Friday, August 30, 2013

Hot Friday. More tomatoes. Hummingbirds.

Back into the 90s today.  We are looking forward to next week when the temperatures will back off to the high 70s and low 80s.  We will be able to turn off the air and open the doors again.  I don't have much planned for the gardens today.  I plan to wait a bit because the hummingbirds are feeding heavily this morning.  We saw four or five visits--I say visits because we can't really tell the individuals apart.  I wonder if some are migrating through and feeding up for the rest of the journey.  We saw only the little female until about two weeks ago and she came in the early morning.  One of the bloggers I read regularly wrote about the sudden appearance and disappearance of hummingbirds at her feeder.  She lives considerably north and west of us.

Well, I said it wasn't planning on much in the gardens.  However, I found more ripe or near ripe tomatoes than I thought I would.  I may have enough for another batch of stewed tomatoes.  While I was collecting them and a couple of peppers I  trimmed a couple of the tomato plants.  They are getting way out of control.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Foggy Thursday. Lazy gardening day. Lemon balm. Bees, hummingbirds, goldfinches.

I don't know how much I will get done in the gardens today.  I will wait to gather anything until the fog lifts.  I do have tomatoes to stew--not many but I would rather do a small batch than loose the very ripe ones.  I think I saw a Super Sauce ready to pick.  I hadn't planned on it but I got the lemon balm volunteers repotted and brought inside.  All of the rosemary, lavender, and bay are fine--didn't need to water.  I thought the lemon thyme should also be pulled from the gardens and put in a pot for winter.  It is looking a bit ragged--too much shade for it and maybe too much competition from the sage.  And I should make a decision soon on whether I want to take cuttings from the mints.  The bees are very active as are the hummingbirds (and yes we have at least 3 visiting frequently) and goldfinches.  They all appear to be stoking up for winter.  do they know something we don't.

This story appeared on one of our news programs last night.  The anchor asked the same question we have here for some time: why are guys paid so much for so little?  I know the theory.  We hear it often.  To get top talent in this market they have to pay top rates.  However, I wonder what the criteria for judging "top talent."  Those benchmarks are far from obvious.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Less hot Wednesday. Hibiscus seed pod. Spearmint. Grapefruit mint. Tomato hornworm.

The weather people say the temperature should be 13 degrees lower than yesterday.  However, they posted a 98F for this area so an 85 is still too hot to do much outside.  I have already collected tomatoes and a handful of purple cayenne peppers, two of which had gone from the purple to the red stage.  I found a seed pod on the hibiscus a few days ago and picked it today.  It was brown and just beginning to open.  It is drying now in a small bowl.  I have three trays of spearmint and four of grapefruit mint drying now.  Still have to water things but by then I will be ready to call the outside gardening quits for the day.  I want to check out my lavender, bay tree, and rosemary bushes for watering.  Those are all inside now.

I found a tomato hornworm just a bit ago--the first one in a couple of years.  I had just finished spraying a couple of plants for powdery mildew and checked over a pepper plant to find that big, bad boy.  My usual procedure is cut the pests in half and let them decompose in the garden.  But I took a second look and saw a whole bunch of little white grains on it and something clicked in my mind.  I checked up on line and sure enough.  My pest had met his pest, a braconid wasp, and would soon be hatching out more wasps.  I left him alone to continue his function as wasp incubator

This story has dominated the news here as school has started.  Neither Mom nor I can remember any time when we were growing up that we had cancelled or shortened school days because of heat--and very few because of snow.  And most of the schools we attended didn't have air conditioning either.  Now we can't imagine life without.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hot Tuesday. Two new nasty bugs in the gardens. Cucumbers done. Peppers.

We are in day 2 of the heat wave.  The temperature is 80 on the patio and it isn't yet 8:30am.  (I won't be posting this until much later.)  I have already picked tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and watered all the containers.  The cucumber plants looked pretty bad so I took them out.  They are done for the season.  The four cucumbers of a size to pick will go in salads for the rest of the week.  I have a number of peppers to core, slice and package for freezing.  Late last week I found something had chewed up my peppermint cutting.  Most things don't bother any of the mints and it took me a couple of days to find the little monster--tent caterpillars.  I guillotined about a half dozen and today I didn't find any new ones.  The plant is looking much better.  Then trimming back the tomatoes I found another strange beetle (strange to me, anyway).  A quick Google search and I identified it as a stink bug.  I will have to look at how to "discourage" these nasty pests.

I can't say this any better, except perhaps to remark that to "make war without going to war" is a pretty cowardly way to go.  So much for "land of the brave."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sunny Monday. Tomatoes, peppers, peppermint, pineapple sage.

Since we expect highs in the low 90s I have already been busy in the gardens.  Last night, after stewing some and putting more in big chef salads, I had three small slicing tomatoes left.  I now have a bowl slicers and a bowl of cherry tomatoes, and have marked a couple of the sauce tomatoes for possible picking tomorrow.  I have pineapple sage and peppermint in the dryer.  Summer is definitely on the wane though the forecast temperatures this week and next would argue with that notion.  The stewed tomatoes are in the pot in the fridge ready for me to package for freezing.  I have some pictures but haven't downloaded them yet.  I will post them soon.

Our society seems to be orgiastically enthusiastic about technology.  However, spending this amount of public money and several years on a futile effort to merge two huge and complicated systems.  Sometimes simple is better and the technology is not simple.  It is just expensive.

These boys seems to be very determined to get us more embroiled in this mess than we are now.  To date I have seen nothing that comes close to proving who used the "chemical" weapon.  Considering the myriad of competing and violent interests contending in Syria, maybe we should avoid the quicksand.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday. Getting ready for the heatwave. Cute indoor hanging gardens.

We are watching the weather forecasts and planning for the heat to come.  Mostly we want to avoid cooking as much as possible.  So the menu for today and the next couple include two chef salads, a pasta salad, and cold sandwiches.  Tuesday we will look at what we will do for the next three or four days.  We're also debating when or whether to turn on the air conditioning.  We don't much like it but there are times when we are mightily grateful to have it.  Given how many 90 degree days we expect it may be necessary to turn it on soon rather than later.

I can see a number of tomatoes ready to harvest today.  I will keep a couple of slicing tomatoes for sandwiches and some of the cherry for salads.  Otherwise, I will stew the extra with the sauce tomatoes to freeze.  The heatwave will change when I do my gardening.  Usually, I spend an hour or so with the computer before going outside.  Now I will garden as soon as I have enough light to see what I am doing and put off the computer till later.  We will also do our weekly errands on the coolest days and as early as possible.

Now this is cute!!  But I don't think my landlord would appreciate most of it.

Well, I got the herbs I dried yesterday ground and, at the same time,  combined several jars of the same herbs to make some room and sense of what I had on the shelf.  The tomatoes are stewing nicely.  When they are done I will put the pot in the fridge till tomorrow when I will package them for freezing. I decided not to collect more herbs for drying today.  I will give that a rest and get another batch tomorrow.  I also cut the strawberry daughter plants off the runners connecting them to the mother plant and moved them inside under the grow light.  I will see how that technique does.  I had no success cutting the daughters off before trying to root them in a small pot.  I have another set in my strawberry "nursery" to root now.  Everything has been watered and just in time.  It was getting very warm out there and we decided to turn on the air.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A cool Saturday before the heat. Spearmint. Stevia. Grapefruit mint.

Nice and cool for now.  Expected high today is mid 80s.  I have spearmint in the dryer to get ground today.  Then I might see how much stevia I can cut.  Otherwise, I will be picking of newly ripe tomatoes each day.

I have already brought in the tomatoes, including a couple of the Super Sauce one of which weighs in at about half-a-pound.  I see three more that will be ready to pick tomorrow.  So I guess I will be stewing tomatoes tomorrow.  Right now the house smells of grapefruit mint.  Yesterday it smelled of spearmint.  That is a side benefit to drying the herbs--I get the dried herbs to use in the winter and the smell of it now.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday garden update--tomatoes, peppers, spearmint.

Sunny today.  Yesterday was quite gloomy.  We got a little bit of rain over the day--a very little bit.  Shortly I will collect tomatoes and, perhaps some peppers.  High winds yesterday pushed a couple of branches one of the pepper plants down but, thankfully, did not break them.  I can tie them back up on the stake and they should be fine.  I really don't want to collect the whole lot of small peppers just yet.  Rather they get a bit bigger first.  Also on the agenda: cutting some of the spearmint for drying.  Next week should be interesting--another span of 90F temps for at least the first four days.  The first small batch of stewed tomatoes yielded 1 3/4 pounds for the freezer.  But that should go up rapidly.  I see several large sauce tomatoes ripening and the season of getting more slicing and cherry tomatoes than we can eat has definitely arrived.

Update: seven trays of spearmint in the dryer.  Also saw four Super Sauce tomatoes nearly ready to pick.

Another example of Walmart's mastery of semantic legerdemain.  How a "Buy America" plan can result if fewer and worse paid jobs.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lazy Wednesday.

It is a lazy day because we had rain last night and I need to let the gardens dry out a bit.  Later I will look for ripe tomatoes and peppers and check the moisture in the containers.  Though it rained, the weather people say we only got a half an inch.  Later on I have to package the tomatoes I stewed yesterday for freezing.  Otherwise nothing much happening out there.

I love stories like this one.  I am always amazed by how long ago some of our basic technologies were adopted.  I also wonder how many today can even identify the plants our distant (and maybe not so distant) ancestors gathered routinely in the wild.  Not many--including me.

Isn't it fascinating how the substantive issues of the Bradley Manning trial and sentencing has been overshadowed by the titillating?  Damn our corporate (s)news media.

This issue, who is eligible to be elected President, has become pathological.  The critics, both of Obama and Cruz, seem to want to resurrect the old Athenian definition of citizenship which required both parents to be citizens for anyone to claim citizenship.  Even the sons of the their most famous leader, Pericles, had to earn their own citizenship on the battlefield because their mother, the noted courtesan Aspasia, was not an Athenian citizen.  Talk about a "holier than thou" idiocy.  In case anyone wonders, Cruz hasn't provided me with any good reason to vote for him.

I have to ask: how many ordinary Americans can afford $4,000+ for health insurance? Or the $1000/year deductible for actual health care costs?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Very warm Wednesday. Gardening update. Tomatoes and cucumbers.

The temperature is supposed to reach 90F today.  I debated closing everything up and turning on the air conditioner but decided not to.  The temperature reached high 80s yesterday and we weren't uncomfortable.  We should have the same temperatures for the next week which will help the tomatoes ripen.  We had two busy days that took us out of the house (shopping Monday and Senior breakfast yesterday) so now I have a number of small tasks lined up: check the bullnose cucumbers and do up the first batch of spicy freezer cucumbers, check the tomatoes and keep a few for salad while stewing the rest for freezing, check the bay tree and lavender before watering if needed.

Al Jazeera America has started broadcasting.  We watched it last night to see what to expect.  We are impressed.  Less hype, more news, and not nearly as ideologically driven as our news media.  We will add it to NHK (English language Japanese) and BBC.  I am glad our cable carrier wasn't as craven as those who dropped the network Al Jazeera purchased late last year.

This article demonstrates why I like multiple channels of information.  We have some politicians here insisting that our government MUST cut off military aid to Egypt while other, equally insistent, insist that the situation complicated and we have to carefully consider the impact of such a cut off.  Each relies on a different set of moral and political values and different sets of "facts" to push their claims.  How to choose between them?

Ronni Bennett posted this item on Time Goes By and I thoroughly agree.  Considering how many commercial commemorative "Days" we have I wonder that retailers haven't made more of Senior Citizen's Day.  And as far as our national "holidays" go, most of those have also gone for commercial campaigns to induce us to spend freely money we probably don't have.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Seasonably warm Tuesday.

Yesterday was, indeed, busy.  We did our usual grocery shopping but had a bunch of other errands to run.  Mom needed a new power cord for her computer.  I wanted another bundle of the ends and pieces of lumber we found at Menards in the spring to put under some of my five gallon buckets to help them drain and prevent them from freezing to the cement.  We also went to the larger of the health foods store in town to see if we could find loose green tea.  We have been using the usual tea bags but a while ago I started emptying the bags and using the tea loose.  We found it and were amazed at the difference in the cost.  The tea we had been using came in boxes of bags with a total weight just under two ounces.  We saw them yesterday for a sale price of $2.99.  We paid $12.99 for 16 oz.  B-I-I-G difference!!!!  We had a surprise because a new Mexican grocery opened up in the neighboring space run by the family that owns our favorite Mexican restaurant.  We visited there for a bit after buying our tea.

After all of that we were wiped out and just loafed the rest of the day.  I did water everything in the gardens but not much else there.

I collected a bowl full of tomatoes.  Our first batch of stewed tomatoes may be from excess cherry and slicers.  I saw three of the Super Sauce and one of the Amish paste have started (barely) to turn red.

John Mauldin has an excellent post this morning on the phenomenon of of big financial companies going into court to agree to pay huge fines to settle law suits for various fraud and other illegalities while "neither admitting nor denying" wrong-doing.  I had one question when I read the list of multi-humdred million (and in one case multi-billion) dollar settlements: how much of their profits did those settlements represent.  And I agree with Judge Rakoff:  either the SEC had a case or it didn't.  Either the company was guilty of a crime or it wasn't.  And I also agree with a couple of bloggers I read regularly: I will believe a corporation is a person when Texas executes one.

In the same vein.  Another case of a company, this time in for-profit education, agrees to a fine to settle a law suit alleging fraud while admitting neither guilt nor wrong-doing.  In talking about this trend here, I diagnosed the problem as one where the only moral standards our business, political, or financial actors recognize is financial profit.  Right is now defined by how much you can keep of your ill-gotten gains.  And this is another reason why I think the current way of funding higher education should be ended.  No more loans shackling students into debt slavery.  That is simply another form of corporate welfare.  And what is sad is that the students will pay double: pay back the loans and pay the taxes that support the guarantees the government give the companies providing the loans (or the government agencies that provide the loans).  Worse they can't even get out from under the burden through bankruptcy.

This Atlantic article should provide some balance to the notion our news media presents continuously that the basic problem in Egypt is a radical Muslim Brotherhood that won't play nicely.  It seems that every conflict in any Islamic country is defined as a contest between secularists and fundamentalists of one stripe or another.  Does anyone remember reports of a horrendous drought that hit most of Syria about three years ago?  No?  Well, our news media didn't mention it.  I remember it because my news sources aren't as dedicated to fluff.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lazy Sunday. Busy Monday.

I won't be doing too much today.  On a whim I transplanted the peppermint plant that rooted from the mother plant a bit earlier.  I have one and maybe two slicing tomatoes to collect and maybe a handful of cherry.  The weather should be a bit above normal this week so we plan at least one supper of chef salad.  I think the largest of the cucumber will be ready this week.  I will do them up as the spicy freezer cucumbers later in the week.  I need to do up iced tea for the week a bit later.

Hey, Kay.  Good luck with your kvetching and hope they do have answers for you.  This has been a strange year in a long string of strange years and the weather seems to affect my moods more than it has in the past.  I try to enjoy the nice weather when we have it.

I said it was going to be a lazy Sunday but I have managed to get a bit done.  Found three ripe slicers and a handful of cherry tomatoes.  Also found three more nice cucumbers so Wednesday I will do up the freezer cucumbers.  Did a little bit of pruning on tomatoes and cucumber vines.  I also checked my last attempt to root new strawberry plants.  Very disappointing results.  I have decided to try something else.  I have a number of small pots and have anchored the plantlets still attached to the mother plant in them.  If that works out well I will do something similar next year.

I didn't see much I wanted to comment on yesterday and we have a long list of errands to do today so I don't know how much I will get to today.  We'll see.

The news last night showed some dramatic pictures from the eruption in Japan of Sakurajima.  They didn't say that the volcano has erupted 500 times (including this last one) this year so far.

The only way anyone will ever know if the computer system failure federal meat inspectors now rely on let contaminated meat into the market will be if consumers of the meat that got through during the failure become ill and the illness is traced to the meat.  Doesn't do much for my confidence in our industrialized food processing system?  How about you?

The Marine Corps officer quoted in this piece says "We're building an army over here and I can't believe that people aren't seeing it.  Is everybody blind?"  No, we're not all blind.  We, here, have been watching this since 9/11 and are scared shitless about it.  But we can't do anything about it.  The process has proceeded under both Repthuglican and Damnocrat administrations.  And all too many people over here seem to have forgotten Ben Franklin's words:  Those who would trade security for freedom will deserve neither security nor freedom.  And, I would add, will have neither.  Furthermore, I have my own question: who scares you most--small groups of disgruntled assholes trying to come in from elsewhere or an increasingly repressive political regime (at all levels) over here?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sunny Saturday. Garden update: stevia, strawberries.

Good day, All.  Cool and dry.  I haven't checked outside yet but I will probably find a couple of tomatoes and maybe some peppers.  I should clip the spearmint--if my energy levels stay up.  I am slowly getting into my putting the gardens to bed mode.  I moved three of my strawberries, pot and all, into spots opened up when I took out the pathetic little chamomile and equally pathetic bee balm and stevia.  They all suffered from bigger plants planted too closely to them.  I will put in more chamomile next year but in a better position.  I have to pull one of the stevia I transplanted a bit ago.  It didn't survive.  The other three are doing nicely.  I may cut them back and move them inside for the winter.  I have wanted to make a stevia syrup but not right now.  With a pot of stevia inside I can experiment with that over the winter.

Hey, Kay,  glad you stopped by.  I can sympathize with both your frustration with the flowers you put in and with a feeling that I just don't want to do anything.  Part of my fall and winter program is to evaluate what went on in the gardens.  I don't always say what doesn't work: like the zinnias (they didn't bloom nicely and didn't play well where I had them), or the chamomile (my bad--I put it in a bad spot), or the squash (they just didn't produce this year), or the beans (damned beetles and they, like the squash, didn't produce).

And oh yeah!! this has been a very cool summer.  It reminds me of the summer about six or seven years ago when we got almost no tomatoes because it was so cold.  Has't been that bad this year.  I might agree with you on the climate change if it weren't for the two severe heat waves in China has experience this year, the heat wave in Siberia with temperatures 30 degrees above normal and wildfires worse than in living memory, and the heatwave in western Europe.  And the heat continues in the U.S. west.  We were watching the birds at the seed feeder this morning, thinking they were more intensely single minded in their feeding and, like you, wondered what that might mean for the winter.

I just mentioned the Russian wildfires.  Well, I found this update by way of Naked Capitalism.  They have gone from heat and fire to flood.  I told Mom this morning that sometimes the weather we have had gives me whiplash.

I have seen some pictures like these for other areas suffering drought and wildfires.  They do blow the mind away.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thursday. Garden update. Friday now.

We woke to really cool temperatures this morning.  Feels like mid to late September and I expect we will see the trees turning early.  I harvested purple cayenne, sage, and grapefruit mint yesterday.  Got more of the damage, which wasn't much to begin with, tidied up.  The Amish paste tomato no longer lists into the tansy.  And most of the cayenne is back into its proper space.  I say most because it grew very spindly and tall--more vine like--than usual.  So some of it won't be cut back until I pull the spent plants.  I need to water things.  As I noted the rain was hammer hard but not much in the way of volume.  The hibiscus is still putting out some flowers but it is nearing the end of its blooming.

By mid summer I generally look at what has done well, what hasn't, what fits and what doesn't and planning for next year.  I won't put in any more squash--even the small varieties are on big and spreading plants that don't do well for as small a space as I have.  I think I will give cucumbers a rest as well.  As much as we do love tomatoes and peppers, I may plant fewer.  Again, I have a very small space and planting the same plants year after year isn't healthy for the plants.  I have only so many spaces in which to put the plants and I have had each in every space available over the last few years.  I won't eliminate them but fewer would be better.

As you can see, I pooped early yesterday.  I did try to get the Supersauce tomato plant tied up again.  Those are some heavy tomatoes and I am not sure it will remain tied up.  I will look at it later.  I also got the sage and grapefruit mint ground.  Today I have oregano I cut yesterday in the dehydrator now and will grind it later.  If I my get-up-and-go doesn't get up and go I plan to cut some spearmint for drying.  We'll see what happens.

Over the time I have been following the Greek financial crisis I have often wondered if we would soon enough see similar scenes here.  Yanis Varoufakis wrote this piece for Naked Capitalism.

If the only tool you have is a hammer, all your problems look like nails.  I would modify that a bit: if you have a really cool tool, you want all your problems to be nails and often imagine they are.  Case in point: the growing use of SWAT and other militarized police in routine, nonviolent matters.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I don't know how much I will find on the 'net today.  Has anyone else noticed how repetitive some of the news sites?  So often I fine half a dozen or more repeated stories on the same useless stories I didn't want to read in the first place.  The gardens are doing well and I am getting a steady supply of cherry tomatoes and, recently, the slicers are beginning to ripen.  I still have to get the Amish paste tomatoes out of the tansy and re-attached to their stakes.  The wind was still to high to do that yesterday.  I have been thinking about taking the purple cayenne and drying them.  Otherwise not much to say on that front.

I found this mesmerizing animated graph on describing U.S. demographic history from 1900 and projecting for another 30 or so years.

The teaser title promised something else.  A so-called "dark age" for science evoked an image to me of the European Dark Age--a disappearance of literacy and numeracy, an intellectual stagnation.  The author instead is talking about a financial "dark age" thanks to sequestration.  Thinking about it for a bit I don't buy his argument.  Scientists functioned very nicely before government and big pockets corporations took over the financing.  And I am not so sure that the presence of gobs of government and corporate money has been all that beneficial.  Starting in the 1970s we saw the corporate use of "tame" scientists who were very happy to tailor their research to get the results that supported the company strategy.  As a result we got stories which told us that cigarettes weren't addictive or harmful, there was no linkage between smoking and cancer, and DDT didn't have any impact on our environment beyond killing noxious bugs.  Science today is a gladiatorial contest between credentialed "experts" and deciding who has the better "evidence" is a guess at best.

The new Coke ads that try to whitewash the use of artificial sweeteners has made all of the news outlets.  I find it interesting in an abstract way.  We have almost totally eliminated soft drinks from our diet.  We might have one if we visit one of the relatives but not if we have other choices.  Mom says that drinks with aspartame have a metallic aftertaste.  Neither of us have much of a taste for overly sweet items any more.  Here we use honey, cane sugar, or home grown stevia.  I did think it was interesting, when I saw the ad, that Truvia (commercially processed granulated stevia) was featured in the ad but Diet Coke, last I heard, used aspartame which suggests the two are equivalent.  Of that I am not so sure.  This is another case of dueling experts--those supporting aspartame's safety and those who think it is harmful.

There are times when I am firmly convinced that medicine has not progressed at all beyond the "snake oil" con man era.  Stories like this one solidify that conviction.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday cleanup. Tomatoes. Lavender, pyrethrum, stevia. Cucumbers.

We had a sudden storm blow through last evening--high winds and very hard rain.  Normally my little patio is well protected but the wind swirled around blowing plants every which way.  All I can see that needs fixing, so far, is the big Amish paste tomato listing into the tansy.  Later I will pull it back into its proper position and tied up.  I got a bit more trimming on tomatoes.  We decided not to go to the farm market today.  All we need are tomatoes and ours are coming in now.  I get a handful of cherry tomatoes each day and several of the slicers are ripening.  I finally transplanted the lavender yesterday.  they will spend the winter inside.  I also cleaned up patches of bee balm and stevia.  I put them in a bad place shaded on one side by purple cayenne and on the other by the hibiscus before I moved it.  Both were weak and straggly.  On a whim I cut the stevia back and put it in a pot to see how it would do.  But he bee balm wasn't worth transplanting.  I have another, healthier stand elsewhere.  I put the pyrethrum in the spot they had been.

I put in crystal apple cucumbers this year after growing the dragon's egg variety for the last couple of years.  I saw several developing and a couple ready to pick.  I put them up as a spicy-sweet freezer pickle.  Until just a little while ago I thought I wouldn't get anything out of them.  Now I am cautiously hopeful.

Another good reason not to deal with the big banks.  How much and how often can these guys screw their customers?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday, Monday!! Herbs and tomatoes.

Sunny for the moment.  We may get some showers later--possibly a thunderstorm.  I have the a dehydrator full of rosemary, stevia and grapefruit mint to grind a bit later.  I found a ripe slicing tomato that went on our roast beef sandwiches yesterday and four or five more just turning pink.  I trimmed a lot of leaves and non-producing branches off a one stand of tomatoes yesterday--the Supersauce.  Looks like a nice lot there that should be ripening soon.  We'll have a nice bit of stewed tomatoes in the freezer later.  I still need to transplant the lavender into permanent pots.  Some of the Mohawk peppers look about ready to pick also.

I didn't have to look far for idiocy on the 'net to comment on.  Health Nazis are at it in New Zealand and displaying about as much as their brethren in the U.S.

And the idiocy meter ratchets up another notch.  Some idiot family judge in Tennessee has decided that a baby cannot be named Messiah because "it is a title and only one person has ever earned it."  So is she going to declare than any boy named Jesus (often done in Hispanic communities) should be renamed?  Maybe we should retire Virginia and rename the state.

Ted Koppel describes another idiocy--the continuing War on Terror.  And it isn't just the American economy that is at risk.  How much of our Constitution has not been converted to so much toilet paper?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cool, easy Sunday. Rosemary, stevia, grapefruit mint.

I didn't get as much done in the gardens.  It was laundry day and going up and down the stairs with baskets of clothes gets a bit tiring.  I did find a couple of little tomatoes ready to pick.  I figure if they come off with a very gentle tug they are ripe enough.  Today I got a nice double handful off the vines.

I cut the rosemary bushes (and they are miniature bushes) back a bit.  The older one is about three years old now and is shaping into a pretty little tree.  I didn't take much off of it--just enough to shape it a bit more.  The other I cut abut a third.  Sounds like a lot but not really.  I think I see how it is shaping itself and I took enough to help it along.  I bought it just this year because after the winter I was afraid I was losing the other.  But they have both come along nicely.  I also trimmed the stevia and got four trays of leaves in the dehydrator.  That is where the trimmings from the rosemary went also.  To fill up the rest of the dehydrator with grapefruit mint.  Right now I am taking a break before getting another bit done outside.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday. Garden update. Govt snooping. Deja vu all over again!!

I got some things done in the garden yesterday though, of course, not all of what I wanted to do.  I got distracted by cultivating and fertilizing some of the beds.  I can get to most parts of the gardens easily now that the hibiscus is moved.  I can actually see most of the table now.  Since I put four of the strawberries on the fence I had space at the foot of the patio chairs (which we have never used for their designed purpose) I moved a couple of the large herbs to replace them.  I still have about half of the containers to cultivate and feed today.  And some more trimming.  I have a dehydrator full of chocolate mint to grind today.  I could have filled another two the same size but the remainder went into the compost.

I watched Obama's press conference (or at least part of it.)  I was struck by a lovely Catch-22.  Obama tried to give some lip service to the notion that citizens have a right to know what their government is doing and publicly call attention to its transgressions while defending, lukewarmly, the spying programs that have become so technical and pervasive.  On the one hand, he says he wants more "transparency" but doesn't indicate how to have that and a covert spying program which is by its nature secret.  Can anyone tell me how those two notions can co-exist?  It is beyond my limited brain.   And if both are desirable good where do you draw the line between them?  Right now the line is so fuzzy who can tell when it has been crossed.

Why does this sound so damned familiar?  Oh, yeah!!  We hear this over here.  Often.

I think I'll stick to beer.  This is a waste of perfectly good sugar and yeast.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday on the 'net.

I haven't seen too much today to comment on but this is interesting.  Of course the vindictive and careless credit card issuer thinks that he has a case for a charge of fraud.  I don't see it.

This mess is a crock of shit.  Some of the best news sources are blogs and informal sites, especially since the corporate news media doesn't deal much in real news any more.  And certainly not in honest news--that is news that isn't massaged to a positive slant for the corporations and politicians.  So much for a free press.

Sunny Friday. Garden photos. Garden Update.

 It is a nice sunny Friday.  The weather people say we might have a chance of a passing shower later but not much of one.  I said before that I was thinking about whether to grow borage next year and this decided me.  The bees love it.  I have a spot for a permanent patch and will try to move this plant after I harvest the tomatoes and peppers that are in there now.  I say try because I have no idea of how the roots are arranged and whether I can get the plant out without serious damage.  But I know where I can get seeds next year.
This is the purple hyssop.  It is good as a tea and it attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  It is a perennial so I plan to keep it over winter where it is with protection.
Cherry tomatoes ripening.  About time!!!  We enjoyed a handful so far and a lot more are on the vines.
Here is the firefly begonia.  It is growing well and blooming profusely.  Another plant the hummingbirds like and visit regularly.  It has a trailing habit and I took this picture just after I trimmed it back.  I hope it will do well as a houseplant over winter.

Yesterday was a productive day.  I think I said I harvested the lemon squash and pulled the vines.  I won't be planting any next year.  I cleaned out several of the strawberry pots and put four back on the fence.  The Japanese beetles have disappeared so I think it is safe.  I also found 8 or 10 plantlets on runners and put them in pots to root--I hope.  Out of the last group I found only 2 with roots.

I didn't get to the new lavender yesterday.  I still need to transplant them along with the lemon balm.  But as long as it is cool and dry I can get out there and get some things done.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cool Thursday. Unfinished chores in the Garden.

We had some rain yesterday.  How much I don't really know.  It fell in a hard downpour for a while but perhaps not long enough to give us much.  I did get all my grapefruit mint, chocolate mint and spearmint in the dehydrator ground and into jars but didn't harvest anything.  Mom was busy in the kitchen doing up the turnips and zucchini we got from Brother and fixing up a big pot of beef soup.  After the veggies cooled I packaged it up for freezing but that was the extent of my time in the kitchen. I have said before that the only thing we don't like about our little townhouse is the small kitchen.  Not enough room for the two of us unless we are working on the same process and/or not moving around much.

So I still have the peppers and peppermint to harvest.  I saw some tomato and pepper branches that need to be tied up and some leaves I should cut back because they are starting to cover the bird feeder.  I need to pull the lemon verbena.  It has definitely given up the ghost.  And the new lavenders and a cutting from the peppermint should go into permanent pots.

For new chores--I need to move some plants and the chair that has the spearmint pot on it so I can get to the squash.  I know a squash fruit is maturing behind all that foliage but how far along--I have no idea.  The bees have been very busy with the cucumber vine and I can see several little cucumbers growing.  As I have said before everything is late this year.

Some dead firefighters are evidently more equal than other dead firefighters.  There are times when the distinction between "seasonal" and "full-time" shouldn't exist.  When a person dies or is injured in the performance of a dangerous and necessary job, it shouldn't matter.

Update: the smell of peppermint pervades the house.  It is drying now.  We got only two very small lemon squash.  Mom will put them with other veggies so we won't have any to freeze.  Oh well!!  I pulled the vines since I didn't see any new squash coming up.  I was surprised at the summer savory which is doing very well inspire (because?) of my neglect.  It is blooming.  I had a surprise.  One of our hummingbirds came by as I was looking over a couple of the plants.  After a moment she perched to feed.  I stood perfectly still watching till she flew away.

Mom and I have said what this story concludes often after listening another case of governmental spying, corporate data mining, or identity theft by way of computers:  there is no privacy or security in today's world; get used to it.

This is a startling though, upon reflection, not surprising consequence of the heatwave in D.C.  We don't often think about the effect of extreme heat (or cold) on our vehicles.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sunny Wednesday. Hibiscus. Peppermint. Lavender. Rosemary. Fukushima. Funding higher education. American Dream.

We didn't get any more rain yesterday.  We don't expect any today--the weather people say maybe a 10% chance.  I have a full dehydrator to empty and three different kinds of mints to grind.  Yesterday I pulled out the peppermint and will cut it back to dry.  I found one of the Amish paste tomatoes blushing nicely.  It will be ready to pick soon.  No others yet.  But several bullnose peppers are definitely ready to pick and freeze.  We looked out on the patio and saw two dinner plate sized hibiscus blossoms.  They are really pretty.  We visited the farm market yesterday.  Mom wanted a couple of turnips to supplement what Brother gave us and needed a couple of onions.  I found a couple of new lavender plants.  Mine simply decided to die and did.  I have no idea why.  The attendant said she heard the same thing from several other customers.  I plant to transplant them into other pots and bring them inside.  Although lavender, generally, is hardy in my zone, their survival is chancy.  They may survive a mild winter but die during a severe one--as my original plant did.  So I think the best plan is to put them in pots that can be moved inside when necessary.  My newest rosemary needs to be trimmed also. I got it as insurance when my older plant looked a bit unhappy.  It has since perked up and looks really nice.  I think I need some new pictures.

Two years on and the disaster continues.  I have always been skeptical of nuclear power.  I consider it an example of human hubris.  The notion that our society today could dispose of waste that would be dangerous for thousands of years in the future seemed to me the hight of arrogance.  After all, it is only a bit more than 1500 years since the "fall" of the western Roman Empire; two thousand years since the birth of Christ; 2300 years since the founding of the city of Rome.  And somehow our leaders think they can secure nuclear waste for 10000+years!!??  But Fukushima should underline a lesson we should have learned with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl: some technologies are simply too dangerous to use on any scale.

Katrina vanden Heuvel has some good thoughts on higher education but I think she, like most of our pundits, start too far along the chain of thought.  We do definitely need to have a different way of funding education at all levels.  The system of funding primary and secondary education with property taxes primarily isn't working any more.  But the system of funding higher education on student debt is a catastrophe.  Encouraging students to incur debt they may never be able to pay off considering the labor markets today and into the likely future for an education that appears less and less useful in finding jobs that will pay for both the loan debt and any kind of a life is, to my way of thinking, criminally deceitful.  But, as I said, her arguments start from the premise that higher education, as it is now, is desirable.  All our pundits and politicos are pushing college for everyone.  Not all jobs need such education and not all people are suited to it.  We have a long history of pushing square pegs into round holes and for continuing policies that are no longer working.  We do need better ways of funding higher education but we also need to think seriously about what higher education we fund.

This article expresses a sentiment I can thoroughly endorse.  As I said above we have a habit of pushing square pegs into round holes or endorsing a one-size-fit-all programs.  Once upon a time I bought this idiocy without thinking about it.  Married to a man who desperately wanted to own a home (until he actually was buying one), I was cured of the whole notion.  I much prefer renting.  We need new "American Dreams" that don't rest on the notion of accumulating more things, getting a high-paying job that involves pay increases every year or so and has health and pension benefits attached, and everything else about the current social/economic system that is rapidly disappearing.  And I did intend to make that plural.  We need a multitude of dreams that fit a multitude of different people.  What we have had over the last sixty or so years is an American Straitjacket that has become an American Nightmare for all too many.

Where there is a roof, here is a way.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cloudy Tuesday. Grapefruit mint. Peach peels. Hummingbirds.

We had some rain over night.  I will have to check the containers later because often the rain we get doesn't get to the soil.  The foliage is much too dense.  I will empty the dehydrator later.  I have three trays of peach peels and three of grapefruit mint to grind.  I hope it will stay dry long enough for me to refill the dehydrator with more herbs.  All of them need cutting.  I also should cut some of the peppers for freezing.

The last few days we have watched three or four hummingbirds at our flowers and feeder.  They have been much more active.  We do like watching them.  The bees have also been very active.  Both are later than normal--by about a month.  The little female appeared about a month ago.  Last year we first saw her (or one like her) in June.  When we were driving through southwestern Michigan looking for our peaches Sister-in-law noticed trees changing color--again about a month early.  But then the overnight temps have been lower than normal throughout the area.  However, Brother thought the change might be a response to the dry conditions that broke (sort of) with that heavy rain we had last week.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lazy, changeable Monday. Peaches. Peppers. Another derailment!

We aren't going to be very busy today.  Mom wants to get the peaches, cucumbers, and turnips processed.  The last two were presents from Brother and Sister-in-Law (from their garden).  I won't harvest any herbs for drying today because I plan to dry the peach peels.  We have sunshine now but the weather people say that won't last long and more rain is due in by about noon.  Brother said everything in his garden is slow this year so I am not the only one feeling that.  But I noticed some nice bullnose peppers about ready to pick.  The lipstick peppers are producing actual peppers--just a month late.

This story was also on our morning TV news and our first comment is "Isn't this happening all too often lately?"

Fascinating story about recent multidisciplinary studies piecing together the history of dairy in human agriculture.

Thought I would take you on one of my journeys through the net.  Often I read something on a site I usually follow and then follow the links to find out more or confirm the information.  This morning I started out on Natural News where I saw this article.  Natural News has definite biases which color their reporting and they often hype the "dangers" of what ever they report so I always check out what they say by looking for other less biased reports.  The first link went to the original U.K. Mail concerning fluoride in tea bags.  Since we do drink tea daily I want to see what other information is out there especially on this side of Atlantic.  Doing a quick search on Google leads to other articles including this one from Tea Guardian that shows how complex the issue really is.  And thinking back to the Natural News and Mail stories leads me to ask the question of whether the problem is the tea bag or if the tea itself had the fluoride to begin with.  And the information here confirms the notion that the tea itself may contain varying levels of fluoride depending on how mature the leaves are, how much of the older leaves, stems or twigs are in the mix, and the level of fluoride in the soil.  Rule of thumb--use high quality white or green teas (made from younger leaves without twigs or stems).  I usually make tea with less regular tea and a good bit of herbal teas, much of which I grow here.

Update: peaches done.  Two pie fillings in the freezer and a small cobbler fixed.  Tasted great.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lazy Sunday. Herbs. Peppers. Hibiscus.

I got a good bit of the clean up done in the garden yesterday.  I still have a bit of trimming to do.  The peppermint, oregano, and chocolate mint all need to be cut.  I am not sure what to do with the very tall and leggy purple cayenne.  I had the hibiscus in front of them so they tried to grow to the sun.  The hibiscus in its pot was nearly six feet tall and some three feet or more wide.  It provided a lot of shade.  As I noted a couple of days ago I moved it over to the west corner in its own very large container.  It is doing very nicely--so far.  I found one of the stems of the albino bullnose pepper laying down so I tied it back up to the stake.  I didn't think the wind was that strong.  I had to pull one strawberry and both of the lavender plants.  The lavender had done so nicely--until it didn't.  I will make a trip to the garden shops and see if they still have some herbs.  If I can find replacements I will get a couple.  I said before that I would make a decision on whether to continue planting borage later.  Well, the bees have make the decision for me.  They like it--a lot.  It is a perennial that self sows easily and I have a place for it.

I hadn't intended to comment on this post from David Kaiser at History Unfolding.  However, it struck a chord here.  Ten years ago we went to the movie theater six or seven times a year.  Five years ago we saw movies--maybe--once a year.  The movies just didn't interest us (we aren't under 24 and male nor are we Russian or Chinese.)  Then as the ticket prices went up (we didn't buy snacks or sodas) and we found that for the same price (even the matinee prices) for the two of us we could buy the DVD when it came out.  We want to see the Hobbit but are waiting not only for the DVD but for the extended version.

We are back now having spent the afternoon with brother and sister-in-law.  We drove up to southern Michigan in search of, as brother said, the "Perfect Peach."  The Michigan peaches are ripe now.  Brother has been sorely disappointed in the fruit he has had already this year.  Like us he found what he got hard and tasteless.  He did note that several of the produce stands he remembered are gone.  We did find a nice one where we got enough peaches for three pies--two to freeze and one for now.  I told Mom to save the peels because I intend to dry them and grind them to add to our teas.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Still wet Saturday. Grand theft. Insanity.

Still wet and cloudy though they say the skies are clearing just west of us.  If it dries out I hope to get a bit of gardening done.  We'll see.  In the interim let's see what is on the 'net.

This story takes the notion of theft on a grand scale to a new high, or low depending on your perspective.  I have seen several stories of similar thefts from Russia and eastern Europe.

The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.  I would amend that slightly: doing the same thing over and over knowing the result will be the same.  Our Repthuglican legislators all exhibit signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  They are compelled to repeat the same non-productive actions over and over and over..... .

It seems that Big Brother can't be bothered to be accurate about the information it gathers.

The clouds have gone and it is sunny--getting warm.  I cut back the tansy.  It had reached about six feet  above the container it is in.  I am going to have to devise a more sturdy cage for it.  The branches were bending over the cage I have and getting entwined with the purple cayenne on the right and the tomato on the left.  It wasn't very spectacular and the individual buds aren't now but the mass of yellow balls on the top are colorful.  I was sorry to have to cut them.  I also got the sulfur and fertilizer applied on the blueberry.  We got a nice handful of berries for our breakfast a couple of days ago

I have written frequently on this blog that certain functions of government should never be run by for profit corporations.  This gives only a few examples of how badly taxpayers get screwed in such arrangements.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Rain--much needed. Hidden inflation. Big Brother.

We have rain today.  It started last night with a couple of brief but heavy episodes.  That is supposed to continue today but should move out to give us a sunny and seasonal weekend.  The hibiscus seems to have taken the transplanting well.  I am thinking about taking the squash and cucumbers out.  They are not producing much if anything.  Those are also on my "do not plant" list for next year.

Update:  we are getting heavy rain right now and have had several waves of rain since I wrote the previous paragraph.  Obviously no gardening today.  Also have had some thunder out there--some of it a bit too close for comfort.

We have talked about this all too often over the last decade.  The only question I had is why did the advice columnist bother with simply extending the cake mix with bulk ingredients from her pantry.  We dispensed with the cake mixes when we found that they no longer made a good 8 inch cake much less the 9 inch we used to make.  Our from-scratch recipes still make a real cake without all of the sweeteners and preservatives.

I have often wondered how little it would take to get law enforcement interested in someone's internet search history.  Evidently not all that much.  A nervous nelly of a former boss, a curious news junkie son, searches for common commodities (backpacks and pressure cookers.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Welcome to August. Hibiscus moved.

Nice sunny morning today.  Yesterday was miserable and we got very little rain for the misery.  Neither of us really had much energy so we didn't get much done.  The cable TV and internet were down for about two hours so we did other things: another six inches of crochet on a table scarf, moved the hibiscus, got the rosemary plants watered.  I put the lavender plants out on the patio along with the lemon verbena.  They had been doing so well--until they didn't.  Then they went down hill very fast.  They may come back so I will leave them alone for now.  I have more clean-up and pruning to do but the big job is done.

This has been on the agenda for a while.  Uruguay is not the only country trying to get out of the "war on drugs."  It has been expensive, has disrupted societies, strained law enforcement, and the results have been totally unimpressive given the costs.  We definitely need to think outside the box on this.