Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Our internet has been going in and out frequently. It has happened three times in the last hour and looks like it might decide to do so again soon. We'll see if it settles down. Update: it just did--go out that is.

It is wet outside with heavy thunderstorms forecast so no gardening today.

A second U.S. warship somehow collided with a civilian ship in two months. My question right off the bat: what the hell is going on with our military? This provides a tantalizing possibility--only a possibility for now. Navy spokespersons say they are considering all possibilities. Far fetched?? Maybe--maybe not. Last year some geeks showed how they could take control of one of the more common highly computerized car models while it was in operation controlling breaking, acceleration, and steering.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Well, the eclipse the media has been hyping for the last while is to occur today. No, I won't be watching it in person. We are in the 75% zone and I will see it better on the computer. Mom read a story about a lethal small plane crash at a town where people are gathering to view it. The town of Madras is stuffed with "eclipse tourists" arriving for the viewing.

I didn't see much worth commenting on over the weekend. The garden work is winding down so there isn't much to say there. I think it is time to take out the peppers and harvest the very few fruits the plants managed to produce. I haven't had any luck at all with peppers this year. The seeds I started failed and the transplants never did more than barely survive. I think that cardinal I saw has been eating some of my cherry tomatoes. That is OK so long as he leaves some for us--and he has. The gardening season may be winding down faster than I expected. It certainly feels as though the season is about three weeks later than the calendar says it is. While we did our errands on Saturday I noticed leaves already starting to turn.

Jerry Lewis has died at age 91. I remember many of his films fondly, though I wouldn't go out of my way to view them. Once upon a time I would have been sad at the passing of a popular performer from my youth. But somehow I don't feel the same impact. "To every thing there is a time and a season for everything under the sun."

Question: how long can we afford this parasitic situation? We have a parasitic elite in government and in the economy. The costs of maintaining them are out of control and most of them are demanding even more from those of us who can least afford it. Their tame media voices and lobbyists constantly point at the "entitlements" while not mentioning obscene salaries and outsized bonuses for running their companies into the ground, or demanding an increase in the budget for the increasingly inept military, or in the name of law and order sanction legalized looting of the assets of people who are never charged much less convicted of any crime (a.k.a., civil asset forfeiture). The bills for #45 simply are the tip of a very ugly iceberg. James Kunstler put a post up that ties in: Diminishing Returns. I think we have passed the point of diminishing returns (where each new round of investment yields less in returns than the previous round) to the point of negative returns (where each new round of investment actually creates a loss.)

Ronni Bennett's post at Time Goes By today struck a chord. Last year and the year before we went on several day trips but, though we enjoyed them, we did not follow up this year. Traveling, even for a day when someone else is driving, is a pain and we felt that too much of the time was devoted to shopping. Once upon a time I did indulge in the national sport, which is shopping not football or baseball or basketball. As I have gotten older the acquisitive urge has gone into reverse. Cleaning?? Well, when the spirit moves and, thankfully, it doesn't move nearly as often these days. We arrange things so that we aren't rushed any more and we try to get our shopping done early before the crowds come out. We have dumfounded some people when we reject so-called free items but too often we find "free" is too expensive. And we have paid little attention to the eclipse mania. I did start the live streaming and got bored half way through. We didn't even think of driving somewhere to see the totality. I spent a long time doing things I had to do because of a job, a course of study, or a relationship demanded it. Now I am retired. I do what is needful only as needed and so many things just aren't needful.

Friday, August 18, 2017

It did turn sunny yesterday but all I did was collect some tomatoes for our supper. I need to water early today as the rain seemed to help hardly at all. We saw a pair of goldfinches worrying at the sunflowers. I plant sunflowers for then and other birds who also like sunflower seeds. A few days ago I saw a cardinal briefly visit. The shadow of the house is almost at the bottom of the fence and by the time the equinox comes by it will be at the top. That puts the garden into shade; not a deep shade since it will still get a good bit of reflected light from the white fence at the corners where the sun will strike morning and evening. Another confirmation that the outdoor gardening season is winding down.

Tom Englehardt has a good post at Tomdispatch titled "Welcome to the Post-American World."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I have always loved Margaret and Helen and today's post, the first in a long time, is right on the money.

We have light rain right now. No big gardening jobs today. I will go out between the raindrops to harvest some cherry tomatoes for our chef salad.

I always start really evaluating the gardens this time of year. The heavy work of clearing up for winter is ahead and planning for that actually began about a month ago. Which plants will I try to overwinter in the gardens and what protection do they need. Which plants will I bring in to try to overwinter inside. And always I have to think about my limited space. The little blueberry bush comes inside but the three pots of stevia will go back outside till the frost kills them. I am very disappointed with stevia. The first year I grew it it was wonderful and promised to be a good sweetener in place of sugar. The second year no one carried any transplants so no stevia in the gardens. I tried to start some from seeds but none came up and none came up this year either. The transplants have done well except they aren't as sweet. In fact, we didn't detect any sweetness when I brewed the dried leaves with our tea. We'll stick with honey from now on. I was going to bring in one pot of the lavender but I think I will take some more cuttings to raise grow over the winter. The first set are doing well. I will do the same with all my herbs.


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.

Monday, August 7, 2017

We got the tomatoes processed yesterday. I have to put several through the canner again today because they didn't seal but for the most part that batch is done. The week is supposed to be cool and dry so I should have good weather for some garden work. The gardens are at that late season stage where some areas look a bit like a jungle. But on the whole it looks neater than previous years. I need to check the cucumbers and collect cherry tomatoes.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Supposed to be warmer today than it was yesterday which felt like late September instead of early August. We didn't get any more rain. After our visit to the farm market and grocery stores I harvested a nice lot of cherry tomatoes for our chef salads today, two nice pickling cucumbers and two dragon's egg cucumbers. Our favorite veggie vender at the farm market had 25 lb. boxes of canning tomatoes so we picked up one that we will process tomorrow. Just in time because the last quart of tomatoes we put up last year is all we had left. If she has more Tuesday we will pick another. We prefer to do that canning small batches. I will pickle the pickling cucumbers Monday. I also found some pretty, ripe strawberries which will go on our yogurt tomorrow morning.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Had heavy rain last night with more expected today. I probably won't get any gardening done outside. I cleared out a number of the flimsy pots transplants come in. I kept the more sturdy pots for use next spring. I have also started cleaning out some of the fabric scraps I know I won't use in the future. They are too small, too irregular and so on. While I was sewing I simply threw all the scraps into a plastic box and continued. I have always had a hard time getting rid of any fabric because it is expensive.

Newsweek has a new cover that is bound to get #45's blood pressure up. And, if Americablog is reading the accompanying article right, it doesn't do much for #45's image either.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Another cool morning that feels more like fall than summer. The autumnal equinox is still a month and a half away. The weather people predict scattered thundershowers but whether we actually see any rain is anybody's guess. So far those storms have been more miss than hit. I hope it will hold off long enough for me to collect a the couple of cucumbers and whole lot of cherry tomatoes I saw on the plants yesterday.

Found this item browsing the news. So #45 criticized his military advisors for not having a winning position on the war. Considering the fact that, as the article noted, he is the third Commander-in-Chief to flounder around looking for such a strategy perhaps he should be asking 1) whether there is any winning position and 2) have we defined winning in any way that is "winnable." That has been the problem with all of the wars since WWII: what, precisely, are the goals? And the nebulous notions of "anti-communism" or "anti-terrorism" simply don't work. Especially since the definitions are so malleable--any you don't like become an communist or a terrorist.

I will admit that several times over the last 20 years I have fantasized about emigrating because the politics here so disgusted me. However, even a quick look at the immigration requirements for likely destinations (like Canada) demonstrated that legal emigration was not likely. They have a system much like the one #45 has just endorsed--a so-called merit based system. I don't see there is much to disagree with on the broad notions described. The devil is, of course, always in the details and those might be objectionable. I do resent his hyping the program on restricting any legal immigrants from welfare benefits for five years. That is already on the books and has been for almost 30 years. The labor implications are frustratingly complex. How much of our economy depends on low (or lower) wage employees. At various times we have encouraged foreign nurses and doctors because we had a supposed shortage but I would almost bet, though I can't prove it, that the major effect was to reduce wages overall. Which may also be the major result of the high-tech H1-B visas. Will the proposal slash legal immigration by 50%? Who knows and I don't trust anyone's guesses.

Busy morning in the kitchen and in the gardens. Mom did eggplant Parmesan from the last of the Patio Baby eggplants and I pulled the plants. They had almost stopped producing and the fruit was too small to be of great use. I harvested two large pickling cucumbers which are now in brine in the fridge. They completely filled the quart jar and I put two quarts of cherry tomatoes in brine also. I will pull the two patio tomatoes for the same reasons I pulled the eggplants: production slowed to a near stop and the tomatoes are really, really small. Checked over the cuttings and the lemon mint, two lavenders, and lotus vine are all still doing well. Two of the three strawberries, the two with full root growth, are doing well also. I think it is time to take cuttings from the rest of the herbs as well. The prescription bottles with vermiculite seem to do well for rooting cuttings.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

We had a busy day yesterday--much more than we planned. We thought it would be an easy three stop shopping day but it turned into six stops. We took our grocery list to Walmart--not because we like Walmart (we don't) but to explore options because the bankruptcy of the largest (like almost the only) grocery chain in the area left us considering possibilities. We hadn't shopped Walmart's grocery section for a very long time because we were extremely disappointed with on the last visit. Yesterday was another a major disappointment. Low prices--not so much because we are used to paying considerably less for almost everything and walked out with only three items. We were so bummed out we didn't stop at the Walmart gas station opting instead to swing into our usual station whose prices are about the same anyway. Because Walmart's garden shop had already packed away even basic supplies for the season, including what I wanted, our first unplanned stop was Menards for the items I couldn't get at Walmart.

To complete our grocery shopping we went to our usual supermarket, which we intended to bypass, where we had a pleasant surprise: It was shifting to new management. Evidently it was one of the 20 stores sold to a member of the family that founded the grocery chain almost 80 or so years ago and had run it well until they sold out to the company that crashed earlier this year. I hope the store will not just continue but improve. Another disappointment was no store had cider vinegar in gallon sizes--no one. I am in the middle of pickling season and no more gallons of apple cider vinegar.

Our last stop was our favorite spice/herb/tea shop to replenish our stock of tea and walnuts, and pick up a couple of spices Mom had run out of. At least we ended on a couple of pleasant notes.

Ah, well--on to other things. I had never heard of the term "flash drought" before but it describes the situation in Montana and the Dakotas very well. Evidently it is a real meteorological term referring to periods of high temperatures combined with low and decreasing soil moisture. The maps in the article show the conditions developing from late April through today going from normal to extreme drought in almost the blink of an eye. The Canadian plains are experiencing the same conditions which doesn't bode well for either the wheat crops or for cattle.

I got the dried herbs ground and another quart of pickles in the fridge. I found two more pickling cucumbers ready (one a bit more than ready) to pick and process. That is for tomorrow. And found another dragon's egg developing nicely. On my to-do list tomorrow: take the cucumbers and pickle them, pickle the cherry tomatoes already harvested, harvest whatever tomatoes are ready on the vines, and dry some more of the herbs. We'll see how far that list goes. I have said before that if I don't get it done in the morning, it doesn't get done--at least not that day.

We are seeing flashes of lightening and hearing rumbles of thunder. We may or may not get rain. And if we get any it may not amount to much.