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Showing posts with label summer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 1 comment

Give Peach a Chance

Soon after lunch last Sunday, Daughter Dearest caught me in the kitchen. “Can you take these and toss 'em in the woods?” she asked, handing me a bowl of peelings and similar.

“Sure, I’ll dump it in the composter.” I hadn’t been out there in a while, and judging by the overgrowth between the driveway and the composter box, neither had anyone else. Oh well. I stomped down some weeds, keeping a wary eye on the briars, and so I was almost at the composter before I saw what was next to it:

Quoth 3 year old Mason: “Too heavy!”
A peach tree, bent to the ground under the weight of its own produce. The peaches are a reasonable size, but still pretty hard, so I figure they were taking their time ripening in the deep shade around the composter.

As far as I can guess, a peach pit must have been tossed in (or near) it at some time—the trunk is not two inches from the base of the composter. I was delighted, as you might guess, nearly as much as when we started getting persimmons from the tree near the road.

Wife is all, “They probably won’t get ripe. There’s too much shade.”

“All I’m saying,” I replied, “is give peach a chance!”


Wall to wall and 10 feet tall
One life lesson I learned from playing D&D: always keep a 50-foot length of rope handy. What I have these days is clothesline, but I knew it was in the deck box with the inflatables. I grabbed it, and the hatchet, and got to work. Some trimmed branches piled nearby became stakes, and I enlisted a nearby oak. It has held up for over a week, now, during which we had a pretty substantial gust front ahead of some rain.

We’re already plotting a transplant operation come winter. There’s a gigantic white pine across the driveway from the front door, that seems to be dying from the top down after a lightning strike, and a couple of trash pines next to that. Those will meet the chainsaw (and become firewood for campsites and other outdoor fires), we’ll pull or dig the stumps out, and hope for the best with the transplanting.

So, on occasion, we do get a pleasant surprise at FAR Manor.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 5 comments

Totally Eclipsed!

Since I was Mason’s age, I’ve always wanted to see a total eclipse in person. So when I learned that it was going to pass only an hour’s drive from FAR Manor, I was stoked. Then August came in with rain, and more rain… I’ve always considered August an unlucky month.

But then the usual August dryness started moving in. Some things are stronger than bad luck, after all. I checked the maps, and found that US23, the GA/NC border, and the center of the eclipse path all intersected. There's a rest stop a few miles into NC, so I thought maybe I had my plans set.

“They said on the radio that traffic is going to be horrendous,” said the wife. I don’t listen to commercial radio much these days, but the wife does and passes on stuff that really matters. It made sense: a lot of metro Atlanta could make the same daytrip I was thinking about.

But Wednesday, I woke up with the solution. The resort we have a membership at was in the path of totality, it’s an hour from the manor, and there are lots of sunny areas. Woohoo, we’re on! I put in for Monday off, warned Mason’s teacher that I’d be getting him out early, and started making a list of stuff we’d need.

Crude but effective
First thing, I decided to make a pinhole viewer. I did something similar for the annular eclipse in the previous millennium, but got a little fancier since I had time and materials.

I taped a piece of paper in the bottom, cut a square hole in the top, then sacrificed a broken plastic plant pot for the cause. A 1/16" hole in the plastic piece, taped over the hole, projects an image of the sun onto the paper (if you have it aligned properly).

With all that taken care of, all you need is a way to look inside. I cut a slot, hoping maybe I could get decent cellphone shots of the projection. That didn’t turn out so well, but it did the job otherwise.

After going through all that, I learned that the school was going to give all the kids direct-sun viewing glasses. Still, I figured, my efforts were not all in vain. Mason could use his glasses, and I could use my viewer.

With the partial eclipse phase sorted, I Googled for optimal exposure settings for a total eclipse. Google obligingly turned up a chart. The National Weather Service provided times for the eclipse, and I was set. All I needed was a little luck to get there.

Everyone turned out for this one
Luck, in the form of Siri plotting a route over some backroads, was with me that morning. I loaded up the camera, tripod, pinhole viewer, sunscreen, and swim gear (I figured we’d want to cool off in the pool afterwards), picked up Mason from school, and away we went. The backroad route worked better than I expected, and we arrived at the resort almost ten minutes sooner than I’d hoped.

The resort had decided to throw an eclipse party, with hot dogs, drinks, and even a DJ! He never did play “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but I did LOL when he played “Bad Moon Rising.” I found a place to park in the corner, but there was plenty of space on the grass. One guy thought the pinhole viewer was a pretty neat idea, once he saw how it worked. (I learned to tilt it up until the shadow on the backside just goes away, and that gives you the angle.)

Mason looking cool in the heat
It was a hot day—August on Planet Georgia, duh—and the heat had Mason dashing into the clubhouse a few times to cool off. I got him a hotdog, and water for us both… and then the sun got a chip taken out of it. Over the next hour or so, we alternated looking through the pinhole viewer, taking brief direct peeks through the sun viewers, and I tried in vain to get a decent shot with the phone camera through both the pinhole viewer and using the sun viewers. It cooled off as the coverage increased. I looked for the weird shadows, like I saw during the annular eclipse, but never did catch them. The wife, who stayed closed to home (in the 98% coverage zone), did though.

Of course, I envied the several people who had brought telescopes to the party. None of them, though, matched the rig I saw during the annular eclipse: a sun-scope with motor drive and camera attachment, taking shots at set intervals.

As the crescent sun grew ever thinner, I turned up my own camera and pointed it sunward—then put the lens cap on, loose, until the main event began. I looked at my chart one last time, making sure turning the clickwheel left was what increased exposure times.

Total!
At last, things got really dim. I looked up, saw the corona ring, and got going with the camera. Click click click click I went, working down through the chart from Baily's Beads to the widest corona. Finally, I grabbed up my phone and got a shot of Mason with the eclipse in the background. Being a cellphone camera, it gave me a bright disc instead of a ring, but it was still an interesting shot. The sky looked really weird.

The last two shots, 1sec and 4sec, suffered from camera shake. Had I used the self-timer, I probably could have avoided that, but I might not have had time to get the shots anyway. Had I been closer to the centerline, I would have risked it.

Then things brightened up really fast, and we retreated to the pool. I was already thinking about the 2024 eclipse—Charlie will be 8 by then, and maybe he’d like to see one. It might be too early to book hotels and the like, but not too early to save up for the trip…

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 No comments

Fireworks, a Day Late

It was bound to happen sooner or later. June and July (so far) have featured thunderstorms pretty much every day. It finally happened Wednesday evening, between 4 and 6 pm, while nobody was home but the dogs. While we were out shopping, Daughter Dearest texted me a picture of the light switches in the foyer, next to the front door:

Blew the ends right off the plate!

She followed up with The DSL box got fried. Or it's not on at all. I had her check the computers and all was well there. Mine’s on a UPS, so is the TV and the DSL box. The phone line, though, doesn't have a surge protector. So… after thanking God the manor didn’t burn down1 and the computers were OK, the wife and I discussed what else we needed to check before calling the insurance company.

Insurance was pretty copacetic about the situation… probably because we have a $1000 deductible. They said my idea of having the wiring inspected was a good one, and said to just keep a list of our expenses. Besides the exploding switches, we checked things out and discovered:

  • Everything connected to a phone line, including the lines themselves, got clobbered (more on that shortly)
  • The TV signal amp was fried
  • We thought the Wii had lost video, but it turned out to be the VCR it was connected through
  • One of the garage door electric eyes is blinded, so we can’t close the garage

The funny thing was, the clock-radio in our bedroom was still keeping time—that means the power didn’t go down for even a fraction of a second. Considering the damage could have been a lot more extensive, I’d say we got off pretty light. Mason (and me, to a lesser extent) was jonesing for Internet access, so I turned on my phone’s personal hotspot and started making a dent in our rollover data.

Thursday morning, I grabbed tools (and an old landline phone I keep for testing) and went out to the network interface box (aka the NID). We had no dialtone inside, as I rather expected, and didn’t have dialtone at the test jack, either. BUT, we had dialtone at the second test jack. I promptly moved all the connections down, but that didn’t help. Armed with some data, I called Windstream (aka Windbeans) and gave them my findings. They promised to have someone out here before a week from Friday. Um… this is a business line, guys? We kind of need this connection to function? “It should be earlier than that.” I’m going to ask them for a 25% reduction on the bill for the month, since they can’t be bothered to get anyone out here for a freekin’ week. If they balk, I’ll see what the PSC has to say. I measured along the walls and came up with an estimate of 14 feet from the NID to my window… meaning a 20-foot phone cord would reach my desk.

We got through the weekend. I continually reminded Mason, no Youtube, no Netflix, and he complained but complied. Still, between us, we chewed through 1GB pretty much daily. I turned off automatic updates to prevent surprises. But I kept thinking about that second line that was giving dialtone…

Monday finally arrived. I took Charlie to daycare, then learned that Mal*Wart no longer carries anything having to do with landlines (you would think, with so much of their clientele coming from the edges of civilization, they would try to help out). Fortunately, Home Depot seems to understand, and I happily bought a 25-foot phone cord from them. This I ran from the NID’s test jack, into the window in front of my computer, and onto my desk. I plugged in the phone and got dialtone, yay! Then, just out of curiosity, I called my cellphone. I don’t recognize this number. I called it back, just to see if anyone out there would answer. My test phone rang, but nobody else answered. Something obviously melted in a pedestal upstream.

Still, desperate times call for desperate measures. I scrounged up the old DSL modem we used before Windbeans gave us one with built-in Wi-Fi, plugged it in, and it connected. Then I found the Linksys router Mom gave me a while ago, and hooked it up. With my computer next to the router, I used Ethernet cables. Let the tablet users share the Wi-Fi, right?

With a temporary DSL lashup in place by Monday afternoon, the electrician showed up Monday evening. Two of the switches had exploded. The third, amazingly, still worked, but he replaced them all. The insulation on one wire was melted, but barely enough to expose the wire, so he wrapped it up. Three new switches and a plate, I wiped up the soot, and he pronounced the wiring otherwise OK.

We still have a few things to fix to get back to completely normal here, but we’re good to go otherwise. I just want to be here to see the look on the phone tech’s face when (s)he realizes we have access to a phone line we shouldn’t. On the other hand, they really need to get people out here sooner, and take care of their plant a little better.


1I don’t want FAR Manor to burn down… just the mortgage.

Sunday, July 26, 2015 4 comments

Escape from FAR Manor: Reaching the Beach

In an attempt to stretch vacation, I took Thursday and Friday off as well as the entire week. We made the hotel reservations, and only afterwards found out DD’s fiance was coming with.

BTW, I have the fiance’s blog-name: Fizzle. (Future Son In Law → FSIL → Fizzle) This name will last unto the wedding, at which point I’ll come up with another one.

There was no problem at neither the hotel we spent the night at along the way, nor the one we have set up camp in. We couldn’t get two rooms at the Ramada like we did last year, which was bad because that pool has a waterslide and good because their wi-fi sucks so hard, so we ended up a couple miles farther out at Crowne Plaza. We arrived Friday evening, unpacked, got food, and crashed. Saturday we mostly dinked around. We went to a local park so Mason could hit the playground, but that was about it.

But Sunday… ah, Sunday. We loaded up and headed to Saugatuck. We went to the beach there many times in my youth, climbing Mt. Baldy and running full-tilt-boogie down the other side. The “in my youth” part is significant here. They replaced the uphill slog with steps:

Stairway to Heaven?
Wife took one look and said, “nope.” DD echoed the sentiment. To my surprise, so did Fizzle. Mason wanted to do it, and I would have been OK with it, except I knew my knee would start screaming well before the day was over.

So we piled in the car and took the less up-and-over route to Oval Beach. Being a summer weekend in Michigan, with temps in the mid-80s (F), we were far from the only people going to the beach. There was a rather long line of cars waiting to pay the $8 and get through. When they got to us, they said, “you’re the second to last car.” Yipe!

We found a spot, a rather decent location in fact, and hucked our chairs, cooler, and bags to the sand. It was rather crowded, as you can see here.

We have reached the beach!
The gatehouse to the parking lot had info posted, including the water temperature: 65F. eep But the air was warm, the sand was downright hot, and there were people in the water. As it turned out, the water was cold, but it didn’t feel all that cold. Fizzle and Mason were gung-ho to get in, DD skeptical, and I took my sweet time but joined them.

Did I mention the sand was hot? Yup. In one of those “reality is stranger than fiction” things, the sand was actually hotter than the pavement on our tender bare feet. If you were standing in one place on the sand, you could dig under the top inch or so to a more comfortable layer.

The wife stayed with our stuff, high up on the beach, while the rest of us gamboled in Lake Michigan. She took plenty of pictures, including this one of the four of us:

Me, DD, Fizzle, and Mason
She took many other shots, but there was this one woman who seemed to like to photobomb us a lot. Or maybe she knew I’d appreciate it…

DOUBLE photobomb!
She got right in the way of DD and Fizzle’s happy embrace. Jeez.

After a few hours, we were all ready to move on. After a late lunch at a local bowling alley/restaurant, Fizzle and I ended up at the Saugatuck Brewery for a taste of local craft beer.

Bottoms up!
The Beer of the Day was a dopple-bock that was very good, even if it had a tarragon note. The Singapore IPA is a middle-of-the-road IPA, nothing weird. I was less impressed with the Oval Beach Blonde, even if we had just come from its namesake. I got a variety 12-pack to take back to Planet Georgia.

So, a toast to vacation—may it go on much longer!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015 2 comments

Foraging the Harvest

As yummy as they are big!
Last month saw a return to the typical summer weather we get in Sector 706—we had more 90°F days in June than we did all last summer. Combine the heat with lots of rain, and it made for a few oddities. Usually, the wild blueberries growing around the manor peak around the first week of June, and the blackberries a month later. This year, the blueberries were late and the blackberries were early, so we had lots of both all at once.

And dang, some of them are big! We usually get a few nice plump ones along with the not so plump, but this is the first year I’ve seen them get as big as the domesticated blackberries you get in the store.

Pick, eat, repeat
The weird thing is, in early June, the berries looked pretty small overall. We had a dry (and cool) May here, during the time the vines were setting fruit. So I figured they wouldn’t get much better. Fortunately, I was wrong.

This is Mason’s favorite time of year, because he can go outside and get himself a snack. He loves blackberries, even the tart ones, and it’s a hand-to-mouth situation for him.

One notion I need to disabuse him of: he likes to say, “you pick, I’ll eat.” WRONG. I do tend to pick into a container, while he just eats everything he picks… and then wanders over to snag a few out of the container. (And yes, I’ve been known to pick myself a little snack as well. But the vast majority of them go in the container for later.)

Another one of his oddities is that he’ll move on to the next vine and insist that I should be over there with him—even when I have a ton more berries on the vines that he can’t reach.

Small but sweet
The blueberries always run small (the wife insists they’re actually huckleberries, and I have no reason to doubt her). But, they’re a lot more plentiful than they’ve been in most years. The wife thinks the birds will clean them off immediately, but I’ve not found that to be a problem. We’ve been picking for nearly a month, and getting small handfuls. The good thing is, they’re easily as sweet as commercial ones.

But I think after this week, the berries will pretty much be done. Just in time for the garden to start producing. I leave you with a line from a UNIX fortune cookie:

Faith is what lets you eat blackberry jam on a picnic, without looking to see if the seeds are moving.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 2 comments

Vacation Slides Along

On Monday, we signed out a paddleboat and took a little tour around the lake:

Faster, Granddad!

There's a beach area on down a ways, that has a slide going right into the water, and Mason was all hot to do that. So next morning, away we went!

Splashdown!

There's also a raft, not something I see a lot of here in the South, although lots of lakes had them up north. On Monday, I steered the paddleboat up to the ladder so he could climb up for a few seconds, but yesterday he wanted to swim out there. Fortunately, the lake water was reasonably warm. His floaties did the job, and he got a pretty good idea of how things were when I was a kid in summer. (I hadn't swam out to a raft in decades, so it was fun for me too.) He did get to shivering after a while, so I got him up on the raft and sitting in the sun for a little bit until he warmed up.

OK, I'll skim across the water and make the turn...

As you can see, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. That was kind of a pity, but I guess with it being the week after Labor Day, all of the kids are back in school. I hope we can get over here on daytrips next summer; Mason already wants Daughter Dearest and me to chuck him off the raft. I told him he has to learn to swim without floaties first, so he has an incentive. He really wore himself out yesterday, and slept a long time, almost until 9.

Last night, we found a playground, and there was already a little girl his age there. Both of them were glad to have someone else to play with, so they let the parental units talk among themselves for a while. The downside of that is, Mason's now bummed when we go somewhere and there aren't any other kids around.

I'm not hurling, just spinning!

Too bad it's just him and me. DD is sick, and the wife is (as usual) tied up. I've got a little cold myself. But he's trying to get me to take him to the pool up at the clubhouse, so I need to leave this here. More vacation fun, you know!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 6 comments

Achievement Unlocked: Daughter in Law!

Saturday was the big day, and nobody ran off at the last second (although one of the bridesmaids went missing for a while). I ’d have been happier with more of our side of the family there, but The Boy also had a couple friends show up and that made him pretty happy. The wife did a video, a sort of chronological thing of the two of them growing up, then some of them together at the end. It was really nice.

So anyway, here they are…

Dearly Beloved…

As you can see, this was an outdoor affair. In August. On Planet Georgia. Needless to say, we sweated like race horses. This is why I insisted on a winter wedding for us.

A lovely bunch
Daughter Dearest was one of the bridesmaids. She told us she was sure she was going to pass out, because her dress was a bit tight. But she underestimates herself. Not only is she a strong girl, she’s been trained to stand under hot lights (chorale concerts), so she held up without any trouble. She was really pleased with how well her hairdo held up; I guess they used epoxy on it or something.

It was the bride I was worried about. She was swaying for a little while, and I was trying to whisper “bend your knees, bend your knees.” She didn’t hear me, but stayed on her feet anyway. Turned out she put on a little weight (as skinny as she is, a little weight can be a lot of difference) since they got the wedding dress, and it was a little tight on her as well.

Me and the boys
The Boy asked me to be in the wedding, and to be the best man —that was a pleasant shock. I was there with Cousin Splat, Brand X, and the bride’s brother… and Mason. Mason was in a bit of a mood, as he’d spent a long time just before the wedding doing photography poses. He heard “just one more” a few times too many, and by the time of the actual ceremony, he was ready to quit. I ended up carrying and holding him, and he fussed (quietly) until I started indicating people in the crowd and asking him if they were zombies (Traffic Cone zombie, Buckethead zombie, etc.). That got a smile out of him, but after a while he went to sit with the wife. But he came back up and did the thing where the three of them poured different colored sand into a jar. The sand can’t be separated, and so neither can they, is the idea there. Touching, really.

Newlyweds! (sweaty newlyweds)
So, woohoo! We all survived, even if we smelled like a herd of dead water buffaloes by the end of the evening. We slugged down lots of water, and then we got to do some dancing and celebrating. The happy couple is off to Orlando for a few days, and now things can settle back to the normal abnormal that is life at FAR Manor.

Friday, July 17, 2009 4 comments

Flowery Friday (Roadside Edition)

The road out front of the manor is lined with all sorts of stuff this time of year. Some of it blooms, some doesn’t, and the economy sucks enough to keep the county from mowing everything down…

Queen Anne’s Lace:

Queen Annes Lace

They caught my eye because they look like giant snowflakes. Seeing as it’s mid-July on Planet Georgia, I found the notion highly entertaining. I described them to my dad over the phone, and he nailed the ID for me (thanks Dad!). It’s actually a wild carrot, a European invasive, and the ancestor of our domestic carrots. According to Gardening When It Counts, we’ve only been breeding carrots for a few centuries so they’ll readily cross-pollinate with their wild ancestors. I’ll dig up a couple tomorrow for pictorial purposes.

Clover:

Clover blossom

The clover is actually a couple weeks past its prime, like the blackberries. But there are still the occasional displays to add color to the roadside.

Most of the rest of these are just flower-weeds to me… if anyone wants to ID them, feel free!

This sort of resembles a butterfly bush, but no butterfly bush stays below 2 feet high and is flame red like this:

Red flower-weed

I’ve never seen this before; I figure the drought is keeping the grass low enough to let it show off.

I happened to catch a glimpse of this WTFlower, tucked behind a bush, about four feet off the ground and about three inches across. I had my iPhone with me at the time; by the time I got back with the Big Gun (aka Canon), it had closed up:

WTFlower, open   WTFlower, closed


It’s funky enough that I wouldn’t mind having a few around the manor.

We actually got a little rain today, so I didn’t have to worry about watering anything. The kudzu was already washed and waxed:

Rain beads on kudzu

Another invasive that thinks Planet Georgia is just, um, peachy.

Shortly afterwards, I started getting rained on myself, so I tucked the Big Gun in my shirt and stepped it up back toward the manor. Am I complaining about getting wet? No way! (Well, I would have been happier without having to worry about the camera, but whatever.) An interesting way to start a two-week vacation…

Tuesday, July 07, 2009 2 comments

Fine Free Fruits at FAR Manor

The blueberries peaked and dried up the week I was suffering from cramps in my back muscles, so I didn’t get too many. Even more unfortunate, the blackberry harvest has been a little disappointing this year. I found a stand near the manor that looked good, but the month of drought has really taken its toll this year — most of the berries are small and were a bit dry-looking. But we had a little rain Sunday night though (hallelujah!!!), and they reconstituted on the vine.

Ripe blackberries

I’ve picked a little over a gallon so far, a good ways behind my “3 gallons in one afternoon” pace from last year. I’d like to get another gallon, which should make about 8 pints of jelly. There are couple of spots where the berries are big like they were last year, so I’ll focus on those first.

Meanwhile… a trio of Smooth Sumac trees came up in front of the manor this year. I originally mis-identified these as Staghorn Sumac, but those have hairy branches and these are… well, smooth. The third pic features a somewhat concerned bugly (click on any of the pix for a closeup, of course). The berries smell abso-freeking-lutely heavenly.

Sumac trees Sumac berry cluster Sumac berry cluster, with bug

I (not knowing what they were) have pulled up many of them in previous years, but these three looked good where they were so we left them to see what they turned into. Now they’re fruiting, three big bunches on each tree. Dang, I got lucky. I'll keep pulling 'em up, but more carefully now as to give them some room. The fruit is good for jelly and a drink often called “Indian lemonade” as the natives introduced it to the white folks. There’s a pretty good stand near the office, on the little street that goes behind the fast-food joints, so I’ll grab them when the time comes too.

Anyone interested in foraging for wild food should keep up with Wide-Eyed Lib’s diaries on DailyKos. He runs a pretty good series of foraging diaries. I still think a field guide is an essential; I got one at the local indie bookstore last night. I’m no stranger to foraging; we used to hunt for morels in Michigan in springtime (my dad still does it) & I know where the good stands of blackberries are around the manor, even if the berries were a bit small this year.

That’s a start to my forest garden, anyway… wild fruit & planted herbs scattered around the manor. I might scatter some of those sumac berries around the edge of the “garden spot” behind the manor, which I won’t ever tend as a regular garden unless I lose my job. Maybe some will come up & I’ll have a crop. (Their roots are shallow so I can always pull them up if I change my mind later.)

Tomorrow, I will relate the tale of an urgent move.

Saturday, July 04, 2009 2 comments

Born on the Fourth of July

After repairing the shelf in Daughter Dearest’s closet, I got started on supper. I had put myself on the hook to make rolls and pasta salad, and the schedule was pretty tight to get the rolls done. Somewhere in there, I had to also grill chicken and salmon. Somehow, I managed:

Salmon Chicken strips Rolls

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fetched was frying up squash & onions, one of the few things I like really well-done. Daughter Dearest went out to feed the dogs… then came running back. “Crissy had her puppies!”

Puppies

Yup, the World’s Most Obnoxious Dog reproduced. I had a look, guesstimated about eight of the little boogers, and went back to the grill (the salmon wasn’t going to wait). Mrs. Fetched came out, “Did you see them?”

“Yup,” I said. “All eight.”

Eight? You mean four, right?”

“No, I mean eight. There’s a bunch of ’em there.”

With that bit of news, Mrs. Fetched went to count them and was relieved to find “only” seven. I just hope they’re not obnoxious shriekboxes like their mom.

“I hope they’re all boys,” Mrs. Fetched said. “I need to give them away.”

“Or you could keep one and give Crissy away,” I suggested helpfully. She ignored me.

So we’re up to 11 dogs. For now, at least.

Friday, July 03, 2009 No comments

As the Sun Slowly Sets in the South…

…west? This is Planet Georgia. The sun sets wherever the pod people say it sets. Just ask them!

Sunset

The three-day weekend is about 1/3 over. Some rain is in the forecast for tomorrow night through Monday… maybe we’ll get some. God knows we need it. I’m not sure what possessed Mrs. Fetched to get more flowers, but we planted them this evening. With any luck, the forecast will hold up and we’ll get more than a spit.

Earlier this week, I found the (unfortunately inedible) SOBs that ate my jalapeño plants: tomato hornworms, which were starting on the tomato plants themselves. I found four of them, pulled them off with pliers, and stomped them flat. So much for the stewpot. I got some Bt (an organic pesticide) today and sprayed the plants that have been attacked so far. For whatever reason, they didn’t bother the yellow pear tomato plants, perhaps because their leaves are too small. The yellow pear vines are already producing; we’ve made a couple of pasta salads & I’ve got enough for another one. The instructions say you can spray right up to the day of harvest, so I probably could have sprayed them too. If I see them taking any damage, I’ll pick ripe ones then spray. The denuded jalapeño stalks are starting to shoot new leaves, so I sprayed them as well. Maybe they’ll come back & I’ll get some late-season peppers.

This is also blackberry harvest weekend on Planet Georgia, but the berries are a bit small this year. I’ve gotten just over a gallon so far; maybe I’ll get some more tomorrow. We can make some jelly/jam with Splenda™ and share with The Boy.

I’m planning a vacation up north. Since I somehow ended up with SIX weeks of vacation this year, I might do two weeks; Mrs. Fetched is already making noises about not going and that would let me stay longer. With any luck, I’ll be able to spend a little time with some of my blog-family — in particular, AndiF, Stormy, and Yooper — as well as my bio-family. That would leave me a minimum of two more weeks of vacation to burn; I can grab a week at the hideout then another week (maybe two) at Christmas.

Hoping for a long and enjoyable weekend for all readers, both commenters & lurkers… with fireworks of whatever kind you enjoy most!

Friday, June 26, 2009 2 comments

Flowery Friday

Summer is hitting Planet Georgia with both barrels… as I’ve said before, the weather here has attitude. But it’s not stopping the flowers…

A tall pink rose in front of the manor, across the driveway.

pink rose

A little ways behind it, among the trees, a hydrangea alerts us to its presence with a big bright splash of blue.

hydrangea

I presume both of these plants have deep roots; we’ve had no more than a couple spits of rain in the last couple of weeks, despite 40%–60% chances of rain on several occasions. Smaller trees are starting to show signs of stress, but these flowers (and my tomato plants) are doing well.

Sunday, August 24, 2008 8 comments

An Overly-typical August Weekend

Tomorrow’s episode of FAR Future begins, “In the long hot days of August, Murphy’s star is in the ascendent and nothing works right.” Even though it hasn’t been hot, it hasn’t exactly been the best of times. Not that everything is w0rNg: many days were perfect riding weather, Mrs. Fetched bought me an iPhone (!!! still trying to figure out that one), and we’ve been getting lots of goodies out of the garden. Even the disasters have not been all they could have been: Daughter Dearest’s tip-over saw all three involved walk away; Mrs. Fetched’s mom went into the hospital earlier in the week for a possible heart attack that turned out to be a bacterial problem… and there was today’s excitement.

But I cannot let this go by: we got Daughter Dearest off to college yesterday. We spent the morning getting her signed in and unpacked, ate the lunch they provided us all, then had a half-hour gathering that ended with a “if you’re not a student, you have to leave now. Say your good-byes.” Mrs. Fetched, despite threatening to cry all week when this moment arrived, held up very well. I had to generate a tear or two in her stead. But only one or two. I’m really happy for her, getting to start Book II of her life. Like many people my age, I’d love to have the 40-odd (and I do mean odd) years of experience and the 18-year-old body to do it all over again in.

Of course, the texts and phone calls weren’t long delayed. DD forgot a couple of minor things, stuff you can live without if you’re a guy, but… so I figured we’d make a list, toss them in the car, and buzz over to drop them off.

Coming home from church, we topped the hill just before FAR Manor and there was a pack of emergency vehicles just a little farther down, in fact at the top of the dirt road we used to live on. “Go up there,” Mrs. Fetched said. “I want to make sure it’s not any of us.”

I didn’t recognize any of the cars, but saw a woman lying on the pavement… not good. The EMT crouched in front of her blocked her face, but when I saw my nephew Brand X running toward us with his mom’s purse in one hand and her cellphone in the other, Mrs. Fetched said “Oh $#!+.” Yup: her brother’s wife Jam.

Brand X calmed down and gave us a quick run-down of what had happened: they were riding horses, and Jam’s horse had a neurotic episode when it stepped off the grass and onto the pavement, reared up, and Jam hit the pavement butt-first. The EMTs figured her pelvis was broken, and the shrieks when they put her on the stretcher suggested they were right. They figured she’d be a lot more comfortable riding to Atlanta in a helicopter (the nearby hospitals are not set up to handle trauma), and Bill Elliott’s airstrip is the nearest pickup point… so we followed the ambulance there and waited for the chopper. The local EMT told us where they were taking her — Atlanta Medical Center, “the old Georgia Baptist,” and gave us a map. They got her aloft, and we ran back to the manor for a quick lunch and a little strategic planning. Mrs. Fetched isn’t comfortable driving in city traffic, so I got to take Brand X down to the hospital to see his mom while she made the DDDelivery.

The map was good, and we arrived in good order (not much traffic Sunday afternoon) after I gassed up my Civic (spending $20 of the remaining $30 of my gas budget, but there are things you have to do because they’re the Right Thing, and thus want to do them). They told us where Jam was (still the ER ward) and pointed us in the right direction. She was there, in major pain (even with as much Demerol as they thought prudent to give her) but she did her best to reassure Brand X. He was holding up his end pretty well, fielding phone calls from various relatives until her battery gave out. We had yet to call Mr. Sunshine, so we used my phone for that and other numbers I had. They finally took her off the hard-board (which led to more shrieking, of course), but after they did that and changed her cervical collar, she was less uncomfortable.

The only good news in the situation came from the MRI scan — her pelvis wasn’t broken after all, thank God. The doc figures there’s a lot of bruised “soft tissue,” maybe some organs and maybe her spine as well. They’re hanging onto her for a while, and were getting ready to move her into ICU when Brand X and I packed it in and headed back.

So that was my weekend. Not as bad as Jam’s. Brand X is staying with us for a couple of days, and I need to get up early to get him off to school.

Saturday, July 05, 2008 9 comments

Blackberry Harvest

No, not the fancy phone, the kind you eat or make into jelly or pies.

I was kind of surprised at how good they looked this year, given the drought. The cool spring and summer (so far) must have done them some good.

Now for the fun part: jelly, jam, pies…

Thursday, August 16, 2007 6 comments

The Solo, 3-Day, No Guilt Weekend

Over the years since moving to the free-range insane asylum, I have come to dread August. The heat is bad enough on its own, but it stresses the chicken houses because everything has to be running — fans and foggers — just to keep the birds alive. Large electrical devices running in the same area as a high-pressure water spray actually works (it has to), but an undetected crack in a PVC pipe or wiring insulation is going to soon be detected under those conditions. And given the situation, repairs can’t wait for a convenient time… it has to be dealt with now. Even when everything is working properly, Mrs. Fetched is constantly over there to raise or lower curtains and open/close doors (ventilation vs. insolation), start or stop the fogger lines… always something.

Add in the usual things that go wrong (and Murphy is the god of chicken houses), and August adds up to one miserable month. I can count on arriving home to find there’s some problem that must be addressed, almost before I can get my helmet and jacket off. For example, this week the downpipe fell off a feed hopper and dumped four tons of feed that had to be scooped or shoveled up.

So it’s not surprising that the best part of August is the one weekend that we escape the manor. Mom has a summer cottage in the North Carolina mountains; they spend the entire month there and we generally come up for a weekend to visit. It’s a much-appreciated break, especially since it’s often 15 degrees cooler there than here. But when Mrs. Fetched’s mom hosed her knee last week, Mrs. Fetched lost her substitute chicken rancher. She bailed out, then Daughter Dearest bailed out (“I need to stay and help Mom”). I’d already taken Friday off as a floating holiday, and I don’t get to see my relatives very often.

As if I needed any further excuse, the phone rang at about 6 a.m. this morning. When the phone rings at FAR Manor before 8, I immediately know: 1) It’s one of Mrs. Fetched’s relatives; 2) It’s not good news; 3) I’m going to be involved somehow. This morning, it was Big V on the line. P.O.D., her son and Splat’s older brother, got busted for 90 in a 50 zone while passing a car with great enthusiasm on his new GSX-R 600. As I’m the only other person in the family with a motorcycle endorsement, I get to bring the bike home while Big V is getting him out of the clink.

The bike was already on the tow truck when we got there, but when Big V gave a name and address, they knew we were the right people and rolled it back off (but she still got to pay the $100 tow bill). So on the 30 miles or so home, I learned why people ride those bikes so fast: your hips and back start hurting, and you have to ride fast just to where you’re going and get OFF the damn thing.

So I’m definitely looking forward to getting out of here for a few days. But now that I’m going by myself, I can ride my own motorcycle. It’s not nearly as uncomfortable as a crotch rocket.

Saturday, August 04, 2007 7 comments

Yard sale day

yard sale viewSpace at community yard sale: $10

Amount sold: $22

Sitting in a canopy chair all morning instead of going to the chicken houses: PRICELESS!



The downside, of course, was getting up way too early for a Saturday. Like 7 a.m. I’m going to take a brief nap, and then I’ll be back.

UPDATE: I thought I wanted a nap more than I really did.

It’s pretty hot today, the hottest it’s been this year (at least where I’ve had to be outside). An ambulance pulled up at one point, and I thought maybe someone was overcome, but they were just there to help load a couch to take it to the fire station. But I offered my seat to people who looked like they might need it — the only taker was a lady who wanted to try on some of the shoes I had for sale. She’s two years younger than my dad, and we’ll just say she was much less limber. I told her that dad does stretches religiously every day, and it helps him a lot. Maybe it’s not to late for her.

I picked up a few CDs from another seller; Daughter Dearest seems to have been listening to a lot of Billy Joel as of late so I got the two Billy Joel CDs in the box. I picked up another one, “Ultimate House NRG,” figuring to share since we both like dance/techno stuff. Then I had a listen… the first song has lyrics that would send Nancy’s “friend” Mrs. Grimshank into a tizzy. Or a dead faint. Maybe I won’t share that one after all. (But I might memorize the refrain and sing it to Mrs. Fetched.)

Friday, July 06, 2007 9 comments

Food, food, food

We had plenty of leftovers from the 4th — even though J’s whole family came to help us eat. So Mrs. Fetched, being a kind soul, tossed a hamburger patty plus a bunch of veggies into a microwave dish for me to take for lunch.

That only left one question: how to take it? There was no rain in the forecast, so I was definitely planning on taking the bike. I ended up grabbing the bungee cords off the mountain bike’s back rack and hooking them to convenient protrusions under the seat, leaving the dish pretty well-secured to the rear fender. I’m going to get a cargo rack for the bike first chance I get — I already have a milk crate to put on it, and any lunch items will ride quite happily in that. But until then, this seems to work pretty well.


I’ve been planning to cook some black beans for a while, and finally got around to soaking them Wednesday night. Both Mrs. Fetched and I forgot to do anything about them yesterday, so I clipped some herbs and put them on the beans, asking her to throw them in the crock pot. This she did, adding an onion. When I got home, I put on some rice and we chowed down. Mrs. Fetched said of it, “Either I’m really hungry or this is really good.” I’ll go with #2, of course! Tomorrow, I’ll cook up some more rice and make black bean soup out of what’s left. Mrs. Fetched has a really bad cold, and the cloudy rainy weather has left the girlies chilly (in July! on Planet Georgia!). I’ll mince a jalapeno into the broth; that should warm them up!

Plenty of blackberries out there on the vines, but I don’t know if I’ll get more than what I’ve picked already. I got “only” a half-gallon on Wednesday; it gets difficult to get into the middle of those big stands, even armed with clippers. I dug two deeply-embedded thorns out of my thumb & forefinger last night (it’s not just the heat you have to worry about). But a gallon & a half ought to make enough jelly to make it all worthwhile. Oh, and did I mention I found three or four more blueberry bushes out back? If we can keep the birds out of them, we should have at least a couple quarts of blueberries once we’ve picked them all. Mrs. Fetched likes to freeze them and use them for various things.

Finally… food? Now that The Boy is out of the house, I can start drinking up the beer I confiscated from him and his friends. I found two more bottles stashed in a tool cabinet, one of which was opened and (not) resealed. It might not be food, but beer is nutrition for a guy. That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

Not food: You may not have noticed that I added Kansas’s new blog, Sweet Mystery of Life, to the blog roll. I really need to get a copy of her book sooner or later… good excuse to swing by the bookstore on the way home from work and order it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 7 comments

Call the Volunteers!

Not the volunteers for the revolution, although if Congress doesn’t put a leash on Bush-league — and soon! — it might come to that. But for the mid-week Independence Day festoovities, I can show off some of the volunteer plants around FAR Manor:

Volunteer flower, tomato, in the herb bedLast year, this was a flower bed. Mrs. Fetched decided she wasn’t going to plant anything in here, so I put in some garlic. The drought nailed most of the garlic, although you can see a couple of shoots managed to survive. I stuck several basil plants in here as well, because I needed to put them somewhere. But the flower (that’s trying to overrun one of the garlic shoots) and the tomato (near the bottom of the frame) decided to appear on their own.

Of the flower, Mrs. Fetched said, “Yeah, I put one of those in there last year… but I thought it was an annual.” It must have self-seeded, because I tilled up that bed pretty good early in the spring.


Low-growing blueberry shrubsSeveral varieties of blueberry are native to Planet Georgia, but I was surprised to find these on one of the more neglected parts of the manor grounds, let alone doing so well. I think the April cold snap may have done them some good. They’re small — pea size or maybe a little smaller — but quite tasty. They take the concept of “low-hanging fruit” to a new low: they’re only a couple of inches off the ground. For some reason, these low-down berries are the first ones to ripen.

The blackberries are also going great guns. I have no clue how they managed to get so big, especially with the dry weather we’ve been having. Perhaps the cold snap helped them as well.


Blueberry bushThere are three or four bushes out here too, probably of a different variety. These berries are nearly twice as large as the ground-huggers, and still working on ripening. I’ve learned that there’s such a thing as “bird scare ribbon” so I might have to get some of that soon (it will also help us remember the right bushes when we go a-pruning come winter).


Vine of mysteryI’m not sure if this is a cucumber, squash, or melon — but it came out of nowhere (actually, near the compost pile). I threw half a watermelon in the compost heap last week, but that’s nowhere near enough time for it to grow nearly three feet and start flowering.


I’m about inundated with jalapenos. I’m thinking about picking a bunch of them to take to the farmer’s market on Saturday; I might clip some herbs as well (the parsley and mint especially need a trim, and I have almost as much basil as I do jalapenos) — Mrs. Fetched says I ought to sell them; I was thinking about just trading for produce we (or my mother-in-law, the Master Gardener) don’t have growing. I’ve picked a few bell peppers, and they’re doing quite well too, but we’ll probably use them ourselves. We loves us some bell peppers at FAR Manor, and they’re just too dang expensive at the store.

Tomorrow, I’m planning to get another gallon of blackberries. That (and the gallon I’ve already grabbed) should make enough jelly to get through the winter. One of the few comforts of a cold winter morning is to spread some blackberry jelly on toast and remember just how dang hot it was when I picked those berries in July.

Monday, July 02, 2007 7 comments

Storms

Downburst aftermathI wimped out on taking the motorcycle this morning, using the need to carry a laptop as an excuse — so naturally, it didn’t rain much today. It’s misting a little bit right now, but yesterday about this time we were getting some seriously heavy weather. Several storms yesterday delivered downbursts here and there, uprooting a tree onto a highway, flattening this stand of corn about a mile from FAR Manor (it's clearer when you click-to-enlarge), and possibly jackknifing a “portable parking lot” truck in town.

Several of my pepper plants were bent over, as likely from the weight of the peppers as much as the wind. I’m propping them up and relieving them of their burden as best as I can. The bell peppers look very nice — I hope they’re as tasty as they look.

Saturday, June 30, 2007 11 comments

More on Finding Stuff

I was close to overload this morning: between fixing breakfast, gathering up boxes for a yard sale at the in-laws’, and getting ready to button up the chicken houses for the new batch (coming tomorrow), I was amazed I kept it all straight.

One of the yard sale items was a commercial-grade VCR. Mrs. Fetched has nearly a half-dozen of them, leftovers from her analog video editing days. “See if you can find the remotes for the rest,” she said, waving the one remote she was able to locate (when your remote has a jog/shuttle wheel, you’re uptown!). Naturally, I didn’t find the remotes, but I did find: the voltmeter (in the coffee table drawer), Mrs. Fetched’s English Allen wrenches (on The Boy’s dresser), and my trouble light (buried under a bunch of stuff in a box in the garage). I vaguely remember carrying the Allen wrenches up to his room to dismantle a bed frame, but thought I’d put them back. The trouble light was about where I thought it should have been, but buried deeper than I’d expected. I have no clue why the voltmeter was in the coffee table.

After the chicken houses, I was sweaty and dirty: in other words, in perfect form to go pick blackberries. I cut the top off a milk jug I’d rinsed out for the purpose, sprayed myself down with bug bomb, and marched out to hunt and gather. There were a few nice big ones by Crissy the Shriekbox’s pen; I endured the barking and grabbed those, then hiked through the woods behind the manor to the pasture. There are a couple of really good stands of blackberries around some brush piles, and they did not disappoint. I also found where the Japanese Beetles have been hanging out; shaking the vines elicited a noise like a squadron of Zeros taking off. While they had sucked some of the berries dry, many others were intact and as big as a fingertip (all the way to the first knuckle). I don’t know how the berries managed to get so big what with the lack of rain through most of June, but I filled my jug and headed back as more rain threatened. I got three or four drops is all; most of the rain went about a half mile south. I’m looking forward to stashing some jelly for the winter.

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