Friday, July 31, 2009

Garden Blogger's Death Day :: July 2009

Ding, Ding, Ding… bring out your dead!

Welcome to Garden Blogger's Death Day for the month of July, 2009! This is the day for gardeners who overwater, underwater, maim, prune or otherwise neglect their plants to a state of dismal droopage or untimely death. This is the day for gardeners like me with black thumbs who kill more than they cultivate, for cadmium-green-thumbed gardeners who have a lapse in judgment and commit accidental planticide, and for any poor soul whose plants fall victim to that fickle mother who controls us all - Mother Nature.

Since my garden is all but dead right now and anxiously awaiting the Fall crop to be planted, I don't have much alive to brag about. And everything that died has found a new home in the compost bin where it's warm and dark and cozy. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Central Florida garden that's still producing vegetables after this many 90+ degree summer days - at least this is what I tell myself when I look at the barren wasteland that is my vegetable garden.

But I did find a couple of interesting things in the garden this month that have "Death Day" written all over them.

The first is a lovely specimen that I found on an okra plant that was hiding in the corner of my garden amongst some weeds up against the garden fence. This could easily be from a prehistoric gardening exhibit and was quite bizarre looking.

Yes, that is a petrified okra. It was very crispy and apparently took one look at the deathscape that is my garden and expired.

Finally I was quite upset that none of my potatoes grew at all. I wasn't surprised, but I was a bit upset because I cling to the hope that something will grow. When I was pulling the final weeds out of the garden I grabbed ahold of a particularly gnarly-looking weed and was quite surprised to see some baby potatoes clinging to life on the end of the weed.

I guess some of them did sprout - oops. I was too quick on the draw with the weeds again. Such is life - or death, I suppose.

So how about all of you? What fell victim to your gardening wrath this month? Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your blog showing what you killed or maimed this month. We're here for you. Let's not judge, but support each other like a good pair of pantyhose or a well-staked garden trellis.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chicken Poo B-i-n-g-o

Since my garden is awaiting the Raised Bed Fairy to come in the middle of the night and leave behind beautiful hand-crafted raised beds for me to plant our fall crop, I've decided to focus on chickens this week because I am not waiting for any kind of chicken fairy to magically appear.

This blog entry is not for the overly-polite readers. You've gotta be okay with exploring a little bit of the crass underbelly of the chicken world. We're not talking cock-fighting. We're talking chicken sh*t b-i-n-g-o.


Oddly enough I heard about this on Time magazine's website. I found a delightful little video showing how chicken sh*t b-i-n-g-o works, complete with interviews of the founders of this wonderful event. If you decide to watch the video, be prepared to hear the phrase "chicken sh*t" repeatedly, so don't watch it at work or in front of the kids or with grandma.

Click here to watch the video on

A group of people betting on which square a chicken will poo on is something you have to see to fully appreciate.

I am not new to the world of animal defecation gambling. When I was in college a popular event was Moo Poo B-i-n-g-o. The student association roped off an enormous square of grass on campus and used chalk (like the kind to spray-paint white lines on a ball field) to mark out a checkerboard pattern on the grass. Each square was numbered and a crude fence of tape and wooden 1x2 posts was placed around the edge of the field.

Students could buy a square for a small sum of money - about $2-$5, I think. The proceeds all went to some worthy charity. Us college students sat around the large grass checkerboard and cheered when a big-bellied dairy cow was led onto the grass. An old guy in overalls had the cow on a rope leash and was walking her back and forth across all the squares so each person got an equal chance of winning.

When the cow stopped, we all gasped. When the cow peed, we all prematurely started to cheer and then let out a huge "Awwwwwww……" of disappointment.

Finally, after an eternity, the cow pooped. The poop splattered into two squares, but the rules stated that the initial point of impact was the winner. Some lucky kid jumped up and grabbed his prize - it was about $100 I think - a small fortune when you're in college. The several hundred dollars from our entry fees went to a charity and the field was cleared for the following day's event.

It really is an awesome way to raise money for a charity. Back then I used to work for the college newspaper and I did a story on the event. I recall asking the organizers why they picked a cow as the animal of choice. The answer was simple: Cows are big, generally calm, and poop a lot, And you need an animal who's guaranteed to poop to make it successful. An animal that has one large dollop of poo is much better than an animal that walks and leaves a trail of small poo, such as a goat.

I suppose chicken sh*t b-i-n-g-o is just a smaller scale version of the same thing. Maybe "poultry poo b-i-n-g-o" would be more socially acceptable, but likely less popular in that biker bar shown on the Time website's video.

Aren't you glad I brought all this to your attention? I'm sure my mom is very proud of what I learned in college after reading this.

(NOTE: I had to change all the "b" words to b-i-n-g-o with dashes the hopes of avoiding a horrible spammer who has commented about 5 times a day for about 6 months now with b-i-n-g-o website links. I'm hoping by cutting out the "b" word in my post that this spammer might give up on this post since I'm sure it's just an automated robot scanning blogs for the "b" word and then writing the same comment with links to "b" websites. My next step is to delete the photo since it's saved with a "b" word that the spammer could pick up on. I'm so sick of these daily spammer comments that I'll delete this post if they don't go away.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Chicken Chapel - the mother of all chicken coops

Since I have thrown myself head-first into the world of chickens I have uncovered some very unusual chicken-related things on the web that beg for comment. We've already discussed the awesomeness that is the chicken diaper, and now I think it's time to present the most wonderful and amazing chicken coop I have ever seen. This isn't just a fancy chicken coop - it's definitely a masterpiece of chicken art unlike anything you can ever imagine...and also a place for chickens to worship? Presenting...The Chicken Chapel.

photo from

I first learned about "The Chicken Chapel" here where the artist, Jean Benelli, writes a description that really paints an amazing picture of her work:

"There are 8 glass stained glass windows in all. The windows tell the story of Christ depicted as a rooster. The rooster is the symbol of Christ (in my work). The words in the west windows say "Hen House" in the Latin alphabet, Latin being the language of the church. Inside the coop, the ceiling is painted a sky blue with 300 tin stars attached. The chandelier is wrought iron with ceramic chickens and gold gilt eggs. The chickens represent the 12 disciples, and Christ. The four gilt eggs represent the four apostles.
I have also painted a picture of an icon depicting Penelope, Patron Saint of Chickens (made up Saint), along with rubber chickens of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Soon, it will have a Mosaic Foundation in red, blue, green and yellow tile, and a steeple.
My chickens don't know that their coop is not finished!!!
It has been a two and a half year project. It took me one year to build the windows.
My artwork is quite odd to most people. It is mostly chicken saints and icons, some in watercolor and some in neon. I am having a good time, anyway.
I am included in many art shows, but few people actually buy.
Thank-You for your interest, I do love my chickens!!!
- Jean Benelli" (- from

I went to Jean Benelli's website and was seriously gobsmacked by the grandeur of The Chicken Chapel, as well as her other unique chicken art. The one photo I have placed on my blog is too small to appreciate the grandeur of the coop and does not do it justice at all. You must go to her site to see detailed photos of the coop with close-ups of the stained glass and how it all looks lit up at night.

Have you ever seen a more unique and amazing way to house chickens in your life?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wildlife Weekend :: Egghead

Our local town is well-known for one thing: wild chickens. I'm not sure there is such a thing as "wild" chickens since chickens are considered domesticated, but we call them wild chickens nonetheless. I do know two people - one adult and one child - who were badly gored in the leg by some angry wild local chickens, so maybe the term "wild" fits afterall. Now that I'm in the big chicken circle of life, I'm convinced these were actually rogue roosters who attacked these people.

Rogue roosters. Wild chickens. It all makes perfect sense doesn't it?

Our local library has a lone rooster who roams the parking lot and lurks behind the book return bin. I'd say he's a bantam something-or-other because he's quite small compared to our hens. He is also surprisingly friendly for a wild creature of the outdoors.

He really is a beautiful little thing and pecks around the cars in the parking lot hoping for a handout. I'd say he's well fed because the parking lot is always littered with crackers and goldfish from the hoards of toddlers who show up for morning storytime.

My boys have decided that he must be a very smart rooster if his home turf is the library. I suppose that's why we call him Egghead.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Ultimate Indoor Photo Treasure Hunt

Remember last year when I made the Ultimate Backyard Photo Treasure Hunt for the boys and it was an insanely huge hit? We've re-earthed it a couple of times and I've since added some photos to it to make it more challenging. The problem is, it's 175 degrees out with 800% humidity these days and we (meaning "I") avoid spending too much time in the backyard. This leaves us with two very cranky housebound boys and one very cranky me who spends all day trying to come up with things to do - most of which are shot down instantly.

I decided to take my own advice from the Backyard Treasure Hunt and make The Ultimate Indoor Photo Treasure Hunt for the boys. I put this together in about 15 minutes and it was such a huge hit. Farmer B was home when the boys went on the hunt and was smiling ear to ear watching them tear around the house.

I set up the Treasure Hunt by going around the house and taking photos of everything I could think of. Being creative and taking pictures of items that could be moved around, such as a ride-on truck and the boys' little chairs, was definitely the way to go. I hid the ride-on truck behind some curtains and I put the Elmo chair in the front hallway. I also took some close-up photos that took the boys a minute to figure out the location of the clue.

Some other photos I took were:

Shoe basket
Underwear drawer
Toilet paper roll (they had to run to all 3 bathrooms trying to guess which one it was)
Paintings on the walls
Dog bed
Cat litter box
Vacuum cleaner
Key box
Dining room chair
Bed sheets

You get the idea. The dining room chair photo clue turned out great because I taped the next clue to the bottom of one of the chairs and since we have eight chairs this took them a few minutes of circling the table.

To set up the game, just take as many photos of things inside your house as you can. I think I took about 30 photos. I printed them out on cardstock paper, four to a page, and then cut them out. Farmer B took the boys outside while I set up the hunt. I started with a sign on the sliding glass door that told them a treasure hunt was on. The first photo clue was taped to the bottom of the note.

This photo clue was a picture of one of our barstools. The barstool with the photo clue taped to it was hidden in the hallway. When the boys found it and grabbed the clue, it sent them running to their playroom. I made sure that the clues were zigzagged around the house so there was a lot of running involved.

The final clue was on the patio hidden behind the pool boxes. It was a red bag (leftover from valentine's day) with a couple of little toys in it and two Tootsie Roll lollipops. The boys were completely overjoyed with the whole experience and said they can't wait for the next hunt. If you're stuck inside in the heat with some bored kids who aren't old enough to read real scavenger hunt clues, you've got to try this easy and fun activity. You can reuse it by changing up the order of the clues and moving some of the moveable clues to different places in the house.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Trip to the Farmer's Market

Farmer B had to work again this weekend so the boys and I trekked out to the local Farmer's Market for a look around. I'm embarrassed to say that we've never been to the Farmer's Market before, but it's quite a drive and it always gets put off, especially since it closes up shop at 1 pm and is only open one day a week. Today was the day to finally make the drive out there and I'm so glad we did.

The Winter Park Farmer's Market boasts that its Central Florida's number one produce and plant market. It's located at an old train depot in the picturesque city of Winter Park. Parking was easy, the atmosphere was great and it was a wonderful day out.

The boys favorite part of the day was watching the real kettle corn cooking over the fire - and of course eating the entire bag between them (with my help). I loved all the fresh produce, flowers, coffees, cakes, pastries, breads, honey, cheeses and homemade foods. There were so many people and dogs enjoying the day and it made me realize how much I miss having Baillan around. Rommel is a great dog, but I miss having a big, fat, yellow lump on the end of a leash. I told myself I'd get another dog once Jace starts kindergarten, but that's a long way off...

We'll be sure to make this Farmer's Market part of our normal routine now and try to hit it up as often as we can. Since I'm not growing much myself right now at least I can support local farmers who do know how to grow things right.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wildlife Weekend :: If You Wish To Live and Thrive. . .

My maternal grandmother died when I was just shy of my 5th birthday, so I don't have a lot of memories of her. Those that I do have are the random moments that must have stood out to me at that young age. One thing I do remember her saying - and my mother too - is a little ditty about spiders. I'm quite sure it's an English Nursery Rhyme and I'm not sure how common it is in the U.S.

"If you wish to live and thrive, let a spider run alive."

I'm not sure my Nan had these creepy beasties in mind when she used to say that to me. I have no clue what kind of spiders these are, but there are plenty of them on our back patio and our back yard. If I'm really lucky I walk through one of their webs first thing in the morning and get a faceful. I then proceed to do the spiderweb dance that most people are familiar with. You know the one - where you look like you're having a seizure and you paw and your face and hair while jumping around and hoping the web spinner isn't crawling down your shirt. Yes, that's the one.

I don't recall hearing about poisionous or biting spiders while living in England. We used to have "money spiders," and my Nan used to tell me if you saw a money spider it meant you were coming into money. That's a lot more romantic than seeing one of these brightly-colored arachnids creeping up your leg. There are no cute sayings about them. Blech.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chickens in Space!

Okay, the title was a bit misleading. I researched the animal astronaut files on the NASA website and there don't appear to have been any chicken astronauts. Mice, frogs, dogs, monkeys, newts, turtles, chimpanzees and even a stray French cat, but no chickens. Clearly NASA shows a slight prejudice to our favorite egg-producing yard fowl, which is a shame. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know if a chicken can lay an egg in space? And if so, is that egg edible? Maybe I'm the only person who ponders these things - clearly no one at NASA has.

This all came up because the Space Shuttle Endeavor finally took off yesterday after a month of delays on its journey to the International Space Station. The boys were less than enthused to stand outside at 6 p.m. and watch it because a) they were convinced it wouldn't go up again and b) dinner was on the table and they both professed to be starving. But it did go up and Clementine watched it with us. I'm not sure she was as impressed as a chicken should be witnessing her first shuttle launch, but at least she got to experience it.

And I got a photo of a chicken watching the space shuttle go up.

However, it was the most boring launch we've ever witnessed. The sky was bright, hazy, and cloudy and the conditions were not favorable for good visibility. Oddly enough the wind must have been blowing the right way because we heard the shuttle go up, which doesn't happen too often. The loud roar of the engines rumbled through our back yard soon after take-off.

And because of the crappy viewing conditions, I did have to take the photo into Photoshop and "blue up" the sky a bit so that you could make out the tiny dot that is the space shuttle. It's not my best work, but it does help you to see where the shuttle trajectory falls from our viewpoint.

Compare that daytime launch photo with the two sets of night launch photos I posted on the blog for previous missions. Big difference huh?

The other launch photos might have been more spectacular, but this photo did have a chicken watching the launch. I wonder how many people can say THAT?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Love Poem for Gardeners

Do you Carrot All for Me?
– Anonymous

Do you carrot all for me?
My heart beets for you,
With your turnip nose
And your radish face,
You are a peach.
If we cantaloupe,
Lettuce marry;
Weed make a swell pear.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kid Craft :: Binoculars for budding naturalists

My friend Courtney has a theory when it comes to doing activities with your child - There is an inverse relationship between the amount time and effort you put into making something with your child and the amount of actual enjoyment by your child. When you spend hours lingering over the perfect craft or activity with your child, they drop it in 2 minutes, never to return to it. When you slap something together in 30 seconds with no thought or skill associated with it, you can guarantee that your child will love it. This explains the success of these very low-tech binoculars.

The reason behind these binoculars is simple. My three-year-old has changed his identity and now firmly believes that he is British naturalist Nigel Marvin. Nigel carries a backpack and wears binoculars. Jace now carries a backpack constantly and was in desperate need of binoculars to complete the ensemble. Jace became obsessed with Nigel when he got hooked on his Prehistoric ParkDVD set. He is obsessed to the point that he now will only respond if you call him Nigel and he has renamed his big brother Bob, after the park handyman, and I'm Suzanne, after the park veterinarian. This is how we've been living for well over a month now.

So I think it's clear why we needed to create binoculars. Why on Earth another kid would need them is beyond me. But I know there are plenty of quirky toddlers out there, so maybe this tutorial will save another mom whose kid needs binoculars now. Right. Now.

Have a budding naturalist too? Here are the easy steps to throw together your own binoculars in just a few minutes.


Two empty toilet roll tubes (or one paper towel tube cut in half)
Electrical tape
Construction paper
Glue stick
3 Plastic bottle tops
Drill (not pictured)

First you want to cut you sheet of black construction paper in half lengthwise. This makes two long rectangles that should be the same width as your cardboard tubes. Then wrap the cardboard around each tube and cut it to size. You'll have two rectangles of paper to go around your two tubes.

Give your kid a glue stick and have them glue the construction paper and wrap it around the tube. Do the same with both tubes. Then wrap a piece of black electrical tape around the center to keep them together.

Get a small rectangle of cardboard and wrap it in a contrasting color of construction paper. Once again, give your kid a glue stick and have them glue the paper onto the cardboard.

Hot glue a soda bottle top to the middle of the cardboard for the button. It's best to also use a hot glue gun to attach the cardboard rectangle to the tubes. And obviously don't let the kids use the hot glue gun.

Then get a drill and drill two small holes right through the middle of two plastic bottle tops. These are from some 2-litre juice bottles.

Put some hot glue around the edges and glue them to one end of both tubes.

Get a piece of ribbon or yarn and tape it to the outside of the binoculars so they can be worn around the neck. Measure your kid beforehand so they don't dangle too low.

Viola. Binoculars.

Jace has been using these binoculars daily for about three weeks now. We made a pair for each boy and luckily Aidan lost interest in them within the first 5 minutes, so Jace has two pairs to switch between when one pair gets damaged. We have since re-hot glued the white "eye" pieces back on about 6 times each and have reinforced them with electrical tape.

He puts them around his neck when he gets up in the morning and takes them off at bedtime. He also wears them when we go out and tries to spot dinosaurs with them while riding in the cart at the grocery store.

Oh, just don't call them binoculars. They're glasses.

And don't call him Jace. He's Nigel.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wildlife Weekend :: The Well Caterpillar

The Well Caterpillar
- a haiku

The caterpillar
He doesn't have stomach flu
Sucks that we all do

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The GWS Laundry List

I decided that today would be a good day to list out some random announcements and mental musings that have been floating around in my head and warrant a quick snippet on the blog.

1) My Bloggiversary Gnome has settled nicely into his new home in Ribbit's garden! She wrote a great post about the gnome's arrival that involves a kid, a dog, Santa Claus and a mad chase. Head on over to Ribbit's to read the madcap adventure.

2) I added my Twitter feed on the bottom of the right column of the blog. It's way down at the bottom where it's least likely to get noticed by anyone popping in for a quick blog read. For those so inclined to take a peek into the mundane, the feed is there for you to ogle. I cannot promise that any of the tweets will be interesting because I'm not famous and I lead a relatively normal life compared to most people….notice I said "relatively."

3) Farmer B and I have finally decided on the type of chicken run to build for the hens. I'm embarrassed to admit that the driving force behind getting the run complete is that we cannot go on vacation without building it. Yes, three hens are keeping us housebound this summer. Crazy admission on my part. But our chicken sitters cannot be responsible for using the maddening Chicken Transportation Unit twice a day and then catching inevitable loose chickens that result from novice use. Luckily Farmer B has a co-worker who's a "good ole' boy" as we call them here in Florida, and he's built a chicken run or two in his day. Equally lucky is that he only requires a bottle of Jim Beam as payment, so we're golden. Farmer B and his friend will start on this project within the next couple of weeks.

4) Thanks to everyone's advice, I'll be starting raised beds in the garden for the next planting season in August/September. Depending on how much the chicken run sets us back financially, we may only start with one raised bed. But one is an improvement and we can add another bed or two with each new planting season.

5) I put the oh-so-famous "Square Foot Gardening" book on hold at our local library. Apparently this book is quite popular because I am Number 3 on the list of recipients who have the stupid book on hold. So it might be weeks before I get the book and figure out how to make a raised bed and what to fill it with. I have to hope that the other people on the list for the book decide that gardening is dumb and turn the book in after only a couple of days.

6) I miss my garden. I didn't think I would, but I really do. It's just a weedy mess with a couple of producing okra plants and a very angry mint plant that is trying to conquer the garden in a game of "Herb & Vegetable RISK." It's depressing not having anything green to check up on right now and I think my okra are sick of being fondled by me.

7) And in a follow-up to Number 6, my sunflowers aren't growing. I've always been able to grow sunflowers, but so far they're stuck in the same bizarre stasis that haunted the rest of the plants after the garden flooded earlier this year.

8) I'm thinking of changing the background color of my blog to white. I orginally picked beige because they say that beige is the new black, but I think white might be the new beige. I am impressed by how much of my day is taken up by me focusing on the background color choices for the blog and constantly second guessing myself, and then realizing how my life must be going pretty well these days if I can dedicate that much thought to a hexcolor choice on a silly little blog. Other people should be so lucky as to have that as their big concern for the moment, you know?

That concludes my laundry list. Back to regularly scheduled blogging later this week.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The chickens' first kill

Yesterday was quite a day in the young lives of our hens. Yesterday was the first day they tasted blood - their first kill - true blood.

The boys and I went out in the backyard before dinner when I heard a noise from the chicken coop that alerted me that something was wrong. Besides a frenzied bok-ba-gawking there was a low growl that I hadn't heard from them before. It reminded me of the noise our cats make when one of them goes to the vet and then comes home and the other one does that low growl when he sniffs the vet-office-stink on the other cat. If you have cats, you know that noise.

When I looked in the cage I saw that Maggie was running around madly with something in her mouth and she was clearly the source of the low growl. The bok-ba-gawking was coming from the other two who were chasing her like their lives depended on it. She was going so fast that I couldn't see what was in her mouth.

But then I saw the long dangly legs.

She had a frog.

A big dangly tree frog.

She stopped running every now and then just long enough to bash the frog into the wooden frame of the run, which sent the other chickens into a frenzy as they tried to steal it from her.

A few times they all grabbed a limb and proceeded to attempt to draw and quarter the thing in a very grisly scene.

When I ran in to grab the camera, Sookie must have taken the frog from Maggie because she had it when I got back, much to Maggie's dismay.

And the chase was on again. I don't know if the other two chickens got any parts, but there did appear to be slightly less of the frog hanging out of Sookie's mouth. Then she went to the corner and gulped the thing down.

I must say, I was floored. I didn't know that chickens were quite so carnivorous. It was like the velociraptor scene from Jurassic Park. After poking around on the Backyard Chicken Forum I found that chickens will eat frogs, snakes, mice, lizards and anything else they can beat to death and gulp down.

Mine apparently crossed over to the dark side with just a measly old frog.

I wonder if it tasted like chicken?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Can I celebrate Independence Day?

Independence Day! The day when you Americans celebrate booting out us British all those years ago. Or as we look at it, the day we decided to throw the war because it was much too long of a boat-ride to govern you funny-talking Yankees anyway. Seriously though, it was a wonderful weekend of beautiful fireworks and a new record at our house of the most concurrent meals served with hot dogs as a main course. I'm not proud of that last part.

We're live in a rural town, but within a subdivision where the houses are nicely spread out with just enough land to feel roomy. We are unfortunate enough to have a houseful of very annoying neighbors that live at the end of our street. Their teens drive entirely too fast, they throw loud parties constantly, someone in the house is learning the electric guitar, and they ride ATVs through everyone's yard late at night. But we put up with them because every July 4th they throw a huge bash with fireworks impressive enough to rival any small town. This bash seems to involve about 50 cars, three large tents and very loud music. We've never been invited to it, nor do we know anyone in the neighborhood who has been, but we do benefit from the pyrotechnic entertainment. The fireworks look amazing from our front yard, which is perfect when you've got two young children and a husband who doesn't like the crowds and traffic associated with large city fireworks displays.

I spent a good part of Independence Day afternoon fiddling with my SLR camera trying to get the perfect settings to take some awesome fireworks photos.

I think I got everything just right and set up my tripod in the front yard next to our front-row seating. We even had some little fireworks ourselves, which was good fun for the boys.

It's nice for the boys to experience the 4th from their own driveway. I don't think the boys realize how lucky they are to have such a great display only three houses down from us.

This morning the remnants of our little fireworks show littered our driveway and we now have a nice black burn mark covering half of the concrete. July 5th is all about cleaning up firework remnants, eating left-over burgers and hotdogs and just being thankful for a great weekend. I wonder if that's what the soldiers envisioned way back when? Probably not. I bet they didn't think a whole slew of Brit's would be partying down with their American friends on the big day either! HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wildlife Weekend :: Gorgeous Redhead

I've been really enjoying the bird feeder that hangs on our oh-so-attractive basketball stand outside the kitchen window. The bird feeder is my ray of light on an otherwise horribly unattractive apparatus. Besides the cardinal pair that I photographed previously, I've also seen a blue jay pair and several doves. At least now when I'm peering through the kitchen drapes, Farmer B can't accuse me of peeping at the neighbors. I've got the birdfeeder as my excuse now.

Yesterday morning I saw a red-bellied woodpecker on the feeder. As soon as I went outside to get a better photo of him, he flew away. Such is life. It's a lot better than the Pileated Woodpecker who single-handedly pecked down the tree in our back yard last year. At least this little guy seems less destructive. Did you know that Red-bellied Woodpeckers are attracted to noises that resonate? The male will tap loudly on metal gutters, aluminum roofs and even vehicles to attract a mate. Who knew they were doing that to impress the ladies? I always thought they thought they were on a tree and just weren't smart enough to realize it wasn't wood. It's good to find out you're wrong sometimes.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Okraziness - I need advice!

As I mentioned on Garden Blogger's Death Day, the only thing that's flourishing in my garden right now is the okra. And not all the okra plants - only three have grown to the point of producing okra. The others are stuck in a point of bizarre stasis depending on the point of growth they were when the flooding came. Some have been two inches tall for a month - others are about eight inches tall.

But the three okra plants that are producing just keep on trucking. They're definitely small plants with severely stunted growth, but that doesn't seem to stop them from sprouting new okra every few days.

But I'm very confused as to what to do with the okra.

One of the problems is that I keep forgetting to pick them and I've got a few that are four to five inches long. I think I'm supposed to pick them when they're around two to three inches long and anything over about four inches is not good to eat. Is this right? Should I throw away anything over three inches?

I've also read that okra only last in the fridge for about a day or two. Well what on earth do you do when you get about one every other day? Do you really cook up one little green okra? I'll admit that every okra I've pulled off so far has gone to waste because I don't know what to do with them. They're in a bag in the fridge, but I assume I should throw them away since I keep reading about this "1-2 days in the fridge" rule about okra. I've only ever eaten okra in a gumbo at a restaurant and never actually cooked it myself. I figured that I'd discover a use for okra once I had a fridgeful from rows of producing plants, but since I'm only getting one or two at a time, I'm at a loss!


And when I'm photographing things, I need you to know that at least 75% of the photos look exactly like this:

Even that nice shot of the three okra up there started out with a black nose on the side before I cropped it.

It's a lot of work pretending that I can take good photos.

(Edited to add additional information about okra that I just discovered:)

Gumbo is Swahili for okra. The recent upsurge in the popularity of gumbo has also brought renewed attention to okra. Okra was brought to the new world by African slaves during the slave trade.

The pods must be harvested when they are very young. Preferably two inches long although three inch pods can also be salvaged. Harvest daily as the pods go quickly from tender to tough with increased size.

Refrigerate unwashed, dry okra pods in the vegetable crisper, loosely wrapped in perforated plastic bags. Wet pods will quickly mold and become slimy. Okra will keep for only two or three days. When the ridges and tips of the pod start to turn dark, use it or lose it. Once it starts to darken, okra will quickly deteriorate.

After reading this I've determined that a) my large pods need to be composted and b) the pods that have been in the fridge for more than 3 days need to be composted. But I still don't know what I can do to save the couple of appropriately-sized pods in the fridge. Hmm...
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