Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eight is Enough?

We're obviously suckers for animals. Two dogs, two cats, and three chickens felt like plenty to take care of on top of a husband, two boys, a house and a garden. Then Farmer B called. He has some friends who got a Dwarf Hamster from their friends. Apparently their friend's young child wasn't being nice to it so they gave it to our friends for their very young child, who, it turns out, wasn't the thing's number one fan either. So here's this young, small Dwarf Hamster in need of a home.

I told him we'd think about it.

You guessed it.

Next thing I know the cage, the hamster and its accessories are in the house. And this little critter has found a new home.

We were told it's a girl, but when I visited PetsMart to look at Dwarf Hamsters the other day I noticed they only appear to sell boys. I'd assume the original owners bought this one at PetsMart, so maybe it's a boy or maybe it's a girl...I'm sure I'll never find out. It came with a pretty spiffy brand new cage with all the plastic tubes and such, so we don't have any big initial expense.

Do you know about these Dwarf Hamsters? I know about the typical hamsters that I had as a child - the Syrian or Teddy Bear hamsters, which are big enough to hold in your hand and interact with. These Dwarf Hamsters are about the size of a mouse and as fast as a bullet so I don't see us ever being able to pick her up and hold her. She's skittish as all get out and has no interest in being in the vicinity of my hand. The pamphlet I got at Petsmart says that they're very fast and if they escape you pretty much have no chance of catching them. Comforting, no?

So there she sits in my oldest son's room - sleeping all day and blindly running a rodent marathon on her wheel all night. The boys are intrigued with her, but I think they'd be happier if we could touch her just once. They seem quite pleased we're giving her a home when she was unwanted elsewhere, so that's a pretty good lesson in itself.

The boys are having a very hard time coming up with names since we're iffy on the boy-girl issue. Skull-bones-Skeletor has been suggested, but I shot it down with the hopes we'd come up with something more appropriate. We've tentatively named her/him Chewie, so we'll see if that sticks.

And in case you're wondering how I got these photos of an uncatchable hamster… I waited until she went into her exercise ball and then removed the ball and placed it in my photo light box. I then waited until she came out and madly snapped photos for about 10 seconds of her running away from me. I felt **pretty** safe with her contained in the light box. I then put the ball back in and she scurried inside it and I quickly put her back in her cage. It was a touching moment for both of us.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ode to EG

If you've poked around my blog before you know I have a thing for silly poems. Here's one I wrote for EG as a thank you for his recent gift to me.


Ode to EG

There once was a gardener from 'Bama
Who's as good with a hoe as a hammer
He grows his own food
With a big dog named Jude
And he speaks with the best redneck grammar

If you're into garden blogs as part of your quest to grow an awesome vegetable garden, you should know about EG. If you don't know him, visit his blog at "Our Engineered Garden" and start reading. To save you the time of getting to know him, let me paint a picture for you. Combine MacGyver, Yoda and Jeff Foxworthy and there you have it - EG.

He's like MacGyver in that he can make or fix just about anything….from a fridge to a rain barrel to transforming a bucket into a self-watering container. Somehow he'll make it using old yogurt cups, a kitty litter container, a ball point pen and four paperclips. And if you want to do it too, just ask him - he's quick to post a step-by-step tutorial on his blog to help out his readers. He's like Yoda because he's got some seriously mad skills and is definitely tied in to the force (of nature?) in his gardening exploits. Yoda's "Do or do not, there is no try" quote wraps up EG's gardening mantra perfectly to me.* He can talk you into trying anything new in the garden because he makes it look so easy! And just watch one video on the man's site and you won't need my Jeff Foxworthy explanation….'nuff said.

I'd like to thank EG for the awesome box (covered in messages) he sent me this weekend! (He sent Ribbit one too and you can read about hers here). He included a CD that is the Holy Grail of Gardening - it's got more information on that CD that I ever imagined. I spent hours last night ignoring my family and flipping through the cyber-pages of gardening literature on that CD. When I'm done with it I'll be like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz when he finally got his brain.

He also tucked in a jar of my favorite jam - Blackberry Jam! I'm giddy and can't wait to try it on some homemade bread later this week. Thanks so much EG!!!! I can't begin to express my gratitude!! I hope to have a tenth of your gardening knowledge one day…

* Star Wars analogies and quotes make you a huge geek IF you don't have two small Star Wars obsessed boys…which I do…so it's okay for me to quote Yoda and still be cool. Just sayin'.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wildlife Weekend :: Eye Contact

Dogs don't make eye contact with you when they know they've done something wrong. It's a surefire bet that your dog has been up to no good if they won't even turn their head to face you. Case in point...

Don't look at her...

Don't look at her...

GAH! She's looking at me... must resist the urge to look at her.



Well I'm not THAT muddy, right?

Don't worry. It's just my face. I wouldn't let my whole body get muddy since you already gave me two baths today.


Friday, March 26, 2010

The Green Mile

Spring has sprung and the planting has begun in our second season of square foot gardening! Woohoo! Can I get a Hoo-Ra? I always imagine what it must be like for new plants entering my garden... Seedlings pop thru the soil (or show up in little pots from the store) and they're all excited to be planted in someone's vegetable garden... and then the other half-dead plants clinging to life in my Little Shop of Horrors shout out "Dead plant walking!" and they realize they've entered the gardening version of The Green Mile. Quite sad.

We've got a lot going on in the garden this year, and as always, I'm hoping for more alive than dead at harvesting time, which means a big fat success in my world. I don't measure success in pounds, but in live plants.

Here's what's entered Death Row…er, my garden. Let's hope we get a lot of pardons before their sentences are up. I've gone for variety again with the hopes that I find something that gels with our gardening mojo.

Swiss Chard (existing plants doing well)
(I'm about to give up and pull out my remaining one. Funny story. I was weeding my raised bed and saw a funny looking weed. I yanked it out and there was a parsnip on the end. CRAP! I quickly dug a hole and stuck it back in with the hopes the 5-second rule that applies to fallen cookies also applies to accidentally pulled parsnips. Note: it does not. It's dead and in an impressive show of solidarity, the other parsnip is going down in a blaze of glory as well.)
Kentucky Wonder beans
Yellow beans
Green beans
Yellow Squash
(holdovers from last season)

I put the cucumber and peas in there as sort of an offering to the garden gods since it's no secret that I can't grow those at all. They're my gardening sacrificial lambs with the hopes that once they've given their lives, that fate will leave the rest of my plants alone.

Of course everything is quite young and already has issues. The bottom leaves are yellowed on most of the plants, which I think would mean they're too wet, but in the raised beds this isn't supposed to be possible. Maybe the two big boatloads of rain we've had recently were just a bit much for the new seedlings. We had about seven inches in a week, so that's what I'm clinging to as the explanation for my premature yellowing at this point.

I've fantasized about growing spinach and my little seedlings already look ready to give up the goat. They, too, are yellowed and droopy, but I'm hoping that they'll come around soon enough. They've been in about three weeks at this point, so I hope they turn around quickly.

My chard is going strong and I've come to love a chard, leek and Canadian Bacon quiche for Sunday lunch. It uses 8 eggs, so it's a good use of eggs, which is always great since the girls' egg factory is still in overdrive. I don't know at what point chard gives up and dies. It's been growing for quite a while, but I'm sure it has some sort of growing expiration date, right?

Whoever said that a SFG doesn't have weeds hasn't met the thick angry weeds of Central Florida. We have pricey landscaping cloth underneath each raised bed, but these thick grassy weeds have still managed to poke through just to show me that I was feeling too cocky about my weedless SFG. Take THAT, Mel.

Knowing nothing about strawberries, I assumed that because they were brown, brittle and dead that they should be discarded. I've found that dead things do best in the trash, but luckily I'm a procrastinator and didn't throw away these dead pots of strawberries . Oddly, they have awoken from the dead and are looking green again. I've even seen the odd bloom on them. Gardening lesson learned: Like zombies, strawberries rise from the dead. Must make a note of that.

On a sad note - and I'm almost embarrassed to admit this - Farmer B brought home a bunch of cabbage and broccoli seedlings, but I didn't have enough room in my raised beds to plant them all. I don't have anywhere to plant them, so they sit in their tiny little seedling pots slowly dying. I actually think they're past the point of survival.

In a perfect world I would have whipped together another raised bed and slung them in, but it takes a good chunk o' change to get the wood, peat moss, vermiculite and compost necessary to get a raised bed ready for action. Every time I go to the garden I see their purple leaves and I feel so incredibly guilty.

Dead plants walking, indeed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy 1st Hatchday to my Girls!!!

Can you believe it? It's the chickens' 1st Hatchday today!!! It's hard to believe it's been an entire year since I brought home those tiny little fluffballs and stuck them in a tupperware box with a heat lamp and some pine shavings.

They went from tiny little peeping babies to big egg-laying, full-figured, fluffy-bummed inquisitive hens. And you know what? I've enjoyed every minute of owning them (save that time when we had really bad backyard flooding and I wanted to throw them over the fence to the neighbor's yard, but let's not bring that up).

Want to join me in a song to celebrate?

Happy Hatchday to you!
Happy Hatchday to you!
Happy Hatchday Maggie, Clementine and Sookie,
Happy Hatchday to you!

I wouldn't be me if I didn't share these pictures of them celebrating turning one year old! They got a hatchday brunch of cottage cheese, oats and green beans. As thanks they presented me with three perfect brown eggs for my collection in the fridge.

I know...I know...I know what you're thinking. You're shaking your head and saying that it's not a true hatchday without a cake, but I didn't want to get all crazy-chicken-lady on you. That would just be weird.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wildlife Weekend :: The Grass Is Always Greener...

...on OUR side of the fence. Don't believe me? Ask our neighbor dog, Toby.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

They're Always After Me Lucky Charms

You expected this, right? Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

I couldn't pass up an opportunity to put a cape on a chicken. I'd like to start a holiday chicken cape revolution! Dress up your chickens people!

(I'm so glad Farmer B rarely reads the blog and isn't home when I'm photographing chickens. We have a good marriage and I'd like to keep it that way.)

And just edited to add this little pic of Saffie celebrating St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Road Trip :: Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival

I took the boys on a road trip this weekend back to my U.S. hometown to visit mom and take the boys to the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival. The Shrimp Festival and Parade is about the biggest thing that happens on the 7-mile-long barrier island where I grew up. The entire island shuts down for the parade and festival and it ends with the crowning of the Shrimp Queen. The parade started in the 1950s when they blessed the Shrimp Fleet and held a big beach party. It's now grown into a fun small-town parade and festival where they serve huge plates of peel-and-eat shrimp fresh off the shrimp boats.

It was fun taking the boys to see their first ever parade and it totally took me back to my childhood where I watched and rode on floats in plenty of shrimp parades. There's something so great about a small town parade - it's all the great slices of a small Florida beach town that you'd expect - it's a little quirky, a little trashy, a little touristy, a little taste of America that kids in big cities never get to experience.

Here's a taste of the Shrimp Festival and Parade for you.

This group of golden oldies was preparing for the parade and I couldn't resist snapping this photo of them lining up in their bikini shirts.

The rear view on the parade route was even better.

Of course the shrimp princesses vying to be shrimp queen were on the backs of the corvettes and waving appropriately to the crowd.

This group of older ladies were dressed like pink fluffy birds and loudly cawed and flapped their feathers in unison down the parade route. I have no clue what they were representing, but they were enjoying themselves.

And this Kookie band uses kazoos and washboards to make quite a racket.

And what's a parade without a old guy in a Fez?

Of course everyone loves the Shriners in their Flintstone cars, although most kids today have no clue who the Flintstones are.

Did you know I'm terrified of clowns? Like seriously creeped out. I was not a fan of the clown float.

But I did like the guy blowing the conch!

And the seeing eye dogs had stars spray-painted on their rear ends.

There were plenty of floats with people throwing out beads and candy. My boys ended up with so many beads they could hardly stand. Many of the beads had shrimp beads on them, which were really cute. My old elementary school was marching in the parade too. It's a small island school with only 9 kids in the kindergarten class.

Then we went down for some Peel and Eat Shrimp, which we snarfeled up with gusto.

And finally we caught part of the judging for the much-coveted Shrimp Queen title. Even when I was a teen I eyerolled at the Shrimp Queen contestants. I've never been a beauty pageant kind of girl, but it's fun to watch them vying for the title of Shrimp Queen. Now THAT's something for your resume.

The weather was gorgeous - the island was hopping - the boys had a blast - and I had fun going home to see my old neck o' the woods. Fort Myers Beach is off the Southwest coast of Florida and is connected to the mainland with a bridge on either end. It's known as "the world's safest beach" and is a great family-friendly place to visit off-season. It's a bit too busy during tourist season for my tastes, but it's worth the hassle of the traffic and the tourists to experience the Shrimp Festival!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Banana Rage

I try not to get angry at fruit, but this morning I found myself with some serious banana rage. I need to preface this with saying that I have a 6-year-old who is obsessed with video games, so we strictly limit when he can play them and when he can talk about them. Really - we have to limit how much he can talk about them - he gets just that obsessive. He gets far less play time than most kids his age, but we're big on limiting all screen time from the tv to the computer to video games.

I was packing his lunch for school today and I said "Do you want an apple or a banana with your lunch?" He wanders over and starts poking through the fruit bowl and sees the banana and goes ape over the thing.

Why you ask?

Because it's got an ad for a Wii video game on it. "Ohhhhh a new Wii game? Can we get it? Can we look it up online? What's it like? Is it a banana game? Does it have monkeys in it? Does it? Does it?"

I don't want advertisements for video games on my bananas, thank you very much. Can't it just say "Chiquita" or have a smiley face or something? But a Wii ad?

I am just so disgusted with ads on fruit. It makes me wonder what's next.

Stepping off my soapbox now.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wildlife Weekend :: The Broccoli and the Bees

I accidentally let my big broccoli plant flower in February. I don't really go outside when temperatures dip into the 30s and 40s, so before I knew it my broccoli plant was a mess of yellow blooms and all I could do was watch from my heated living room. I knew there was no way to prevent it from blooming without braving the insanely cold temperatures and possibly slipping into a hypothermic I just let it happen.

When I finally did venture outside I noticed that the plant was alive with bees. At one point I counted over 20 bees on it going from flower to flower in a mad rush to get as much nectar as possible from the only flowering thing around.

I figured the rest of the garden was pretty much dead so the least I could do was let this flowering broccoli thrive to feed this mass of bees. It lasted for a good month before it wilted and the bees went away.

I then yanked it out and tossed it in the compost. It was definitely great while it lasted though - the bees seemed happy to have something to buzz around in this insanely cold winter. And I enjoyed watching them.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Shout Out to Bob Barker

Saffron is at the vet today getting spayed. My widdle biddle squishy muffin who can do no wrong is going to be there until tomorrow afternoon and will come home all stapled up with a sore belly and a cone-head and wonder what on Earth just happened to her.

This spaying is important for two reasons:

1) Bob Barker says you should help control the pet population - always spay or neuter your pet. I firmly believe in Bob's message and to be honest, the idea of a litter of mini-Saffie's running around is enough to make me go fetal.

2) I have realized that I really and truly do love The Beast. When she's eating my stuff, digging in my garden, chewing up my money or attacking the cats, it's easy to forget that I really do love her and she has become a member of the family. But when you walk into an animal hospital and hand off that little white innocent puppy to a tech and say "see you tomorrow" and you actually get a lump in your throat, well dammit, you realize you really do love her.

The vet's office just called and told me that the procedure went off without a hitch and that she's in a cage wrapped up in blankets and is starting to wake up. They also microchipped her, which I'm a HUGE proponent of as well. The vet said we have to keep Saffie on a leash for walks for 7 days after the operation - so no running in the house or the yard. Clearly I'll have my work cut out for me since I can count on one hand the amount of times I've seen that puppy actually walk anywhere - she does everything at a full-tilt run. Wish me luck! I'm sure to need it.
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