that I can.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Curiouser and curiouser

Recently I commented that it appeared to take four men to dig a small hole in search of a water leak on the city easement side of my fence.

Now, I’m sure you’re curious about how many men does it take to fix said water leak.

The other day I looked out the front window to see a small backhoe tooling it’s way toward my house.  Oh, sez I, they are coming to fix the water leak.  And, out I went to watch.  Out by the leak, there were 2 men (one youngish and one the driver) and the backhoe.  And the backhoe started to enlarge the water filled hole.  OK, this was sort of boring.  I went back inside.

A bit later I went back out to see what was going on.  Now – a great big hole filled with water and there were two more workers watching and commenting.  The youngish man was climbing in and out of the water filled hole, fussing with a pump, trying to get it to suck the water out.  Which ultimately it did and I had a small lake in the street in front of the house.  Hmmmm boring again.  Back inside.

Later again I went out to see three more (a total of 7 now) men out there.  Two were working, what I assume was, a metal detector.  They were trying to make sure the water didn’t go to my house.  No-no, sez I, my water comes in through the meter on the east side of the house.  Which it does.  So, after some conferring, the seven decided, no the leaking pipe does not go to anyone, cut it off at the main.  Which is located under the street.  And so the backhoe started enlarging the hole, making a sort of cave under the street.  Then, the youngish man got into the water filled hole, and CRAWLED INTO THE CAVE UNDER THE STREET. 

Honestly, I couldn’t watch.  Kicked my claustrophobia into high. 

Whatever it was he did, didn’t seem to take very long, nor did it seem to require any major tools

Personally, I think he had a magic wand.
Bippity, boppity, boo! fixed

    but when I looked again, the hole was just a soggy mess of mud – no more water bubbling merrily up.  The backhoe driver was filling up the hole and the other misc men were sort of drifting away.  The youngish man – he was covered with mud from chin to toes. 

I told him – better man than I Gunga Din (1890 Rudyard Kipling) there is no way on this green earth I’d have climbed into a hole under the street.  Well, he replied, it was hard to breath in there.

So, now I have this on the other side of the fence, which is not an issue for me.  That part belongs to the city and they're supposed to “clean it up” when it stops raining which might be next June.


Take care

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hello – Did You Know –

   today is
Mother Goose Day,

National Apple Cider Day,

National Princess Day,
Fighter Princesses
Or, even better
Yepper – zombie princesses
Who wants ordinary princesses for heaven sake!

and Push-button Phone Day.

Something for everyone.  It is also three days before Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel holidays during the year.  A guesstimate – somewhere around 45 million people travel over the long weekend.  


Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the popular 19th-century magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, began lobbying for a national day of Thanksgiving in the 1830s.  For 30-odd years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression.


We all know about the “First Thanksgiving” with the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians.  Of course, the Pilgrims were not the first colonists in the new world – the first colony was founded in 1607 at Jamestown, VA.  And, here’s a Did You Know? – of the original 104 colonists who landed in April 1607, only 38 survived the first year.  Tough living.

The one hundred or so that arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 were actually looking to land along the Virginia coast but missed it by a good long distance landing in what is modern-day Massachusetts. 


Another thing – of those original 100, less than half were actually members of The Separatists (aka: Pilgrims, Puritans or Saints), a sect that split from the Church of England because they thought too many elements of the Roman Catholic Church had been retained, such as the ecclesiastical courts, clerical vestments, altars and the practice of kneeling.  The voyage took 66 days.  That’s a long time to be trapped in a fairly small ship and even smaller passenger area (50ft by 25ft with a 5ft ceiling).  And, no privy – passengers had to fend for themselves. 

I’ll pass, thank you.

Only half the colonists survived that first winter and in 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.

OK – history lesson over
Coming Soon!
Cooking for Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Work, work, work

Last week was a busy one. 

Tuesday I spent a goodly portion of the day working in the yard.  I had grand ideas (delusions??) about cleaning out the jungle on the east side, along the fence AND then, mowing the west side of the back yard.  Hahahahahahaha.  Mowing never came into the thought process once I was out there.

The area in question tends to fill up with wild lantana, enormous elephant ears, and a bizallion trash trees ranging from 12 inches to 5 feet tall.  I clean the area out twice a year.  Aarrgh!  It is hands and knees crawling in the dirt work followed by a dozen of trips back and forth to the dump site for yard debris.  By the time I finished, I was DONE.  Mowing?  Noooooo.

So, that’s what I did Tuesday.  Then, that evening, some neighbors knocked on my door.  “Come see”.  Big puddle of water.  Yep – big puddle of water.  And, thank the gods and all their minions, the puddle had nothing to do with my side of the fence.

Next morning I called the city.  And about an hour later, I looked out to see a large city truck and four men.  I’m guessing the oldest was about fifty – he was the one digging a hole in the big puddle.  The man next to him was younger and giving advise on how to dig the hole.  The other two – much younger still – were standing around, staring at the hole.  So, if you ever need to know how many men it takes to dig a hole in Wharton, it’s four, one with the shovel and three to stand around.  Fix the problem?  No-no.  Dug the hole, left an orange cone and drew arrows on the street pointing to the hole.  Whatever.

Our weather last week was typical Texas fall.  Two days of warmish, humid temps, two days of hot, humid, 2 days of cool and finally, 1 day of chilly.  Then it starts over again.  Monday and Tuesday – hot and humid.  However we were being told by those that guess about the weather, that a really truly cold front was on the way.  OK, no more procrastinating about moving plants.  You know, every year I swear – ‘I AM GOING TO GET RID OF SOME OF THESE POTTED PLANTS AND I AM NOT GOING TO ACQUIRE ANY MORE’.  And, doesn’t that sound good?  Never happens but it always sounds good. 

So, I had to rearrange and set up areas for wintering over everything small that couldn’t stay outside.  Well, except for the plumerias – they are perfectly happy to winter over in the garage, in the dark.

My next chore was to enclose a portion of my backyard shed.  I’ve been fortunate that in at all my houses, I’ve had a greenhouse.  (Probably the reason I have so many tropical plants in containers!)  I don’t have one in this house so I decided to make one to house all the large tropicals that want heat AND light.

Not perfect, but should get plenty of light, keep warm, and be relatively easy to water.

And, yesterday, winter arrived.

Take care

ps – I did get the yard mowed and then this happened.  I guess, since I yelled at all the pecan trees about not dropping pecans, one of them decided to drop this instead.  Aarrrggggg!