Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer Tidbits

I was pleasantly surprised by the first rattle 'n rasp of summer Cicadas last evening. They emerge from their earthen chambers in the final week of June like clock-work. This is what July sounds like in northwest Oklahoma.

      The fireflies have been lovely beyond words these past three weeks. They are magnificent at along the creek and high up in the tallest Cottonwoods. They bring to mind Tinkerbell and all her kin. But they create a wonderful illusion in the gardens closer to the house as well. I have some tiny fairy lights that twinkle out of the draping wisteria vines and the fire-flies zip in and around them, making me unsure of which lights are alive and which are electric. If there is a little breeze to move the leaves, it is even better.
    And then there's this statue of a young girl, sitting modestly in the undergrowth, staring endlessly at that frog with the crown, hoping. She needs a paint job (and probably a better life-plan than kissing a frog into a prince) but she isn't at the top of the list. Sorry, kiddo. If it weren't for Johnson Grass she'd have no shade at all.  That's my excuse for leaving it; that and laziness and an aversion working outside in the blistering heat. 

        The other day Audra and her little ones came out for a day 'o fun at the farm.  These two kept cool and Audie and I sweated it out in the shade of the Elm tree. (For the record: that particular tree is struggling in the shade department this year. )
Here is a shot of the boys surfacing after a swim in a deep underground water cave. You see it, right?


In the afternoons I do this now, hanging up curtains on the west porch to deflect some of the heat. It works and I like seeing the sheers floating in the breeze. That in itself seems cooling and restful for some reason.

You remember my nearly cutting off my finger last November, right? Since then I have had no desire to take up the rotary cutter again.  I was considering donating my fabric to the quilting group and clearing out that closet once and for all.  Then Audra came out and asked me to teach her how to sew. We made a beginning. My finger tingles every time I pick up the blade. I am extraordinarily careful now.
     Audie would be great at quilting because she loves figuring out puzzles, organizing things, and being exact. She has a tremendous eye for color and design. As a matter of fact, she would be far better at this than I ever was because I'm not like that.  I love puzzles too, and figuring out what goes with what and getting the whole picture put together. It simply isn't important to me that every thing be perfect.  That's why I don't go to quilting group anymore; it was important to them. That's fine; we're all happier quilters now. But we don't get see each other now so it isn't a total win.
      I am cutting pieces for her because she has two little boys and no extra time and I have no one here that might accidentally cut off their fingers (except myself) and all the time in the world. It works. Kari, there's hope for your quilt happening someday. Please be patient.

     I'll end this random ramble with this gem. Blue Salvia (the rougher type not the elegant, smaller leaved type) is an insect magnet. I have several of these in the gardens.  The bees, moths and butterflies can not get enough of their nectar. They bloom all summer, even if it is horribly hot, and into the Fall. There is so much happening in these plants they seem to be humming whenever I pass by. 


Saturday, June 25, 2016

2016: The Battle of The Sidewalk


    I have a healthy colony of these precious little guys living under my brick walkway. It has been there for at least two years, despite vigorous attempts by yours truly to evict them. They like it here.
    In the beginning I held off attacking them because I thought my grand-kids would enjoy watching and learning. In actual fact they enjoyed watching them for about ten seconds, a couple of times. In the space of one summer the colony grew into a monster.  (Let me put forward this disclaimer: I have nothing against red ants. They can live anywhere on the farm except in the yard close to my house...or in my sidewalk.)
    All the grandkids have now learned to give the ants a wide berth. It has been a painful lesson for each of them. Some of life's lessons are more painful than others. I began trying to boot the ants last summer. I made no headway at all, so I did some research. Did you know the colonies can spread up to 10 feet down and 20 feet in all sideways direction? That means this particular colony is EVERYWHERE.
     Last Fall I began trying to 'get them to leave'...if you catch my drift. The white poison powder that I got at Atwood's might as well have been talcum powder for all the good it did. The ants stood around with their hands on their knees laughing so hard I thought they were going to be sick.
     Since vinegar is the be-all-do-all in the world, I poured some of that down the entrance hole, just for the heck of it. Nothing. I think they liked it. They looked kind of bulked up when I next saw them. (gasp) Then I tried the super streaming wasp and hornet spray, which did knock them back a little. They moved the entrance, and then moved it again, and again and again as I continued to spray every other day. After awhile they ignored that too.
       A couple of weeks ago I started using good old ant and roach spray. They don't like that. Their numbers seem to be dwindling. Or, (she squints her eyes) they might be down below, crowded into a cool, cramped room with the Queen, hunched over an Ipad (cause I know they're stealing my wifi), planning a nighttime attack on the house..and me. I can see them now, marching along in a line, all wearing their tiny night-vision goggles, silent as a tomb.  They'll take out the cats first, of course. Then they'll climb up the porch posts, enter the attic and slip down through the air vents on long ropes. They will eat me alive as I sleep and I'll never know what hit me..umm..bit me. Aaaaarrrghh! Okay, probably not that.
 
    One of them, a young hot-head showing off for some pretty little red-head, had the audacity to attack me this week as I was watering the Marigolds. He slipped into my shoe via the hole by my pinkie-toe. Before I could get the shoe off, he had bitten three toes. They swelled up and stung like fire all day. That particular soldier is no longer with the unit. He is no longer with any unit. What did he think he would accomplish with that ridiculous harebrained stunt? He broke ranks. STAND DOWN, SOLDIER!
   
      I notice the chickens eating a few ants when they wander by. They make a tasty little snack in the middle of the day I guess.  I also read that spiders like to eat ants, if they can get them. That spider in the trellis and I are on speaking terms. We need to have some speech, maybe over a meal. Decisions are happening over dinner. The spider, the chickens and I, in the room where it happens. Because we may be out-numbered but we will not be out-planned or out-gunned. We have chemical warfare and, speaking of numbers, if you have ever shined a flashlight across the grass in the dark of night, you know there are thousands of spiders hanging out everywhere. I don't know if they are on the same team as the guy in the trellis, but that is his problem. He's pretty charismatic. Honestly, when you have eight legs and most of the world as six, you would be well advised to close ranks, in my opinion.
      We'll 'go to Atwoods for supplies, rally the guys, master the element of surprise'. One of these days I expect to see a 'young 'ant' in a red coat standing on a parapet, frantically waving a white handkerchief', to paraphrase a popular Broadway musical.
    If only we had a family of Horned Toads we would be unbeatable.  H.Toads are non-stop!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Watermelon/Piccolos



     I'm not saying I'm old because I'm not, but when I was a kid and my grandmas were the age I am now, I thought they were old. That being said, I have never in my life seen an election like this one we're wading through at the moment. This is a fine kettle of fish.., as my mom would say.  We all have our own ideas about what precipitated the logjam in congress that led us to this point. Lots of us don't agree on the reasons or the methods of fixing it. That's okay, Americans have always disagreed with each other on lots of things. If you don't think so, take a little time to read up on the founding fathers and their fighting over what should and should not be included in the Constitution. Wow. Sally bar the door!
    
        I have friends who won't even talk to me because we disagree so completely. Heck, I have family with whom I have made verbal agreements to insure we don't talk about politics because we really like each other but we just don't agree about politics. If you find yourself standing under a hornet's nest with a friend, it would be silly to pick up sticks and start swinging. 
       It's come to this and it worries me: someone read something I put on FB the other day and said,'If I were you, I would stop saying those things or you're gonna get hurt.' WHAAAAAAAT?????  People are screaming about 2nd amendment rights but right here and now I'm raising my own little brown hand for the 1st. When someone tries to make me feel afraid to say I disagree with them, it worries me.  I love this country.

    
      Watermelon. I believe that to be the answer we're looking for. Watermelon, smoked pork butt, a freezer of homemade ice cream and a good old fashioned fireworks show. Let's all stand up side by side and sing The Star Spangled Banner and America The Beautiful and not even breathe any of the names that are plastered across the screens these days. Please, please, please...in the name of everything that's Holy. They are not invited to our parties celebrating our getting England's boot off our necks back in the 1700s.
      
 If anyone starts talking politics, I encourage you to start humming America The Beautiful. If they don't stop talking, belt it out loud. Get the crowd with you. Make them laugh. Sing the piccolo part to the Stars and Stripes, or the trombone part, or two of you sing them both together and let everyone else sing with the trumpets. Someone play the snare cadence on the tabletop with forks. Remember. Who. We. Are.

 
       Allow me this, (you know the tune to America the Beautiful).

"America, America, God mend thine every flaw.
  Confirm, thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law." 

  
 Maybe we should all carpool down to that strip of highway in New Mexico where the road itself plays that tune, if you drive 55 mph.  (How cool is that!) I'm ready for some patriotic music. I'm turning the channel to Sousa marches.
   
A reminder: if you don't like the rules (laws), do something to get them changed. Our primaries for State House and Senate seats are next week. If you're unhappy or if you're happy with who sits in those chambers: GO VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE. That's the way we change things here. Primaries are important.
 


     

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chicken Update

     The chickens are now officially Free Range Chickens. They wander here and there, under bushes, across the grass, out into Maggie's Wood, down the driveway (Beware! That way there be dragons!).  I sometimes catch them going on tip-toe through the front terraced spaces. I won't call those gardens yet; they still have to prove themselves. So far so good. The chickens don't know what to make of the terraces since there is no grass there and very few plants. They walk around, turning a sideways eye to this and that and then walk out, shaking their little feathered heads and muttering.
     Much to their chagrin they have been fenced out of the shade garden with the Hostas and Bleeding Heart plants.  That is every chicken's favorite spot because it is cool and full of yummy little bugs. It is now and forever off limits to all chickens. (They tear it to bits and then roll in the dirt. What do they think it is, a spa?)
      This evening I came home and discovered American Ninja Warrior on TV, followed by the Olympic trials for platform diving. YES! I love diving. By the time I looked up from the trials it was dark thirty and I realized I had not shut the chicken house door. Donning my head lamp I wandered that way, scolded the spider under the arch for trying to 'web me' (she so knows better) I noticed the coop door was already shut, but not latched. That meant the chickens had already gone to roost somewhere outside and I now had to find them. Chicken Hide-n-seek, my favorite.
     Most of them were sleeping in the Lilac bush, some on the branches, some wedged down in the middle and some snuggled into the dust at the bottom. (Ladies, that is not a safe place. You have to more creative or you will become Raccoon supper.) I picked them all up and tossed them into the coop where they wandered around aimlessly in a sleepy stupor. I did a quick head count and came up short. I was missing two Marys and two Buffs. I wandered and looked, finding them at last roosting in the Silver Maple. They might have been safe enough up there, but I doubt it. Those were knocked down and herded indoors with the others.  I never cease to find that chicken-sleeping-daze hilarious.  You can pick them right up and carry them around. They may squawk just a little but they don't fight.
      So, all is well. The Buffs are nearly full grown and bigger than the Mary's. The Barred Rocks and the two Black Sex-linked girls are still a lot smaller. Those five were bought a full two weeks after the first set of five.  The bigger ones have never picked on them but they are not recognized as part of the flock.
     When chickens are out and about they continually make noises back and forth to each other, so they always know where everyone is.  If one of them moves away from the others they call her back. Not so with the Barred Rocks. If they wander away and get lost in the undergrowth (it happens a lot, surprisingly) the other hens won't call to or answer them so they can find their way back.  Sometimes I have to head the the little lost lambs in the right direction until they can actually see the others. Weird. They live in the same house for heaven's sake. They eat out of the same feeders, and always have. It doesn't matter. They are not family, according to the Mary's and the three of the bigger Buffs. There is one Buff that was bought at the same time as the Rocks. She is out of the shrine too, despite the fact that she looks exactly like the others. This isn't racism, it is something else
    Little do those snooty Marys know that once the Barred Rocks reach their full size and weight they will be the biggest girls in the coop, and the others had better watch out! Rocks remember.
    

The First Day of Summer

      

      Okay, officially it is the first day of Summer, but if you live anywhere near Central NW Oklahoma you know it has been Summer for some time. We have fresh tomatoes, beets, green beans, new potatoes and...(wait for it, wait for it, wait...) YELLOW SQUASH. The day you taste that first fried squash or juicy sliced tomato is the actual FDoS, no matter what the calendar says. The calendar is something we cobbled together while trying to make sense out of what we saw happening around us in nature. The earth beneath our feet and the wonders happening within it is something else, something More. 
      I recommend going out early, before the sun appears and burns away the magic. Walk Meander (what a great word), look carefully beneath the uppermost leaves, down closer to the earth. It takes five minutes, maybe ten. You have that. You could do it on the way to the car.  Look carefully and try not to disturb the processes you see at work there.  Observe only, with no agenda or language. Take a few deep breaths.  Stare into the depths of a blooming flower for an entire minute...okay, half a minute then, before you get in the car and carry on with your day.
      This kind of exercise in connection doesn't need to be your life's work.  It is the granting of a moment of silence.

    P.S. The Hummingbirds send their greetings.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Enough Already…4 months

This quote you know. Hopefully you have it written in book somewhere with others you wish to remember. I offer it here to help us realign our hearts and minds. This past year of presidential campaign has been full of harangue, disingenuousness, insult, slander, false representation and mean spiritedness.  I think we need some good words to cleanse our palates.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the 
strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 
― Theodore Roosevelt