Wednesday, August 16, 2017

No major tasks planned for the gardens--just some rearranging and clean up. I think I will bring the blueberry inside. After I grind the basil in the dehydrator and check the peach peels for dryness I will cut small amounts of other herbs. I saw several I want to take cuttings for. The ones already started are still doing well. We should have warm temps and sun today but the weather report predicts some unseasonably cool days ahead and a few possible storms. That could, and probably will, change in the next five minutes but it has me wondering if we should expect an early fall and winter. I can see the first signs that leaves are beginning to turn.

Number 45 gave a press conference on infrastructure which quickly devolved into a donnybrook on Charlottesville. The idiot simply doesn't know when to stop talking. And the press, for the most part, doesn't know how to do anything except engineer "gotcha" moments. Which #45 is congenitally incapable of not providing. One thing that was lost in the fracas was this first item on Grist's summary of stories: his executive order, the touting of which was the stated purpose of the presser, which would streamline the process of rubber stamp the approval of infrastructure projects. Question: did he deliberately deflect attention away from his executive order and any discussion of its impact?

An historian (and I can't remember which one) who wrote that the North may have won the Civil War but lost the larger war for the American conscience. Over the next half century the Jim Crow social/political system (American Apartheid) and the share-cropping agricultural system combined with decisions like Plessy v Ferguson re-established a "slave" system without the name. I wonder if we aren't seeing a parallel development in the late 20th-early 21st century. The U.S. and its allies won WWII against the Axis powers including Nazi Germany. But now the grandchildren of that "greatest generation" are marching with swastika flags, chanting Nazi slogans, and demonizing Jews, blacks and others they don't see as part of the "volk." And the Germans aren't surprised.

Amen!! HecateDemeter puts things very nicely. Josh Marshall did also yesterday. Marshall makes a further point by asking just what we are honoring when we choose our heroes. Jefferson is the example he chose but any of the southern founding fathers could have been used. Jefferson, a slave holder, gave us the Declaration of Independence which asserts "all men are created equal." In other words, there is a ledger with a positive side and a negative side and, for most of us, Jefferson's positives outweigh the negatives. What about Robert E. Lee? What is there on the positive side to balance the fact that he was the commanding general of an army in rebellion? It is almost as if the winners allowed the losers to write the history.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We got our grocery shopping done early because we had only one stop and not much to get. Had a nice surprise at the supermarket. I think I said that our usual store was part of the purchase by the family that had started the chain many, many years ago which gave me hope some things would change. We wanted lettuce and for the past several months we passed up lettuce there because it looked awful. Today it was beautiful. We told the produce manager that which made him happy. And yes we did get a head of red-leaf lettuce.

The four quarts of tomatoes that didn't seal are now down to two. Mom made juice out of two of them. We hadn't bought tomato juice for even longer than we skipped the lettuce, though that was not the store's fault. We simply didn't like how much salt was in the commercially produced juice. After drinking a small glass each of what she made up, we won't buy commercial again--ever. Ours was so much better though Mom says she forgot that we put some salt in the quarts when we canned those tomatoes and added a bit more. But that was still less than what is in the commercial juice.

We got some peaches at the same time we bought that last 25 lb. box of tomatoes last Saturday. Mom fixed up a pie yesterday and peeled the left over peaches to put in the fridge in a dilute lemon water. We can use them for our yogurt or what ever. The peels are drying now in the dehydrator along with five trays of basil. I will grind the peels up to put in the mixes for tea.

I cut down the cucumber and bean vines yesterday and got that area cleaned up. I have some other clean up to do but it is already getting a bit warm to do much. I will go out later and water everything but cutting the basil that is in the dehydrator was my limit.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A busy day yesterday. We processed another 25 lbs of tomatoes so we now have enough canned tomatoes to last till next summer. The 50 lbs we did up yielded 23 quarts which cost us little over $1 each. That is almost entirely the cost of the tomatoes because we already had the jars and the lids are a few pennies each. I have three jars to reprocess today. That is better than the five I had last week and I hope the second time is a charm. So far the failure rate for the new lids vs. the used ones is about the same. We'll see what happens for the second processing. I had three last week that wound up in the fridge because the second time didn't work either. In case you are wondering, I am a novice canner so maybe this isn't that unusual.

These first two stories I found yesterday and only had time to make the links.

Anti-tourism attacks in Spain. The dark side of all of the efforts various places are making to bring in outside money--and that is what it is all about. We don't watch much TV any more but the ads for tourist spots in a five state area (Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky) have been all over the commercial slots. But then we think about how little we really like visiting such spots. The crowds are too much and all of the "local" souvenirs are made in China.

So the Countering Violent Extremism initiative becomes Countering Radical Islamic Extremism initiative. I noticed this morning (Monday) that the White House Press people are insisting that #45 really did intend to condemn white supremacist violence but somehow his words were taken in a way they weren't meant. I'm sorry but condemning "both" sides when only one side is committing the violence is hard to take the wrong way. And to repeatedly fail to condemn attacks on ethnic or racial minorities by white extremists (or to even call them extremist or radical) indicates a mind that simply doesn't recognize that evil. I have thought for sometime we should do away with the notion of "hate" crime. Vandalism is vandalism no matter what site is vandalized and no matter the motivation. Defacing an office building, or a church, or a synagog, or a mosque (or any other site where people worship) is vandalism. Trashing a place and destroying what is inside (or stealing the contents) is a crime whether it is a school, a place of worship, or a business no matter what the motivation. Calling a person or a group of people vile names is boorish behavior and deserves verbal and public criticism but it isn't a crime unless that speech incites violence in which case the person uttering or writing the words should be prosecuted no matter the venue (street corner, pulpit, newspaper, blog) and no matter the motivation (religious belief, bigotry, whatever). Assault is assault and it matters not a bit if the motivation is religious, racial or pure cussedness. Punish it as such and don't accept any excuses.

Two of the three quarts of tomatoes sealed after a second round in the canner. I am in the process of removing the jungle of cucumber and bean vines. Both are looking more than a bit untidy and spent. I found a half dozen Dragon Egg and four Chicago pickling cucumbers. We have all of the pickles we can put in the fridge so I told Mom to find some new cucumber salad recipes. Over the winter I plan to research ways to prepare canned pickles that will keep them crispy as well as tasty. One of the Chicago cucumbers is very ripe so I will harvest the seeds for next year or the year after since I have some left from this year's seed order.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

It will be somewhat busy today so we'll see how much I write.

Mom found a headline that said the first snowfall this season in the U.S. was due this weekend. At first I was surprised. After all, this is only the second week of August which I will admit has been cooler than I expected. Then I asked "where?" In Alaska. I wouldn't have been surprised if the article had said the Rocky Mountain high country. It feels odd to think of snow now but I am already thinking about pulling the sad tomato and cucumber vines. It seems much too early for that. That triggered thoughts about next year's garden: only one plant each of the Ox Heart and Roselle tomatoes and two plants each of the Chicago pickling cucumbers and Dragon's Egg cucumbers.

Friday, August 11, 2017

I have chocolate mint and orange mint to grind and should get the lemon balm cut and drying. The lemon balm by itself should fill the dehydrator. I should pick a bunch of cherry tomatoes. We'll see if I get to it and I need to check some cucumbers. I have several mental notes for next year: no beans--I haven't found a variety yet Mom likes, not even the Blue Lake she suggested one year; tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will be in their own five gallon buckets; all the mints will be in either the pockets of the soft shoe storage planter or in smaller pots on the wire shoe rack; the strawberries like that soft shoe rack so some will stay in there and in the top tiers of the tower planters.

There are stories which simply cry out for commentary and this is one. I think it proves that the Department of Homeland Security is simply a slush fund. Where is the capitalism the Repthuglicans treat as an 11th commandment? But then there are so many subsidies for the fossil fuel industry that a few billion to keep the moribund coal industry limping along isn't such a bad thing. It isn't like they have roads, bridges, sewer systems, polluted water that needs attention and money, is it?

Now this is a good idea. If companies want to put in robots to replace workers, they can do so but they should kick in to defray the expenses the state (which means the rest of us taxpayers) pony up to cover unemployment and other such costs.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Yesterday I cut back the spearmint and was surprised to find it filled my dehydrator so I put the chocolate mint off to today. We'll see how much I get before deciding what else might be harvested. I still have oregano, basil, orange mint, lemon balm to get to. The next cutting of most of the herbs after that will be for slips to root for next spring. So far the lemon mint, both varieties of lavender, and the lotus vine cuttings I started a while ago are alive and, I hope thriving.

Although I continually assess and think about how the gardens are doing this is the season when I really start contemplating how well the gardens have done, considering where I will put what plants next year, and what new plants I will try out.

And here is a disconcerting surprise: wildfire in Greenland. Small by our standards but, still, Greenland??!! where they say "micro-fires" are not uncommon.

Another interesting and disconcerting story: the average temperature in July for Death Valley was 107.4F which was the highest recorded average for the area, for the U.S. and for the world.

The spearmint I cut and dried yesterday is ground and in its jar. I have chocolate mint and orange mint drying now. I also took spearmint cuttings to root (hopefully).


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

We have had some nice weather lately which the weather people predict will continue for a while: cool mornings and warm (but not hot) days. Nice for tending the gardens and then doing things inside and cool enough we don't have to use the air conditioner.

I follow politics only in passing now that it has become an absurd "reality" show. We don't really follow the news any more. It seems rather removed for the most part. Because of our location we get Illinois/Chicago news though we live in Indiana. Most often we skim the headlines diving into a story only when something catches our attention. Since much is gossip or random violence we ignore most of it. I wonder how many people share our attitudes. It is hard to tell given the echo chamber that is the internet and the superficiality that is broadcast TV (news or otherwise.)

If I don't follow news or politics or economics (which has the same relationship to reality as politics nowadays) what do I read? I will take you an a bit of a tour through my usual reading list.

First up: Nimue Brown. Her piece on "dabbling" resonates with this confirmed dabbler. I also like learning new things often at the expense of finishing old projects. I have books detailing crafts I know I will never try--the books were cheap, the materials for the crafts are not. I have projects that have been off the stove completely for long periods of time for any number of reasons. Some of them will never be finished but I hope a fair number will be as I move them from shelf to back burner to high heat.

Then there is the intersection of technology and society/politics. Hardly a new phenomenon. North Korea has a system totally disconnected from the rest of the world and restricts access to that to only a few carefully chosen and trusted subjects. For years China has been tightening the controls on what their people can access and blocking those companies who don't comply with their demands. After the Arab Spring revolutions several countries in the Middle East demanded internet/telecom "kill" switches to help block the spread of future such movements. "Splinternets?" Yeah, I can see it developing. There are nasty tendencies in our "wild west" internet culture: bullying, hate, trolls, scams, frauds. But we had that without the internet. And I believe that information, like any technology, is a genie that doesn't go back into its bottle once released. It is always there somewhere in the wilderness.

Ronni Bennett is wonderful for discussions of what aging is like. This one is a fun piece that provides a lighter note. I agree with her totally on the sleeveless phenomenon. I don't think I have any sleeveless items left in my closet. I am at the point where if I can't wear blue jeans and a tee shirt or slacks and a pretty blouse with sleeves, I say forget it. My fondest desire is to never wear a dress or skirt again. As I read the last section on the loss of "You're welcome" I had a though Mom said: the full exchange used to be "Thank you for coming (or what ever)" followed by "You're welcome, and thank you for a wonderful dinner (or what ever)." Our interactions, especially verbal ones, seem to have been shortened, truncated. The "you're welcome" is left implied.