Friday, August 18, 2017

dog days

It’s late, but I’m not in the mood for going to bed.  I have work to do, but I’m not in the mood for that either.  So, rather than clean house, or pick around on my guitar, or bake something…I’ll just ramble here on my blog. 

The past few afternoons, I’ve thought surely we are in the dog days of summer.  It’s been very hot and humid this week.  When you step outside from any place that’s air conditioned, you can almost drink the air.  It caused me to wonder where that expression comes from (dog days), so research ensued.  The Farmer’s Almanac has a wonderfully descriptive explanation.  In a nutshell, the dog days last for about 40 days (July 3 through August 11) that relate to Sirius (the Dog Star) being visible in the morning. 

Sirius is the brightest star (not counting the sun).  It is in Canis Major (the Greater Dog).  You can find it by drawing a line down from Orion’s belt.  So that is our astronomy lesson for today.  Technically, we are past the official dog days, but unofficially, it has been hot as hell.

On Thursday morning, because I had no classes to teach, I went outside early in the morning and picked beans – lots of beans, 3.5 pounds of them to be exact.  It made a huge pot of beans on the stove, but Someone eats beans like they are going out of style.  I like corn and beans and much as the next person, but nobody can put them away like Someone does. 

In my mind, picking beans was to be a chore.  But 15 minutes into the task, my mind wandered and it was a marvelous way to blow the morning.  The local deer have become bold in their quest for apples.  The apples on our trees are very large this year in comparison to prior years.  I fertilized all the fruit trees last fall and the benefits are obvious.  Gracie sat on the driveway and kept a watchful eye on the neighbor’s cat while I picked beans serenaded by the shrill songs of jar flies.  A doe and two spotted fawns ventured to the trees and ate apples on the ground for several minutes, all the while keeping eyes on me and on Gracie.  This evening, an 8-point buck visited the trees. 

When I was a kid, we lived on my great-grandparents’ farm in the summers.  In those days, there was no air-conditioning.  During the days, they kept windows open and ran fans to keep the house tolerably cool.  In the evenings, it was much cooler outside than inside, even with the fans.  People sat outside in the evenings, and then went inside and went straight to bed. 

I hated working in the garden in the summers.  As kids, my brothers and I were given plenty of chores, but we also had time to play, especially in late afternoons when it was too damn hot to be working in the sun.  In those days, I told myself that when I grew up, I was going to live in a big city where there would be no gardens to tend and no grass to mow.  As it turns out, I hate big cities.  If I had my way, Someone and I would move farther out from town.  Things are starting to develop around us a bit too much.  Don’t get me wrong, progress is a wonderful thing.  But now that I’m not in an office 60 hours a week, I wish we lived someplace quieter. 

This evening, I planted green beans, more lettuce, and more carrots in my raised bed.  Radishes will be ready to harvest in a few more days.  Carrots are plentiful just now.  I love the raised bed, but what is best is the hummingbird feeder beside it.  I love watching the little hummers.  Just about any time that I peek out the window, there will be a hummer at the feeder or sitting on the fence beside it.  They are shy.  If I step out on the porch, any birds near the feeder will fly up and hide in the maple tree.  If I go near the garden, one will fly down and confront me – hover in front of me.  It’s fun.

Carrots from the garden

We had a hard rain this morning, and tomorrow it cools down to the low 80s.  Perhaps our dog days have ended.  Someone and I will play golf tomorrow afternoon.  Tomorrow morning, I will grade assignments, and make an apple dump cake or perhaps an apple pie.  Someone will be happy when he smells something baking in the oven.  It might be that I've become more domesticated in my old age.   

Apple dump cake hot from the oven (glaze is added over the top when it cools)

Gracie (our Canis Major)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

alive and well

It was in my mind that I’d be traveling to Indiana this week, but as it turned out, I couldn’t make contact with my family there in time, and now they have plans for the next two weekends.  My trip is now delayed until the last weekend of the month.  It makes for a busy weekend with 12+ hours of driving in two days.  Hopefully the weather will be nice enough.
University #1 starts back next Monday.  I’ve been working hard the past two weeks to get my classrooms built and ready to open.  Three of my classes are face-to-face, and one is online.  Meanwhile, I have four online classes underway for University #2 - we are just past midterm there.  I’m just about ready for my students at University #1 (all 116 of them…and counting…the numbers change daily). 

After Someone and I returned from the beach, I got in the mood to do some things around the house that needed doing.  Things like cleaning out my closet and drawers, scrubbing algae off the brick walkway and porch in the front of the house, cleaning cars, and cleaning “dark corners” of the house (you know, like moving furniture and cleaning behind it, and cleaning out cabinets).  This endeavor has been going on for a month now…but, there was a near-tragedy this week when I reached for an extension cord – a giant wasp nest was right there behind it.  The only thing left of the nest now is this picture.  Spring cleaning came late to our house. 

Near miss - wasp nest hidden in the cord

I visited Sarah when she got back from China and had a lovely time with her.  We visited an Amish greenhouse close to where she lives.  The prices were reasonable so I bought some flowers – Monarda, Lupines, and some pretty petunias that were reduced.  Sarah also bought a few new specimens.  Later in the week, I visited our local greenhouse where the prices were not reduced at all, unfortunately.  I bought some cabbage plants, some more impatiens to replace the ones that died while we were gone to the beach, and a Bleeding Heart.  I love bleeding hearts, but they seem to only last a few years and then die.  We will see how this one does (it was definitely an impulse purchase).  

My flowers are beautiful just now.  The ones on the porch are best because the deer don’t eat them.  This year, we have not had nearly as many Japanese Beetles.  Thank you, Lord.  I hate those bugs!!

I’ve replanted lettuce, radishes, and beans in my raised bed.  Soon I will plant my baby cabbage plants (there is still one head to harvest in the garden before I dig up all the decapitated cabbages).  It was my wish to plant brussels sprouts, but nobody sells them around here.  Only in the spring can they be purchased, and apparently, they are scarce even then.  Not many people grow them, I was told.  Well hell, of course not.  They’re too damn hard to come by.  Next spring, I will grow some from seeds.  Screw the greenhouses, I will take the bull by the horns (so to speak).

Pretty petunias (Sarah got some of these too)

Some pretty zinnias
Pentunias, Allysum, and some Verbena
Molly was not amused.

I’ve installed a hummingbird feeder out beside my raised bed.  It took several weeks, but the hummingbirds finally found it.  It’s great fun to watch them, but I learned that our hummingbirds are territorial.  There are two that stay close by.  One is a ruby-throated hummingbird, no doubt about it.  They are common in these parts.  The other is less bright – perhaps its mate, but I’m not sure.  One or the other is usually sitting on top of the fence beside the feeder at any given time.  A few times, when I’ve gone out to pull carrots, they will hover in front of my face.  Sorry guys, you don’t intimidate me at all.  My friends take great photos of their hummingbirds.  Alas, I am not skilled enough to snap a decent photo of our wee, spriteful feathered friends.  

Gracie will miss me next week when I'm back on campus three days a week.  My bank account is eager for me to increase my work hours.  No complaints though.  I love, Love, LOVE being retired from Big Oil.  Life is marvelous.  

My sweet Gracie (arguably)